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Blacks in Belize: We are still mental slaves – True emancipation remains elusive

Posted: Monday, August 1, 2022. 10:40 pm CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Hugh O’Brien: Being the son of a wise black man, being married to a black woman, having black children, living amongst and interacting with black people, teaching black brothers and sisters at the Belize College of Agriculture and Galen University, watching my black brothers hate on each other, seeing how we are full of envy especially against our own family, against our black neighbours, and watching our black brothers killing each other over red and blue colors, petty grievances, drugs, turf, etc., I have come to realize that a large majority of my BLACK PEOPLE ARE STILL MENTAL SLAVES AND TRUE EMANCIPATION REMAINS ELUSIVE TO MOST OF US.

My father, George O’Brien, was a smart black man who married a wise Mestizo woman, named Romelia O’Brien nee Cruz. Together they raised seven (7) well educated, successful, independent and loving children. We are a close knit, loving family. My dad was very emancipated mentally but not fully emancipated. He transmitted the ethics of seeking peace, hard work and education to all of us, he believed in his capabilities and transmitted much of these to his children. However, he had two flaws he tried to transmit to me, which I never accepted. I can write a whole article about my dad, his experiences, what a great school teacher he was, and all the attributes he had, but today, I want to focus on the two flaws as they are crucial elements for the focus of this article.

One of the flaws my dad tried to transmit was to discourage me from studying agriculture as he wanted me to be a professional, an educated person who works for someone, a doctor or a lawyer or like profession. He said agriculture is hard work, and is not for the black man. This mentality prevails amongst most of us black people. Because our forefathers were slaves and were forced to work in the fields, we do not want to work the land. Even when we inherit land, the first thing that comes to most of our minds is to sell it. We have lost our connection to the land, and to some extent we also do not value hard work as the foundation for success. We will go as far as to say “Nobody wa work me like wa slave” to show how much we associate hard work with slavery.

The second flaw was to encourage me to marry someone that is fairer than me, in order to improve the color of my skin, he said, and to better the chances for my children’s success. My dad had essentially resigned himself to the idea that being black, you cannot succeed, or will have a hard time succeeding in Belize. I did not follow his advice and I married black, l love black, empowered my black children and will help to do the same to my grandchildren. I will not turn back on believing that black is beautiful, powerful and talented. Am saying all this, even though am fully aware that a large percent of my black brothers and sisters in Belize are still mental slaves, avoid farming and hard work, prefer the easy “Big Chill” life while other cultures around us are advancing.

Four hundred years ago, we ‘blacks’ lived as tribes, capturing our brothers from other tribes, and we sold them as slaves to the British and the French as their ships sailed by. The British put us in chains and shipped us across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and Belize where we were placed in the bondage of slavery.

Less than 200 years ago, we ‘blacks’ were still slaves in British Honduras working in mahogany and logwood camps, and we and our children were owned by white slave masters from a foreign land.

The history of our forefathers, slavery and colonialism, have affected us significantly, and in a negative way. But should we continue to focus on the evils of the past, the enslavement of our forefathers and the slavery abuse of us blacks by our white slavemasters?

It is my view that we must reflect on our slavery past to understand why we are where we are, but we must take responsibility for our future from now on. Rather than continue to blame and hate the white man, we need to focus more on the opportunities that emancipation, freedom and the future can offer. We must be like the Jews and the Israelites, who have the mentality that because they were slaves in the biblical days, that they must never be slaves again. That because they were subjected to mass persecution and genocide during World War 2, that they must try to rule instead of be ruled. Their focus is to protect their ‘peoples’ anywhere they are, to instead be progressive wherever they live, and to be rulers of the world in business and politics.

In Belize, our black and ‘Kriol’ population appears to be the most challenged, and is the group that is not making full use of the opportunities around us.  The state of affairs, particularly the mental state, of our black population can change.  We all know too well that the leaders of the UDP or the PUP, whether black, arab or spanish are not the solution…in fact, they have become part of the problem. In their own selfish or ‘unaware’ ways these leaders continue to promote dependency, political tribalism and deep down are content that we are a poor, dependent people, one that they can easily buy with some groceries and a few dollars.

Based on the scenario presented above, are we truly emancipated? Are we not still mental slaves? And is it not true emancipation remains elusive to most of us?

And to end on a positive note, do we want to remain where we are? If not, we gotta start thinking like the Jews and the Israelites. We gotta get rid of the ‘crab mentality’ and be more united and work together like the Mennonites.

I will follow up this article with some ideas on how to help get us out of mental slavery. It is time to talk about where we will go and how we can get there. In order to move forward, we have to develop the right mindset to overcome mental slavery and get rid of the dependency syndrome.

If we start to follow this plan as individuals, as families, as communities and as a people in general, the state of affairs for ‘black’ people in Belize will move towards positivity, growth and development, and from within the ranks of those who have changed will emerge real leaders…who will assist in breaking us out of the chains of mental slavery and pave the way towards true emancipation.


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