They say that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, but what happens when we only study some parts of history, or some perspectives?
I’ve had the good fortune to study a fair amount of history in my life, but I will be the first to admit that I never learned much about Caribbean history until I came to live here. Since coming to Jamaica, I’ve been very curious to learn more about the events that shaped this country and its people. In many ways, Jamaica is fairly young, but in other ways it is steeped in a kind of history that lays out in plain view the full spectrum of misery and glory within the capacity of humankind.
This article from the American Historical Association articulates (with examples that cover many parts of the Caribbean, but especially Cuba and Haiti) how the history of the Caribbean people shapes and influences how we look at many modern social conditions. Here is a small taste:
“Caribbean history matters for the same reason everyone in the Caribbean “remembers” slavery: the legacies of slavery, imperialism, and historical responses to it are, in the Caribbean, immediately evident in all the “weightier” concepts we associate with modernity: notions of citizenship, individual freedom, collective liberation, and nation. Caribbean history is not merely about the “colonial origins of poverty”; it addresses the most fundamental questions of who we are, what we believe, and how we got that way. Yet the uncomfortable facts of Caribbean history rarely make it into the consciousness of even the most educated of our society’s elite.“
Given the current dialogue regarding race in the United States and beyond, the questions of nationhood taking place in the United Kingdom, and worldwide worries regarding displaced people, the history of the Caribbean is particularly relevant and poignant. If we are truly concerned with not repeating the errors of times past, we may want to crack open our Caribbean history books.