Christmas, Colonialism and the Search for Christ in the Caribbean

In December, my husband and I went on our first international trip. We had a great time just navigating our way through the island and exploring the culture, the landscape and enjoying 80-degree weather. But pretty quickly, we began to realize that there was a lot going on underneath the surface than just tropical vibes and warm breezes. I did research on Caribbean islands months ago, and Curacao started to pop up as a nice destination. It’s right by Aruba and just north of Venezuela. It’s owned by the Dutch like Aruba and St. Maarten. When we went to exchange our money after arriving, the security guard at the bank shared some interesting info. He told me about the racial tension still felt in his country from the Dutch population and that when he was interviewed for a job he was asked if he planned on doing something criminal. He explained to me that he was just like anyone else, desiring to have a good life and not by unscrupulous means. Oh my. I was fresh off the plane, and I had some telling info that ended up playing out during our time there.

We went to our resort, which was its own beautiful little paradise, located by Mambo Beach. I quickly learned that a great majority of people visiting the island are from Holland. There were some people from the US on the beach, but we didn’t encounter other Americans staying at the resort in the 7 days we were there. There were two restaurants on the property and the first morning of our stay we went to the more casual one. As we were walking up to take a seat, I noticed some older people staring at us (possibly Dutch). And when we sat down, they still continued to stare. It was quite disarming. Ironically, we weren’t the only brown people on the property. But the brown people who were there were workers — not guests. On a rare occasion, we’d see some other black people eating at the restaurants, but we discovered they were natives to the island, not guests of the resort.

On another occasion, we went to the more upscale restaurant and enjoyed the live jazz. At one point, I got up to use the restroom and when I returned to the table, my husband told me a man at one of the tables gave me a disgusted look as I passed by him. That was a first for me (or at least to my knowledge). Thankfully I did not see him looking at me, but it emphasized the plight that those of African descent face. Quite often, we are not looking for reasons to focus on or declare racism but rather people remind us that (in their eyes) we don’t belong or there is something inherently wrong with us or our presence. My younger years were more free and unmarred when I moved among people who looked like me. But as the years have passed, gestures, words and scenarios made me more and more aware that I am often viewed through a lens of bias, curiosity or racism. But I’m just like the security guard at the bank. I want to live a life where I am not conscious of the skin I live in, but others remind me that to them it’s an issue or, at the very least, an oddity.

And this was all happening under the backdrop of Christmas. It’s a holiday that’s very meaningful to me as a Christian and it was the first time I was in another country during this time of year. There were beautiful decorations at the resort and often I’d hear famous Christmas songs playing in the common areas of the property.

xmas1

When we visited Willemstad, the capital of Curacao, there were a couple of decorative scenes that were quite pretty. But I never saw anything overtly referring to the birth of Christ. It was just secular with some holiday touches. No nativity scenes here as you can see below.

xmas2

On the fourth day of our trip, we went on an excursion that took us around the island while we learned more about the history of the country and experienced the natural wonders too. Our first tour stop was a small lake where flamingos live. By the lake, there’s a monument commemorating the first revolt of the African slaves for freedom from the Dutch. There are six other markers around the island just like it. During our vacation, I just sensed this overall undercurrent of the haves and have nots and that many times the haves were of Dutch origin. For me it was another reminder that in a completely different culture and country, the residue of the sin of slavery and racism still permeates the land. And the only answer to all of this is CHRIST. Nations fail to recognize that without Him, humanity is prone to do what humanity often does: fall way short of what’s right and good. How many times has man done horrific things for profit? And man is no different today with his insidious schemes to amass wealth and power. Money in and of itself is not wrong, but people are easily corrupted by their pursuit of it. The word has a simple take on greed: “For the love of money is the root of all evil” 1 Timothy 6:10

xmas3

And though living in the world as a black woman is not always easy, I realize that people who are not saved and harbor racism/bias in their heart cannot see me in all my humanity. They can’t see ME as an individual because the world has sold them a lie. And without the spirit of Christ in them, there is no conviction of wrongdoing. The universal need to be accepted and loved is something we can all understand. Even our own family and loved ones don’t always fully embrace us. But total acceptance is only through Jesus Christ. He loves beyond race, gender, sexual identity, income, class, etc. In the Father’s eyes, we are seen purely as His children, made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).

galatians

I’ll admit that my Christianity was challenged during my time in the Caribbean. I had to remember that who I am in Christ is more than how others may view me with their eyes. And though the season of celebrating the birth of my Savior reminds me of the love of Christ, to many it’s just another holiday. My responsibility is to display the heart of Jesus to others and pray that the world comes to realize that life is more than food and clothes (Luke 12:23). This experience also reminded me that I don’t have all the answers to the frustration of race relations in a world system fashioned by fallible man. And sometimes when I write, words fail me as I cannot fully express how much the Lord is grieved by the racial divide in our world. My hope is that more people of Christ will become more willing to confront what concerns the Father.

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” — Psalm 82:3 

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” — Jeremiah 22:3

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.” — Isaiah 1:17

2 thoughts on “Christmas, Colonialism and the Search for Christ in the Caribbean

  1. Once again you have the ability to walk racial issues right into my heart. Thanks Tiffany for your insight and Christ-Centered prospective.

    Like

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