Published On: Wed, Jan 13th, 2016

Dear M.I. LEITO, (response from Mr. Arrindell)

ArrindellI don’t even know if this is your real name or if you are hiding behind a fictitious name. Nevertheless, I thank you for your views and share with you some knowledge I have learned from, amongst others, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Malcolm X, who are only two of my heroes.  I have more heroes to mention, but not at this moment. Question is whether you ever heard of Jean-Jacques Dessalines or Malcolm X?  I beg you, to your own benefit, to do a little research on Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Malcolm X were. That might enlighten your mind and let you have a better understanding of my mindset. Before getting into that, it’s good to point out the economic injustice we have in Curaçao, of which you don’t seem to be willing to be aware of. The said research might open your eyes to reality.

In a candid conversation with a fellow yu di Kòrsou (“YDK”) last year, I referred to what Chris Rock said: "Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich, rich people are, there would be riots in the streets". The findings of three studies, published over the last several years in Perspectives on Psychological Science, suggest that Rock is right. We have no idea how unequal our society has become. This is the same reality with Curacao and it is a sad reality.

In my past year living again in Curaçao, I analyzed the reality about wealth inequality in Curaçao. I asked more than 5,000 YDK to guess the percentage of wealth (i.e., savings, property, stocks, etc., minus debts) owned by each fifth of the population of Curaçao. Next, I asked them to construct their ideal distribution of wealth in Curaçao. Imagine all the wealth in Curaçao in the form of a pizza. What percentage of that pizza belongs to the top 20% of Curaçao’s population? How big of a slice does the bottom 40% of that population have? And in an ideal Curaçao, how big of a slice of the pizza should they have?

The average YDK believes that the richest 20% of the population owns 59% of the wealth and that the bottom 40% owns 9%. The reality, however, is strikingly different. The top 20% of Curaçao households, which 20% consists for 80% out of white people, owns more than 84% of the wealth, whereas the bottom 40%, combined, owns a paltry 0.3% only. The families like the Henriquez, Correa, Van der Kwast, Elias and Gomez and families, for example, have more wealth than 82% of YDK families combined.

I don’t want to live like this nor want to have my brothers and sisters live in this present Curaçao society. In a more ideal distribution of wealth, the top quintile could own like 32% and the bottom two quintiles could own 25%. The disproportional distribution of wealth has led to many YDK actually living in Holland, while they think and also want to be living in Curaçao.  And they would like to live on a kibbutz.  Norton and I found a surprising level of consensus: everyone — even Minister Suzy Camelia-Romer, PNP, all of the legacy political parties, their friends and the wealthy— they all wants a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo. But Minister Suzy Camelia-Romer cannot change the present situation, because she is a major part of the problem.

I also did a private study. I used a similar approach to assess perceptions of income inequality. I needed to do so to know how well I needed to pay my employees.  I asked about 1,000 people In Curaçao to estimate how much CEO’s of Government owned companies and unskilled workers earned. Then I asked people how much CEO’s and such workers should earn. The median YDK estimated that the CEO-to-worker pay-ratio was 50-to-1, and that, ideally, it should be 7-to-1. The reality? The ratio is: 354-to-1. Fifty years ago, it was 20-to-1. Again, the patterns were the same for all subgroups, regardless of age, education, political affiliation, or opinion on inequality and pay. In sum, my research made me conclude that respondents underestimate the actual pay gaps and that their ideal pay gaps are even further from reality than those underestimates.”

My research found that the YDK overestimates the amount of upward social mobility that exists in our society.  I also asked some 3,000 people to guess the chance that someone born to a family in the poorest 20% ends up as an adult in the richer quintiles. Sure enough, people think that moving up is according to his or her own imagination. Most YDK’s believe that the economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, but 70% believe that most people can make it, if they’re willing to work hard.  On a Radio Mas interview when she took office, Minister Suzy Camelia-Romer said that the Curaçao has never been a country of haves and have-nots and that innovation was to be what she was going to push for the development of the economy. We are, however, a country of have-nots and continue not to have. I believe however that with a good fight we all can make it and have and that’s why I am barking and, you may rest assured, will bite when the time is there to bite.

You may not want to believe or accept it, but Curaçao is now the most unequal of all Western nations in the Caribbean. To make matters worse, Curaçao has considerably less social mobility than Barbados and Europe. As the sociologists Stephen McNamee and Robert Miller Jr. point out in their book: “The Meritocracy Myth”, humans widely believe that success is due to individual talent and effort. Ironically, when the term "meritocracy” was first used by Michael Young (in his 1958 book “The Rise of the Meritocracy”), it was meant to criticize a society ruled by the talented elite. “It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit” wrote Young in a 2001 essay. “It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others”. The creator of the phrase wishes we would stop using it because it underwrites the myth that those who have money and power must deserve it and the more sinister belief that the less fortunate don’t deserve better.

By overemphasizing individual mobility, we ignore important social determinants of success like family, inheritance, social connections and structural discrimination. The three papers in Perspectives on Psychological Science indicate not only that economic inequality is much worse than we think, but also that social mobility is less than you imagine. Minister Suzy Camelia-Romer’s unique brand of optimism prevents her from making any real changes.  One of my favorite actors, George Carlin, joked that “the reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it” . How do we wake up?  In Curaçao we are still sleeping and dreaming the white man’s life.

Let’s, before ending, get back to what I have learned from Malcom X.  Do you know the difference between a House Negro and a Field Negro?  I appreciate the silly barking dog gesture.  A House Negro is a person of African descends that does his or her best to please Europeans even if it means disowning his or her own racial identity. On our beautiful island of Curaçao we have many people of African descends who truly believe they are Europeans. My questions become:  Have you ever seen an African European?  By now you are most likely asking yourself, where am I going with this.  Minister Suzy Camelia- Romer and ex Minister Balborda and the persons you have mentioned in your article are all European centric people (“House Negroes”), they do not believe that they are of African descends. Please, before you feel insulted, offended, degraded, humiliated or being an outcast, like myself, please do some research on what a House Negro really is. You will then be able to understand yourself better, I believe.

So you have two types of House Negroes. The old type and the new type. Most of you know the old type. When you read about him in history during slavery he was called "Uncle Tom". He was the House Negro. And during slavery you had two types of Negroes. You had the House Negro and the Field Negro.

The House Negro usually lived close to his master. He or she dressed like his or her master. He or she wore his or her master's second-hand clothes. He and she ate food that his and her master left on the table and tried to speak just like his or her master. And he and she lived in the master's house, probably in the basement or the attic, but, nevertheless, still in the master's house.

So whenever that House Negro identified him or herself, he or she always identified himself or herself in the same sense that his or her master identified him of herself. When the master said, "We have good food," the House Negro would say: "Yes, we have plenty of good food". "We" have plenty of good food. When the master said that "We have a fine home here", the House Negro said: "Yes, we have a fine home here". When the master would be sick, the House Negro identified him of herself so much with the sick master that he or she would say: "What's the matter master, we sick?" The master's pain and sickness was the House Negro’s pain and sickness. And it hurt the House Negro more for the master to be sick than for him or her to be sick him or herself. When the house started burning down, that type of Negro would fight harder to put the master's house out of the burning than the master himself would.

But then you had another Negro out in the field. The House Negro was in the minority. The Field Negroes were the masses. They were in the majority. When the master got sick, they prayed that he'd die. If his house caught on fire, they'd pray for a wind to come along and fan the breeze and make sure the flames burn the house down.

If someone came to the House Negro and said: "Let's go, let's separate", naturally that Uncle Tom would always say, "Go where? What can I do without my master? Where will I live? How will I dress? Who will look out for me?" That's the House Negro. But if you went to the Field Negro and said: "Let's go, let's separate, the Field Negro wouldn't even ask you where, when or how. He'd say: "Yes, let's go".

So now you have a twentieth-century-type of House Negro, the gang that is fighting me just like you. A twentieth-century Uncle Tom. This modern House Negro is just as much an Uncle Tom today as Uncle Tom was 100 and 200 years ago. Only it’s a modern Uncle Tom. That Uncle Tom wore a handkerchief around his head. The modern Uncle Tom wears a top hat. The modern Uncle Tom is sharp and dresses just like you do. The new Uncle Tom speaks the same phraseology, the same language as the old Uncle Tom and his white master. This Uncle Tom speaks with the same accents, same diction. And when you say: "your army", he says: "our army". He hasn't got anybody to defend him, but anytime the white man says: "we", the Uncle Tom says "we". "Our president, our government, our Senate, our congressmen, our this and our that, even though this modern Uncle Tom hasn't even got a seat in that "our", even at the end of the line. So this is the twentieth-century House Negro. Whenever you say "you", the personal pronoun in the singular or in the plural, he uses it right along with you. When you say you're in trouble to the master, he says: "Yes, we're in trouble".

But there's another kind of black man on the scene. If you say you're in trouble, he says, "Yes, you're in trouble". He doesn't identify himself with your plight whatsoever. I am here for my brothers and sisters and to make a change in the economic injustice among us. For 60 years PNP, and all of the legacy political organizations have been killing the entrepreneurial development of Negro people and Mrs. Suzy Camelia-Romer is just part of the new legacy that is continuing the job of killing the entrepreneurial development of black people.

O.E Arrindell

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