5 Tips For A Successful Social Media Detox (For People Who Work On Social Media)

Taking time off social media can be complicated when you need it to sustain your work. When you’re self-employed, a freelancer or an entrepreneur, taking a break from social media can be essential to your mental health. Social media, especially checking obsessively has been linked to high anxiety as well as depression. Interpreting these studies has one meaning for the casual user but a completely different meaning for those of us who may feel pressured to spend 6 hours or more per day engaging with social media. Even with small sample sizes, these studies confirm something we feel intuitively. Social media can be draining when you discuss emotionally sensitive subjects that bear very real weight in your life offline.

Taking lengthy breaks from social media is important not just to our well-being but to cultivate the realization that your self-worth, self-esteem, and value isn’t tied to social media. Here are five of my favorite ways to prepare for a social media detox and enforce a social media detox without sacrificing productivity, my long-term goals and my short-term anxiety regarding engagement on my social media platforms.

(1) Engagement is not conversion. If your social media account doesn’t yield sales conversions for your self-employment or small business, taking time off may not impact your work life as much as you think it will. Some social networks that I fuss about for work do not yield the highest conversions and I’ve realized that taking a break from these exhausting interactions is critical to maintaining positive mental health and energy for social media sites and interactions that do yield a high amount of engagement. If you do get a lot of conversions for your business from a specific social media site, you may consider a different solution like…

(2) Automate Social Media. I use Buffer to automate tweets for my businesses and other accounts when using social media. This enables me to completely detox without worrying that I am neglecting my audience or “leaving money on the table”. Since I rely on social media engagement for clicks, reviews, and buys of my various products, it can be difficult not to worry. Automation takes away the burden of keeping my finger on the pulse. Another method to automate is to hire a virtual assistant to help you post. I have little experience in hiring VAs but I use Upwork to find other freelancers and they do have virtual assistants willing to help you out (at a cost!)

(3) Delete apps from your cell phone. I have taken this a step further and I no longer use cellular data on my phone at all. Yes, this is largely because I haven’t gone to Digicel to claim my new LTE SIM card, but I’ve been forced to take stock of my cell phone usage in a whole new way. Deleting social media apps has the same effect. When you’re no longer carrying all these distracting notifications in your pocket, you better appreciate the beauty of the present moment. Once you’ve automated your social media, this step will do a lot to foster detachment from social media.

(4) Indulge in a hobby. Taking a break from social media is the perfect time to indulge in a creative hobby. I prefer creative hobbies to more passive hobbies because I can tap into the “source” of good ideas and explore. Playing in this space can be beneficial for mental health and serve as a reminder that life is more than interactions, engagement and obsessing over metrics and numbers. Great hobbies that replace social media include drawing, painting, photography, dancing, sewing, knitting, reading or more extroverted like participating in a sports team, local clubs or cooking with family members. Really anything can replace social media and bring a deeper level of connection than what’s possible online.

(5) Break the addiction. Take a long enough break from social media that you can reconnect without feeling the “need” to refresh or to “check-in”. For me, this is usually around a week. Remember, I work online so whether I like it or not, social media can be a huge part of my daily life and it’s easy for this work necessity to metastasize into something unhealthy. This is something that’s difficult to discuss because no one wants to admit to feeling addicted to social media — there’s a stigma to addiction and many people believe they aren’t addicted to social media at all. Once you’ve broken the compulsive need to check on things, to post, to like, to update and to entertain, you can return to your work with fresh eyes and a greater mindfulness as to the impact of your work and what you’re putting out there.

Right now, it’s December 1st and I’m gearing up for a busy twenty days of round the clock work as I prepare for my longer-than-normal vacation at the end of the year. I can’t wait to leave everything running on autopilot and reconnect with the people I love, with my creative energy and most importantly, with myself. My small business this year has been a whirlwind of positivity, yet despite all this, I still feel drained by the pressure of “keeping up” online.

It’s a fact of what I do and for many millennials, this rings true whether or not you work on the internet. There’s this pressure to keep up, to keep your finger on the pulse and to “stay informed”. We’re the generation of FOMO and while there’s nothing wrong with it, we can become overwhelmed and negative. Take a break. Don’t feel guilty about it. Unwind, and enjoy taking much-needed space.

Traveling To Poor Countries Doesn't Make You A Better Person

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.”

— Marcel Proust

In 2018, I’ve traveled more than I have any other year of my life that I can remember. I traveled to Barbados twice, visited different cities and towns all across the East Coast of the United States from New York to Washington, DC. My travels were to both rural destinations, fully gentrified cities and cities enduring the destructive transformation of gentrification street by street.

Traveling has opened my eyes. I don’t mean this in the corny way white girls do when they take a picture with an exuberant (or more hilariously, totally uninterested) mahogany colored child. Opening my eyes to my internal journey throughout my 2018 travels has cracked open a major myth about traveling that is all too easy to believe when you’re fantasizing about Santorini from a bed.

Travel is not inherently transformative. Travel doesn’t break down the barriers between visitors and tourists. Traveling doesn’t make you a better person.

Can traveling have a positive impact? Absolutely. But the myth that change, transformation and a better understanding of social inequalities erupt inherently from travel serves only to perpetuate the capitalistic myth that our consumption is equivalent to activism.

The relation between a tourist and a travel destination is, through the inherent nature of our economy, a consumptive exchange. The tourist is the consumer and the travel destination is the product. For this relationship to exist, every aspect of the travel destination must be dehumanized, distilled and objectified into a product. This is a part of the reason why hotel workers in the Caribbean experience such high rates of harassment and sexual exploitation.* As I mentioned in my previous blog post, this relationship between tourist and destination is why we have the term “vacation packages”. Experiences and services are represented by physical, grounding terms which influence the visitor's expectations surrounding the interaction.

Most people who travel throughout the Caribbean (although not all) come from positions of significantly greater privilege than the people they are visiting. Most American citizens and English citizens can travel to Saint Lucia without visas, yet Saint Lucians cannot set foot in the United States without enduring the lengthy, expensive and unpredictable process of visa application. Wages in the United States are higher, and the greater opportunities in the country lead to most people from first world countries who visit being wealthier than the average Saint Lucian they will interact with. I’m not arguing “why” this is the case here, merely observing the power imbalance.

People from wealthier countries also arrive in Saint Lucia with a currency that has an increased value when they arrive. Combining this with the greater earnings, and the difference in economic power is probably one of the most unequal dynamics that a tourist could experiences first hard. Most tourists are insulated from ever having to regard the people that inhabit the place they're visiting as people due to a combination of segregation and the nature of the resort design. 

Such power imbalances don’t only occur in the Caribbean. Many of the currently popular travel destinations like Bali or Malaysia are hailed for how “cheap” they are. The fact that someone’s income is “good for where they are” doesn’t mean that it’s fair, nor does it eliminate the massive power differential between a first world and third world resident. For example, people who visit Bali tout the low cost and are quick to assert that they are all but saving the economy because ‘it’s good money there’. I wonder how many people who claim that their pithy offerings are “good money” would leave their first world lives behind to live and work for the same wages of the workers they are helping with their gracious acts of consumption.

The expectation that tourist destinations cater to your personal growth and exploration indulges in this dynamic of exploitation that is very nearly inherent in the relationship between a tourist and a travel destination. This dynamic of exploitation exists between the tourist and the local as well as the tourist and the physical land itself. When the same relationship is phrased differently, sometimes the exploitation becomes easier for people to see. The white married woman who travels to the Caribbean for the purpose of having a sexual relationship with an underage (or near underage) black child can be clearly identified as exploitative and fetishistic. Strip the dynamic of the overtly sexual aspects and the exploitation remains, but there is plausible deniability that allows the powerful to pretend their power doesn’t exist. Sexual abuse and verbal abuse are not the only ways to exploit people and interpersonal exploitation is not always overt. Objectification can exist in another common situation where a tourist snaps a picture with a black child after visiting Africa, or Haiti, for example. In this instance, the child is dehumanized as their presence isn't about who they are as a person but rather the purpose they serve in providing the tourist with the appearance of worldliness, open-mindedness, and adventure -- perspectives that are also associated with both "goodness" and wealth.

The physical representation (photograph) of a tourist's foray into the heart of darkness, represents a tremendous amount of social capital in a world where acts of consumption are marked with the same value as activism. In these situations and similar exploitative yet non-sexual situations, locals are objectified and dehumanized to become a part of the “vacation package”.  Their struggles are made invisible to exalt the appearance of "goodness" that the tourist desires to feel as if they are "helping" or making a change somewhere. Within a few months, if I’m generous, the local is forgotten and memorialized as a part of that “crazy” vacation that the tourist will “always remember”. 

***

Resort owners, colluding governments and policymakers — elite members of the upper class — collude to manufacture the “package” that tourists expect. Foreign expectations don’t exist in a vacuum away from social issues. Racist people (whether consciously racist or not) will bring their prejudices with them when they travel and the experience of visiting is not enough to undo implicit racism. Since implicit racism can exist beneath the surface of awareness, it's nearly impossible for it to be "cured" on its own. And certainly, the cure would not be sitting at a resort while under-paid black workers clean up after you and serve you. 

The myth that traveling (and being near black Caribbean people) is enough to instigate an internal paradigm shift invokes a negative (and false) belief regarding diversity that black people’s mere existence is enough to subvert decades of anti-black programming from schools, family and media, not to mention the legacy of imperialism and entitlement that tourists from most first world countries feel with regards to the Commonwealth nations and other formerly colonized countries. This simply isn't the case and prejudice cannot be wished away. The consumptive nature of the tropical vacation devoids the interaction between tourist and local of any real chance at empathy, meaning, and understanding. For the vacation package to maintain its integrity it must "entertain" and thusly render the local's struggles invisible. 

Tourism provides an avenue for practitioners of modern manifest destiny to enact their fantasies of domination and control under the guise of moral superiority for their dedication to being “free spirits” or “explorers”.The globe is seen as virtually uninhabited. The “locals” exist merely as tools for their personal enjoyment — as part of the package and experience of travel. Locals are not perceived with the same depth and dimension as visitors due to the transactional nature of tourism, every local becomes a pseudo-customer service provider.

Claims that our society “needs to do better” after a tourist is robbed in the Castries market, for example, indicate that we see it as the responsibility of individual citizens to act as customer service providers who do nothing to tarnish the experience of the hallowed tourists who have deigned to visit us and consume.

This exploitation need not be an intentional act of individuals, but those individuals exploit dynamics established from the days of colonialism and slavery in the Caribbean. The current relationship between the major first world countries where tourists hail from and the Caribbean are relationships fraught with abuse, where Caribbean nations are forced or encouraged on an international stage to make concessions for these first world countries, without receiving any benefits in return aside from the mythological “wealth” we gain from hotels — yet to be seen in the form of filled roads or high-quality public services.

Our tax code favors large breaks and tax incentives for foreign developers that may enable them to pay either nothing at all or a fraction of what they truly owe. These hotels and resorts hire black locals for the lowest paying jobs and prefer to keep the highest ranking members of their staff foreign. Even if locals do attain these jobs, the number of high paying jobs provided by these hotels is significantly lower than what their tax breaks might suggest. Many of the hotels exist as parts of multi-billion dollar conglomerates, yet we are supposed to believe that a contribution of a few jobs well under $100,000 USD a year is considered a generous boost to the economy and accept that this gives foreigners and hotel owners the rights to do whatever they please.

Our nations become playgrounds for the rich and we are supposed to be grateful that we get the chance to clean up after them once they’re through playing.

Tourists do not think about this. If they did, I doubt they would feel comfortable in their segregated first world enclaves in a country with crumbling public works. Their perspective insulates them from the larger issues and implications of the tourism industry’s grip on our economy and the exploitative dynamic is purposefully invisible to them, allowing their consciences to remain unencumbered as they traipse freely through whichever nations they please.

A tourist’s experience exists largely in fantasy. Popular travel blogs will often make claims of there being a difference between a tourist and a ‘traveler’, a claim intended to imbue moral superiority amongst the various shades of exploitation — both the oblivious and self-righteous. Yet, the act of visiting a place or even in a rare case, extending empathy (gasp!) to the people that live there, doesn’t remove the dynamic of exploitation. Travel in itself is not enough to remove prejudice and even extensive travel does not either.

Christopher Columbus was a traveler and that didn’t stop him from being a rapist and a murderer.

I’m not entirely cynical, and I do think that travel can have the potential to change an individual’s perspective. Often times, that “change” is a lot shallower and more temporary than tourists and the travel-obsessed are willing to admit. Yet, it’s possible. This change cannot come however from wishful thinking, nor from pretending that tourism and travel exist in a vacuum unencumbered by the forces of white supremacist hetero-patriarchy (to quote bell hooks). It will take more than messy buns, luxurious resorts and $1,000 plane tickets for significant internal change to occur… But I’ll leave that discussion for another month.

*Regardless of individuals opinions, the unequal power dynamic of guest vs. Hotel worker renders all sexual encounters inherently exploitative. Add racial fetishism and elitist entitlement to the mix and this sexual exploitation becomes more clear.

Our Messed Up Beliefs About Africa: Heart of Darkness & Black Consciousness

“Nobody cares about Africans, bruh.”

I read either this exact statement or some variation of it from an African blogger. For the sake of not unjustly exposing anyone to being called out on my blog when they didn’t agree to it, I’ve left out a few details of the statement and surrounding details.

I read the statement, and I didn’t flinch. I didn’t feel a pang of guilt or the defensive need to prove that I really did care about Africans. Some writers and bloggers immediately feel this urge, or a need to prove that Africans are actually the big bad bullies of the diaspora — the “lucky” ones who were “never enslaved” — a historically inaccurate statement, rife with ignorance.

Honestly, the statement was (and remains) true.

“Nobody” in this context was aimed yes, at everybody, but specifically at the larger group of Black non-Africans who discuss “social justice” online. By now, most discussions online regarding colonialism, slavery and the African diaspora have been imbued with a class analysis and an adoption of revolutionary rhetoric such as you might read in history books about Grenada or Cuba.

You read the words “liberation” and “abolish private property” thrown around as well as the words “the West” and “the global South”. Despite the appearance of “woke” behavior and critical analysis about every aspect of society from the cultural practice of female genital mutilation to niche aspects of African American history such as black Wall Street and Henrietta Lacks, there are gaps, huge swaths of emptiness when complex subjects are breached.

Africa, and discussions of African history, politics and influence are largely missing from these discussions. Black people as a whole, it seems, when brought together in online spaces to discuss our differing life experiences seem to have a complicate relationship with the place that arguably ties us all together.

Our blackness and our “Africanness” are inextricably linked, yet if I had to answer whether I genuinely believed most non-African people “cared” about Africa, I would answer with a definitive and resounding “no”.

People do not care about Africa.

Black people have an understandably complex relationship with the continent, and to understand what’s at play, we first need to look at the colonial history that has informed our past and current relationship to the African continent. The good news is, I have some ideas for us — all of us. Whether you’re reading this from the comfort of your spacious urban apartment, or like me, sweltering in the heat of a third world black majority country, you’ll find something here that will hopefully open your awareness to your perceptions of Africa, your implicit beliefs, your prejudices and your biases. I’ll share how I relate to black people from around the globe in a way that validates different experiences without invalidating my own.

I’ll also share why we have such harmful views about Africa, how this is a manifestation of our own pain as a population of displaced people and how we can come to terms with this displacement appropriately. Hint: Occupying land that doesn’t belong to us isn’t the solution.

In King Leopold’s Ghost, black American William Sheppard visits the Congo and he’s one of the most outspoken about the injustices that occur there. Backed by American white supremacists, who were eager to send black people “Back to Africa”, Sheppard wrote extensively about his desire to “return” to Africa (a place he had never been) and wrote enthusiastically about the potential for converting Africans to Christianity and civilizing them.

The extent to which colonized people can not only accept, but perpetrate the views of their oppressors couldn’t be more clear than in reading about Rev. William Sheppard’s response to the Congo. Of course, his views are contradictory too. While his response to the brutality and human rights abuses appeared to have an empathetic base, the conclusions he drew based upon that empathy were decidedly misplaced. “They need colonizers who look like them” isn’t quite the conclusion I can imagine a Baldwin or a Davis coming to.

Our blackness doesn’t give people from the West Indies or America the right to inhabit anywhere in Africa we choose, at any time we choose, nor does it give black people the right to participate or spearhead missions with the intent to colonize local peoples and erase their religious beliefs in the same way colonizing European Christians did.

Reading about William Sheppard opened my eyes to how easy it is for colonized people to become the mouthpiece of their oppressors ideology. If white supremacists agree with your ideas for where black people as a whole should belong, shouldn’t that raise some red flags? (King Leopold’s Ghost)

Unfortunately, many writers and social justice influences today tend not to be much different from William Sheppard when discussing “Africa” and as black folks, our complex relationship to the continent plays a role in why.

I’ve been referring to “Africa” as if it is one place. Despite the convenience of a continental label in simplifying complex ideas, cultures, places, languages and peoples, “Africa” can often be a cop out for specificity that would strengthen a particular point rather than weaken it. Homogenizing the continent for convenience reinforces negative propaganda by forcing a multitude of complex languages, cultures, social practices and beliefs to unite under one idea, making it easier to ignore a diverse and complicated history, influenced both by ethnic affinity groups and European colonization.

We underestimate the continent’s size thanks to the mercator maps of 1569 that continue to govern our perceptions (Source). We ignore the fact that Africa has the most genetic diversity out of any continent on the planet (sorry white people, your thin nose was African first!).

One of the most popular pieces of fiction about Africa, dives into the psychological relationship that Westerners have with Africa. The power in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darknesslies not in his “accuracy” in describing the human condition nor in some sort of moral righteousness that he deign suggest that he might have once had a notion that the people of the Congo were in fact human beings. The power of Joseph Conrad’s story lies in how perfectly it encapsulates Western ignorance, confusion, desire, racism and xenophobia when it comes to Africa. The terrifying part of this is: black people outside of Africa are not immune from the Heart of Darkness’grip on our psyche.

My boyfriend and I sat together recently, mugs of piping hot black coffee in hand while I mused, frustrated about the book I’d just read, King Leopold’s Ghost.

What nagged at me had less to do with the colonial violence — if this surprises you, perhaps you aren’t ready for this blog — and more with an internal disruption of my current thoughts and belief system.

“Heart of Darkness is racist,” my boyfriend reminded me.

“I know. It is racist.” (I paused.)

“But it’s kind of true,” I continued, “This is how we see Africa — the whole continent — as some sort of amorphous… heart…of…darkness…”

I’m paraphrasing the insight — and making it brief, I talked his ear off — but the more I considered it, the more I realized I had to share this. I had to admit to myself and hopefully, inspire others to admit that our feelings about where we originate from are not only complex, they’re largely negative.

In Saint Lucia, my education about Africa was nonexistent. I fared no better at my private high school or my private college. In high school, I at least learned more about Mansa Musa, but that’s the extent of what I learned. Religions, ethnic groups, the social conflict of apartheid, the Rwandan genocide and Congolese civil war were all left out of our “world history” education. Africa, as a continent, is omitted from the curriculum.

The largest continent in the world is blotted out from our collective consciousness as if its mere existence was a mistake. While bold history teachers may foray into East Asian studies, African history, religious studies and languages languish within our academic experience. (By college, this was largely due to my specific concentration.)

What is the impact on a displaced population, I wonder, if the history of the place they were displaced from faces such egregious omission?

The “impact” is explained indirectly via Jason Stanley’s book How Propaganda Works. Our narrative of our history and our identity as a people, when left up to our own devices and what material is easily accessible, can be created by the dominant social group and due to lack of better information, we absorb the beliefs and ideology of the dominant social group. This ideology is not in our interests and it’s not in the interests of the African people.

The best example of how quickly a white Western ideology can become engrained in black people is explained in King Leopold’s Ghost. William Sheppard, an African American living in a racism post-emancipation America, visits “Leopold’s” Congo. His thoughts and collective writings introduce his “vision” for Africa. He called for a popular “solution” proposed by white supremacists at the time, suggesting all African Americans return to the Congo, govern by colonial rule, and continue to spread Christianity throughout the region.

His vision for Africa is no different than the white supremacists who dominated his culture. Africa remained a “dark” place to be conquered. The wants, desires and needs of the African people were never a consideration.

How ironic, I thought, that this man could see himself as kin to the folks in the Congo due to skin color, yet his behavior and collective writings reflect someone who viewed the people of the Congo as a group to be conquered and viewed their land as “available” for anyone to lay claim to regardless of their prior connection to it.

Sheppard’s colonial views are not uncommon in contemporary black views of Africa, especially when you’re dealing with folks who are not African. It may hurt to admit that we hold onto so much negativity towards a place we may believe ourselves to love. Yet, how can we consider ourselves seeking “justice” when our view of the African continent is a cheap photocopy of long held colonial views?

In black Western conversation, and in black conversations in the global south, our view of Africa needs to undergo a change that prioritizes integrity and decolonization of our visions of Africa. I have long accepted the fundamental truth that Africa is not “mine”. My ancestors can be directly traced to Guinea, yet, Guinea does not “belong” to me. Seeing yourself as the owner of a place you’ve never been to, whose language you don’t speak, whose people you don’t understand and whose history you’re ignorant to, is nothing but colonial. Is it really so bad for Africa not to belong to you? Does it make a material difference in your life?

What are we really seeking when we (speaking generally) don dashikis, romanticize the African continent or even when we speak negatively about Africa & Africans? Whether we believe our critiques to be valid, where does this negativity stem from? Where does the pain come from? Who put it there?

Every person has a deep desire for community. Our deep desire for belonging stems from the generational pain of the injustice of having our homes stripped from us. We want a home. Many of us dream of an idealized place where we can live free of anti-blackness, an elusive pursuit that you’ll weary of chasing the more you learn about the history of black people across the globe.

This desire for an ever elusive home base can be reduced by strengthening our connection to the present moment, as well as strengthening our connection to our current communities. I can’t spill all the secrets about “living in the present” — I’m far from a zen master and many have done this better than I can. However, it’s been my personal experience that mindfulness meditation can not only reduce anxiety but provide profound clarity in my life — a view backed scientifically. This is a first step to finding the “raw” spots on our relationship to our personal and familial histories.

Is this chick really suggesting we meditate over not knowing who the hell our ancestors are and not having any connections we can trace?

No, I’m not. Calm down. I’m suggesting that a connection to our present communities and our present realities is a better use of our time than fixating on a fantasy that may very well be colonial by its very nature. We can create a home where we are now. Our recent ancestors in the Caribbean have proved that much at least!

Another appropriate way to handle this desire for belonging is through education. Material is difficult to find, and studying a vast continent such as Africa provokes many difficulties. Where should I start? Which countries should I study? Should I learn Swahili? Do I need to visit Africa? Breathe. You don’t need to do everything at once, and education can happen in a number of ways. I recently learned a bit about Malawian culture just from watching a YouTuber who talked about her life growing up in Malawi on her channel. I read King Leopold’s Ghost, and I’m in the process of reading a number of other books on Rwandan history, the history of the Congo and as much precolonial history as I can find. You don’t have to become an expert to find a connection. Reach out.

Connect with something or someone who can teach you, and be patient. Approach the subject with humility.

Education has the profound impact of changing your perspective, especially when it’s self motivated. You can choose whatever you want to learn and enjoy it. Some people may want to learn about the Orishas. Some people want to learn about King Leopold. Others will be interested in Fulani jewelry or recipes to traditional African foods.

What’s important is not replacing a connection to Africa, or learning about Africa, with the experience of growing up African. Honestly, I don’t think it’s anything we can understand fully! There are so many countries, languages and ethnic groups in Africa and we have been displaced for so many years that this can’t be changed. We can’t go back in time and mend connections that were severed.

I find greater happiness accepting this than fighting it.

Accepting what I can change — my ignorance — and letting go of what I can’t change — slavery in the 1600s-1900s — has done wonders for my emotional and spiritual connection to what it means to be black.

We don’t need to assume faux-African identities, culturally appropriate, or “own” African culture for our connection to exist. It’s there. Learn about the colonial history of Western and Central Africa, and you will see that our connection is there. Don’t take my word for it. Embrace self-reflection, education and honesty about our complex relationship with Africa. Let go of what you cannot change about this. Pursue what you can change with love, open-mindedness and passion.

Approaching education about Africa with respect, humility and honesty can help us build greater connections with people we meet from the countries we wish to connect with. It will help us to learn more, understand our history and others, and we’ll be in a better position to advocate for human rights on the African continent (if that holds our interest) from an emotional state that at least questions the colonial status quo the continent holds in our consciousness.

We can create a world where the people we were cut off from do not feel misunderstood, uncared for and ultimately unloved by people who are proud to proclaim a connection in public, while treating Africa/Africans like a shameful bastard child. It isn’t “pride” we need to seek at all in relation to our African heritage, but humility.

Author’s Note:

Hey readers. If you’re interested in learning more about my education into African history and contemporary issues, comment down below and I’ll consider putting together a comprehensive reading list of everything I’ve read or intend to read on the subjects. Copyright © 2018 West Indian Critic. See plagiarism notice prior to use.

IS SAINT LUCIA GAY FRIENDLY?

 I get this question often. Most commonly, I get this question on YouTube, since I've recently started a channel about life and travel here. It's a question that's difficult to answer in a YouTube comment when you have a limited amount of time and space, and the additional difficulty of not being able to "read" the person you're talking to in order to determine if they're really hearing you. The more I get this question, the more I do want to address it somewhere because the answer is both simple and complicated."Is Saint Lucia gay-friendly?" The short answer is no.This answer should be a national embarrassment, yet it's one that many of our residents who rely on tourism as their bread and butter hold proudly and dear to their hearts.I've heard all the excuses and justifications of homophobia stemming from slavery (true) and also from Christianity being used as a tool of violence to keep enslaved people obedient to European rule (also true). While these historical facts paint the picture of why the Caribbean is homophobic, they don't excuse it.The violence Christians enact today in the name of misreading an excessively butchered translation of the Bible, is 100% their fault. And I'm going to come right out and make a controversial claim:

We deserve every dollar lost due to our violent intolerance and discrimination. 

I'm not sorry to make that claim because discrimination of any kind is unacceptable. End of story. There is no "religious" justification that can take away the ultimate alleged message of Christianity: LOVE THY NEIGHBOR.Love is not conditional and if you believe it is, you need to hit that Bible once more and correct the hell out of your poisoned definition of love. The religious justifications for homophobia in this country are no longer an excuse. The legacy of slavery is no longer an excuse. While it may explain why our country is homophobic, this doesn't excuse it.

What are we doing right now to change the oppressive system enacted into law by slave masters? Answer: The majority of us are doing nothing.So yes, I'm tired of coming up with excuses and yes, Saint Lucia is very much a homophobic country. You know you're starting off on the wrong foot when you refer to sex as "sodomy" on the books. "Sodomy" is forbidden under Saint Lucian law.Now, let's get to where things get a little more complicated.While legally, two men are not permitted to have sex and as you can imagine, getting married is out of the question, the law is difficult to enforce. Also, I've asked and there's no word on whether two women having sex is forbidden. Loopholes on loopholes, I suppose.I know a number of people in the LGBT community in Saint Lucia who get by here. I'm not sure how happy they are so I really don't want to portray a message that I have no evidence of. Happy or not, LGBT Saint Lucians consider this place their home and have hope that the country will move forward in the future. Some people live with their partners in Saint Lucia as well and as far as I know, have not been arrested for doing such.I will not promise that existence is without fear, threat or discrimination. However, it is a reality that we have an LGBT community in Saint Lucia and some people live openly.

To act as if gay people do not exist here is an act of violence itself, and I don't wish to perpetuate that. (If you want me to expand more on this, comment down below.)Now, the question at hand that often accompanies "IS SAINT LUCIA GAY-FRIENDLY?" is, would I recommend that a tourist visit Saint Lucia?Let me put it to you this way. I would not put my money in the hands of a government that had "banned" black people or interracial relationships, lets say.If the question isn't a matter of where you're putting your money, I would say that if you come to Saint Lucia as an LGBT person you can remain unbothered if you conform to the standards of dress acceptable for men and women in our culture. Also, I would not recommend public displays of affection towards your significant other or anyone of the same sex. (Usually, I find it's more acceptable for women to dress "like men" than the other way around down here but I'm open to correction from women who have lived this experience.)

Would I recommend you traveling here? Hell no! That's messy! I don't like taking responsibility for people's decisions like that. I would not feel comfortable assuring a tourist 100% of their safety in any homophobic country. My recommendation is to assess the situation and determine what you're comfortable with.If more tourists vote with their dollars and take a stance against homophobia here, I am certain the profit mongers in our tourism industry would inch slowly towards progress. However, that's going to take a lot of dollars considering homophobia is not just a Caribbean issue, but a global one. If it's your dream to see the Caribbean before then, I don't think you should deny yourself the opportunity.It's possible to be safe. It's possible to be unbothered by anyone. If you've survived anywhere else in the world where homophobia exists, you can certainly do it down here. Sadly, none of this prejudice is new.

Be warned that while the country's laws may be lax, some of the rules of the resorts here are not and the white foreign resort owners are the ones most likely to enforce the rules that LGBT couples cannot stay there. Be mindful of this and do your research beforehand.We have a lot of work to do in the field of human rights. Homophobia isn't the only rampant discrimination that exists here, as with most other places in the world. I won't sugar coat it and pretend it's all a fat mug of cocoa tea. We have a lot of work to do as a country, let's get to making a change rather than jumping through hoops to avoid accountability for the reprehensible.If you hope to visit Saint Lucia and you have any more questions, I recommend that you check out my YouTube channel. My latest vlog is right here: https://youtu.be/7-SZQ5Sv_oc  

Independence Day Reflections 2018

 

This month in Saint Lucia, we celebrated 39 years of Independence. This year, Independence Day celebrations differed from many years that I’ve experienced. This year, I noticed many people waving our flag from their cars and in general, the expression with national colors seemed to be at an all-time high. We love symbols and symbolism here — from the crucifixes we wear around our necks, to carrying Jansport backpacks at school.

What do we find when we observe these symbols? What’s there and what does Independence mean?

How often do we ask that question? How often do we ask whether or not we’ve truly “made it” out of colonial oppression?

We take to symbols because symbols are easy. Attend church instead of doing good. Buy an Audi instead of saving your money for the future. Cover up a priest’s inappropriate actions rather than standing up against pedophilia and misogyny. The symbol of good being done in our community is better to us than the good itself.

Don’t let symbols be a scapegoat for lack of depth.

Power continues to be consolidated in the upper class. The wealthiest are more often than not, of the lightest hue. Our people are hungrier than ever and more desperate. Women, children and the elderly face social, psychological, political and physical violence at the hands of people in our country. Human trafficking and drug trafficking both thrive amongst us, free citizens.

As new hotels further our ecological destruction, our people are forced to work there for little pay due to a lack of choice. Our “independent” government actively supports the destruction of our National Landmarks and continues to childishly lash out against organizations like the National Trust who have the best interests of the country in mind.

But we choose the symbol of independence. We choose the outward symbols of "development" while the reality is a crumbling infrastructure and a foundation of sand.

We also choose to be “apolitical”. We cannot make this choice however as our very existence as formerly enslaved people is political. When you move through the world as a black man, or a black woman, or a biracial person, your existence is political. Politics affects everything in your life, whether you are aware of it or not.

Denying the importance of politics is a cop-out. We choose to bury our heads in the sands, denying our own capabilities as the survivors of enslaved people who led multiple successful revolts against the wealthy European colonizers. Our ancestors razed plantations to the ground — they didn’t celebrate their grand opening with a selfie.

We buy flags instead of engaging in political protest when we should be doing the two in tandem. We wear our national colors instead of changing how we interact with our communities. We can do both! We deny responsibility for the “political” because we’d rather watch someone else get the job done. But the job never gets done. The very politicians we rely on are the upper class that abandoned us for their creature comforts and fat pockets.

We are all culpable. We are all guilty of choosing symbolism over action. Perhaps it was bred into us, but now we all have the choice to change.

Will we approach our 40th Independence Day with even more excitement, but even less substance?

We can’t allow this to be the case.

~

I’d like to write a small note here to thank everyone this year (2017-2018) who supported the Saint Lucia National Trust, Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia, United & Strong and other organizations doing grassroots work in Saint Lucia. Your contributions are recognized and acknowledged. Thank you for working towards making our country a better and more equal place.