The Caribbean: Of Equality and Social Mobility Barriers

January 13, 2024
8 mins read

By
Derrick Miller

Tuesday, August 12, 2014.

Often when one looks at the Caribbean region from
outside, only a few things come to mind: the warmth of the people; the
blue waters; and most of those who visit from other industrialized countries
have no idea that the region still has social and cultural issues hidden under
the warm welcome.

Despite upward mobility
and economic growth women have made since the late Eugenia Charles became the
first and only female prime minister of Dominica from 1980 to 1995, today,
women are still under-represented in this region. There are now a couple of top
positions currently held by women: Kamla Persad-Bissessar, prime minster of
Trinidad and Tobago, and Portia Simpson-Miller, prime minister of Jamaica. More
needs to be done, and if your name not listed, you know who you are. To some of
these male leaders who are stuck in past: let us face it. The generation gap
often creates tensions.

While more women hold advanced degrees, they earn less for same work performed
by males. Although some progress has been made where a few higher offices held
are women, they constantly face tremendous resistance. Often the only reason(s)
their economic policies are blocked or not taken seriously both by some
government leaders and by the community are simple: that they are women.

The male chauvinism mindset instilled from birth continues to be passed on for
generations in the region. The expectation is that she should be at home
cooking and ensuring kids are clean and well fed is now by choice, and that can
be hard to fathom in a male dominated circle. Yielding this treasured power to
women even when it is for the greater good of the society is very difficult despite
modernization for several decades.

Additionally, about 57 percent of all college degrees awarded were to women in
recent years. It represents about six in every ten college degrees earned today
are by women. Furthermore, since January 2013, women lead some of US largest
weapon makers: Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and BAE Systems.

Equally important, despite those significant upward-mobility and
accomplishments in areas such as government, research and development, media,
medicine, sports, and academia, recent studies have shown there is an increase
in the women prison population. It is my hope, as more women leaders take
offices, and these issues can be addressed going forward, to reverse the
negative side of the statistics.

A few weeks ago, Senator Ruel Reid of the Jamaican Parliament delivered what I
believe was an excellent speech with a broad appeal beyond the beach of
Jamaica. He called for “Rebuilding Jamaica,” across several sectors. However,
the senator also argued that families should consider only two children as a
part of an economic growth plan.

The concept of a repressive system of government lurking in one’s bedroom to
dictate how many children one should have plays into a structured ideology, and
does not quantify a sound economic plan to move forward. Furthermore, this
system of government is not China, who recently eased its 34-year restriction
on population growth from one to two children. According to the Population
Research Institute, about 25 million men in China cannot find brides because
there is a shortage of women.

The region’s population numbers and the size of the countries are not the only
real barriers to growth, but also an intangible that has to change. It is
important not to ignore the colourless statue still lurking in these regions:
“Stratification.” A few leaders who graze the stages in front of the cameras
are not always the perfect picture they paint when the lights go off in moving
the region ahead as one body.

Many writers have talked about one’s colour and its importance in the region
for decades. The stratification and the willingness to be accepted saw an
explosion in bleaching cream. This product, as noted, should give the
appearance of much lighter skin tone than one’s actual skin pigmentation. However,
this is a topic where a dermatologist will better to explain the downside to
this trend.

Professor Oliver Mills talked about “liberation of our minds from mental
slavery.” As noted, often these traits can be traced back to the old colonial
ideology, slavery, and oppression where only a few rule the majority. Several
locals are being priced-out of affording basic food supplies, this trend cuts
across all colours, and when these barriers continue to divide it creates a
sociological stagnation and hinders economic mobility.

As society evolves, most new generations have a total different outlook on
these social barriers, and are willing to move forward, but past ideology still
woven into the political system makes it more difficult to form alliances. Sure,
society needs older and wiser leaders, however, sometime one has to yield power
or simply give it up.

It is not advantageous to sit on the cyber crime committee, but cannot save a
document in Microsoft Word. Maybe term limits in Parliament could help change
some of these perceptions, as it will welcome new ideas if such law can become
a reality.

Solidarity is always important to one’s country. Moreover, it gives one sense
of belonging, but when it promotes separation, it can be very difficult to move
all forward. Each island is unique in its own way. The Caribbean is not alone
in wanting to be different despite similar history. For example, in the US,
northern and southern states tend to have different views on several
socio-economic agendas, and it often dictates who gets elected into office, or
what political agenda is important.

The history of seeking separation too has played a role in the American Civil
War, fought between states in 1861. Some still argue that it was to free the
stronghold on slavery in the South while others believed that it was a
separation between the North and South. However, the tension sometimes between
each other will not amount to civil wars in the Caribbean, but limits
cross-border travel, investments that could expand tourism, imports, and
exports that could contribute to a better social agenda, crime control.

The mindset that its population size and notoriety are reasons to isolate and
continue to classify some as small islands can be problematic and, therefore,
reduce its importance in the long-run to connect. Every island has a graph on
the economic scale. Too often, one sees themselves as different and, yes,
nothing is wrong with that. Every individual has a certain amount of biases.
However, when one fails to accept and address biases, and uses them as a
determinant factor, they can become a roadblock in moving forward.

The word “independence” tells us that one has to do what is best for their
growth engine. However, when they compete where it is not necessary and ignore
the bigger picture through collaboration to move the next generation forward,
the only outcome is that someone loses. However, in order to reach a reduction
in high unemployment rates, this region has to grow more than what has been
forecast to lift the lower class out of poverty.

Moving forward, ensuring equality to reduce gaps between haves vs. the
have-nots should be a universal mission. These regions were once the envy of
colonial powers. The English, Dutch and French, and the US were once colonial
rivals in this region. St Lucia, Barbados, and Jamaica, as well as Bermuda in
the Atlantic were all economically important Caribbean islands. Caribbean
sea-lanes as it was called were of strategic significance as early as the 17th
century before the slaves arrived. They should get back to that essence of
belonging.

What will change you might ask in this year? Answer: not much: There will be
another election in this region in several months and leader’s re-election
signs will be posted to map their next re-election path. If you are not careful
and lose track, every four to five years, another proposal will emerge. The
values we place on governance, whether we agree or disagree, at some point we
are responsible to create a better future for the next generation. This is why
it is important to work together.

The region must ask itself: “What happened to an economic inequality agenda;
victim’s rights, women rights, gay rights, comprehensive educational policy to
lower the cost of education, the offender population, homelessness and the
prison system reform. In addition, what resources are there to help others with
less hope stemming from long periods of incarceration, conflicts, and resources
for rehabilitation?

Although government is not the solution to some of the social problems the
islands face today, it has a responsibility to ensure that basic safety is
paramount, including policies that are fundamentally geared to moving people
forward and especially young people who have more student loan debts than
opportunities.

Far too often, segments of that society who fall on hard times are left out.
Some are labeled “lunatics” because recently he or she has been seen in the
same clothing for a few days. It appears this often ignores what happened. Did
this person witness a crime, and needed an outlet to cope? Alternatively, were
she and her family just being physically, sexually, verbally abused and have no
one to talk to so she ended up in the street, and later raped by the same
[lunatic] the system has ignored. If these individuals are woven back into
society, the economic growth will continue. A country cannot sell only the
white sand, and ignore the ones that washed away.

These issues go beyond pure numbers in any category. Nothing will immediately
stop the rate of teen pregnancy, the level of care that only financial status
dictates, automobile accidents, and other crimes from being committed each day
on the streets. One in four women will become a victim of some sexual violence,
and the prison sizes will not drastically be reduced.

The region has to move from the mindset where some are often measured by race,
culture, and economic status. Not everyone will be a senator, or Member of Parliament,
a doctor, and attorney, or the chief of police. The trash needs to be picked
up, and the farmer to ensure you have the supplies for a good meal. However,
structural ideology often divides us by race, culture, sex, and socioeconomic
status. Far too often, these labels have dictated one’s outcome in the criminal
justice system or the education they receive.

It is more critical that my [Generation X] balances the appetite for the latest
gadgets searching and the next best thing and miss what has been taking place
next door. We do not talk as much as we once did; we rather stay wired to the
next headlines a million miles away. Most of the local media seem to be more on
entertainment than what is actually going on in the local region. I am not
implying that some are not responsible; however, we should not isolate ourselves
but we need a balance and to remain informed.

One of the biggest threats to this region is not its location that has a
hurricane hovering over it or an outbreak of disease on local crops. It is
simple the lack of sound economic policies, and collaboration, and moving from
that they vs. us mentality as several writers have discussed before.

Although economic development is critical to sustain the quality of life,
however, all aspects of the community from the media to the local police
department, schoolteachers, religious leaders, Rastafarian community, to the
minimum wage workers and investment bankers should all have a voice at the
table because too often the barriers to success in the region far outweigh the
opportunities.

Derrick Miller
holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and finance, an MBA degree in
global management and a Master’s of Science degree in criminal justice
leadership. He is also a graduate from a top US federal law enforcement academy
and has been a part criminal justice and public service field for over 14
years.

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