Community Culture Clinic

“Safe Zone” vs. Sovereignty?

The concept of “Safe Zone” and the way this has been relayed recently has been causing quite the conniption. What it intends in its declaration of “safety” seems dubious at best. At its boundaries are the clear colonizing tropes that continue to plague us, even as we move towards becoming a republic.

In the context of the national state of emergency Barbados finds itself in, the use of “safe zone” is vague. Its assumption is that those of us who are vaccinated ought to be protected. From what, or whom? Troubling how binaries, with their presumption of superiority or inferiority, present themselves, causing injury in its simplicity. So, are we saying that those of us who are unvaccinated are “unsafe”, that we “wish to be infected by the virus”? A dangerous presumption, as it sets up boundaries that already exist around ableism, access, age, class, gender, race, orientation and now vaccination in ways that are not useful.

Further, according to the science, us who are vaccinated are buffered against dire consequences of COVID-19 infection, implying that is those of us who are unvaccinated that may deserve the protection, similar to how “safe zones” are deployed in war-torn countries or to support marginalized communities.

Lest we make an argument for those of us who are vaccinated being in the numerical minority, let us not forget our other constituencies – white, upper- and middle-class, tertiary level educated among others. In such cases, being in a minority has not impacted their locations in quite the same way. Our collective narratives prove that there are not just two Barbadoses, there are many identities that sometimes merge but often, compete, complicate, contradict, contrast, and (when we are not careful) corrupt and criminalize any quick-fix reaction to our deep-seated situation as island-people.

John Wyndham’s 1955 novel, The Chyrsalids come to mind. In that world, the unwillingness to embrace change only served to make the transition less compassionate, less empathetic, less humane than it ought to be.  Certainly, in this iteration, another, closet/darkness/silence/taboo is being created. If we are not careful our colonial conditioning will remain intact.

That we should move strategically toward sovereignty is without question. “If not now, when?” is a challenge that takes tremendous courage. One thing that this moment is teaching us is that changing a race/nationality of our leader is merely the first of many steps to “governing ourselves”. We need confidence to embrace and resolve our relationship with the “dark past”, face our fears, embody our human integrity. We have some more “dismantling” to do. We still need to wrestle in ourselves, to determine who we are enough to let go of greed and privilege, so that we embody the power that is “all of us”. These divisions, mired in enslavement, steeped in colonialism, and held firmly together in our addiction to things global and hatred of things local, serve to keep us out of alignment, disconnected from our destiny, starved from who we truly are.

Culture Clinic is a weekly column crafted by Dr. John Hunte. It identifies the impact of Culture and Creativity in the Caribbean. Photography by Adrian Richards.

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