Living outside of the Caribbean changes you, whether you want it to or not. The dog that could never consider coming inside the house before, now sleeps between you and your husband in bed. The broken white line in the road which once was a simple suggestion about which lane you should drive in, now becomes your ticket to a ticket if you don’t respect it. And children, which were once simply your property to handle as you please, can be taken away from you if the state decides you are unfit. Once you’ve lived outside of the islands, you also realize that the parenting habits of times not-too-long gone by are no longer kosher in the eyes of the community or the law. They are unfit.
For example, we mimic old patterns even when we know they are wrong. We know that if we strike someone who isn’t beholden to us and living under our roof, we go to jail for assault, yet we whip our children like our slave masters did our grandparents, and like our parents did us. We say we do it out of love, but I’m not sure how welts and bruises equate to love.
Traditionally we stifle children’s free and independent thinking. “Children should be seen and not heard! Do as I say, not as I do!” But keeping children silent, instead of engaging them in thoughtful, critical conversation, keeps them from developing critical thinking. We teach them to remain silent because their opinion doesn’t count. As a result, they don’t think. They mimic the behavior that most entertains them on television, and then we wonder where we went wrong.
My favorite is the use of religion as a weapon. Imagine my confusion learning that God loved me more than anything but if I was rude to an adult I would burn in hell. This from the pastor, no less! We don’t teach critical thinking, so we can’t reasonably discuss consequences and actions. Instead we make God seem like the Boogeyman.
The list goes on but the times they are a-changin. Hopefully by the time our kids have kids, their love won’t look like a scary deity with a leather belt and a muzzle.
Read this week’s extended perspective at www.thecaribbeandiaspora.tv. For more on Caribbean America, set your DVR or tune in to each Sunday’s episode of The Caribbean Diaspora Weekly on SFL / The CW Network (Ch 39 / Comcast 11). Calibe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.