CASTRIES-A study by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has found that the problems of race are most persistent in the Caribbean, compared to other parts of the Americas. The findings of the study, which looked at the "Situation of People of African Descent in the Americas," was released here at a special ceremony on the fringes of the just-concluded Caribbean Community (Caricom) Summit. The study, which examined the issue in the Americas, found although the problem was most persistent in the Caribbean, it was also most subtle. IACHR commissioner and rapporteur on People of African Descent and Against Racial Discrimination, Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, has suggested the subtle persistence of racial profiling and discrimination in the Caribbean could be because people have grown to accept it. "Colour prejudice is perhaps the most under-reported form of discrimination that we have but at the same time, perhaps, it is the most complained about in informal ways," she added. Antoine said that though there was an acknowledgement of social and cultural differences among races in the Caribbean, there still was anxiety when it came to full and deep acceptance of those differences.
She added: "While we pat ourselves on the back for being rainbow countries, the reality is that there are still race tensions in our societies. "In more modern times this has manifested itself most prominently in the relations between Indo and African-Caribbean peoples, particularly in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago." In presenting the report, Antoine said while there may be less overt displays of racism, especially between people of African and European descent, there were still some very strong structural paradigms that exacerbated inequalities between the races. "Financial power is still largely in the hands of white minorities in the region because of business patterns that have shifted little in the centuries," she said. She pointed to studies in Barbados which showed black entrepreneurs have greater difficulty in securing business loans and capital than their white counterparts, which she said placed them at a disadvantage from the outset. The study also showed that in the Caribbean racial discrimination to Afro-descendent people was linked to the darkness of their skin, poverty and the control of economic resources. Caricom secretary general Irwin La Rocque, in receiving the report, said the Caribbean must take "careful note of the report, given the demographics of our region."
He added: "Too many persons of African descent in the hemisphere do not have access to basic services in health and education, for example, and thereby have difficulty in realising their full potential and contributing meaningfully to the advancement of their families, communities and nations." La Rocque said that situation was one of the issues that prompted Caricom to support a resolution at the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations which resulted in March 23, 2007 being declared "International Day to Mark the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade." He said it could not be denied that people of African descent have contributed immensely to the development of the region and as such should be respected for their contributions. He added: "Ladies and gentlemen, this report may be a sober reminder of the deep-rooted problems which remain in the hemisphere but there are sufficient examples of people of African descent who came to the fore inspite of the challenges. "There is a need, therefore, even in the Caribbean, to enquire seriously and objectively into these issues with a view to constructing newer paradigms, based on genuine equality and social advancement for all of our peoples." (CMC)