DEV VIRAHSAWMY

Good! The wreath-laying ceremonies are over. Do we have a clear conscience now? Should we forget the rest?

Should we forget that slavery is an integral part of our history? Should we forget that the sugar industry prosperity has been irrigated with the blood and sweat of our brothers and sisters from Africa, the cradle of humanity? Should we forget that Port Louis is what it is, thanks to the skills of our brothers and sisters from Mozambique, Madagascar and India? Should we forget that the slave trade has given us our national language? Should the promise of a museum to be, be enough to send us back to our selfish comfort zone? Should unimaginative celebrations done in a hurry be enough to remember the horror of slavery and then lull us to sleep comfortably in our nest of prejudice and ignorance?

“Remember us”, the souls of our brothers and sisters are telling us. Don’t forget, they say, that people who called themselves Christians, went to church, said their prayers, used human beings worse than animals and that the official Catholic Church condoned this. Don’t forget, they say, that the slave owners were compensated when slavery was abolished and the slave money was used to set up the most important bank of Mauritius? Don’t forget, they say, that the freed slaves were left to themselves, except for the voluntary work of Father Laval and Reverend Jean Lebrun?

UNDERSTAND THAT WE ALL HAVE OUR FAIR SHARE OF RESPONSIBILITY. Most of us will feel at peace because we were not there, forgetting that we have all benefited from the horrors of slavery and the sufferings of our brothers and sisters from Africa and India.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO NOW? A museum is just the tip of the iceberg and focusing on this will become an excuse not to look after fundamental problems hidden underneath. There is a social reality which we prefer to ignore. There is in the Maritime Republic of Mauritius an ethnic group which has emerged over a period of almost two centuries. They should be known as AfroCreoles, the descendants of freed slaves, who have undergone a systematic process of miscegenation (métissage). Today, they represent 25% of the population and their history has been a rollercoaster ride. Political leaders have used them as pawns in the game of power politics; religion has used them to fill places of worship; their ignorance has been exploited to make them believe that God is white, hence consolidating the white tycoons’ economic and political power. The Afro-Creole elite has turned their backs on them preferring to whiten their offspring (as shown by Frantz Fanon) and making an alliance with Euro-Creole power and authority. Consequently, the Afro-Creole flock is without a good shepherd as it has failed to produce essential organic intellectuals to lead it to real emancipation.

Look at these figures: 80-85% of prison inmates are Afro-Creoles; the same percentage of inmates cannot read or write. A racist explanation is to be categorically rejected. The cause, the real cause lies elsewhere. Housing estates without proper amenities; rampant poverty and precarity; a language policy which ignores the fact that most AfroCreoles are monolingual Creole native speakers are only some of the problems. Two myths, Little France and Little India, and our anti-Africa racism, although humanity started there, prevent us to see our real problems and we thus fail to plan an enlightened future for one and all. Are we waiting for a violent social explosion to start thinking along new lines? 01.02.19