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About that Imbalance

By Corey Gilkes
April 08, 2011

So finally the President revoked Nizam Mohammed's appointment. About bloody time as far as I'm concerned since he should have been sent packing the minute he crossed swords with those two police officers. So we clear one time me eh have no sympathy for he.

But then there is this:

Now (of course) there has been a huge hue and cry over the remarks he made regarding the imbalance in the upper echelons of the Police Service. But (of course) much of what has been said in response was as emotive and reactionary as Nizam's statements were and almost as devoid of proper historical context.

It's not that what he said was wrong — he was right. There is a numerical imbalance. Further, looking at the Darby Report and the Ryan/La Guerre Report one does see indications of deliberate attempts to exclude in the past. But there also remains not so quietly whispered comments that during the Williams era children and family members of trade union and Black Power activists were also excluded. The fact remains this is a very complex and multi-dimensional topic and he, nevertheless, remains the wrong person who said the right thing in the wrong manner. Given the way our society is and the complexity of this issue, there is no way such a statement could have been made without also laying out very clearly the historical context in which the imbalance — in this and many other professions — became a reality. How could he have not mentioned the fact that at particular periods, not only did Indi-Trinbagonians opt not to join, but many Afri-Trinbagonians as well. The Police Force during the colonial period was reviled as the oppressive arm of the colonial authorities and upon Independence became the repressive arm of the State. So there were many on both sides who spurned the uniform of the Constabulary. Further, how could he have not pointed out that many Indian fathers forbade their children from enlisting, insisting that they follow them into whatever businesses they were running? And we can go on and on.

What would have been great, however, is if we used this as an opportunity to properly deal with the issues of race, class and the insecurities in both that have been exploited by our political, business and educated elite. Issues that have been swept under the carpet for far too long. There have been some attempts in the past but I do not think those reached out to enough people and I don't think the really awkward questions were asked. When it comes to living in denial, we as a people really have it down to a science. The oft-heard claim that "all ah we is one" is a really nice, lovely ideal but in reality stands on very fragile ground. And that has a lot to do with encouraged ignorance as well as insecurities based on real and perceived differences among the various ethnic groups that were well exploited by the colonial authorities and remained largely untouched after they (supposedly) departed after 1962.

Practically everybody you hear calling into radio talk shows pleading to get away from "dis race talk" have the best of intentions. But this is one of those issues in which the best way to get past it is to go straight through it and ask and answer by ourselves, for ourselves the bitter, unpleasant truths about how racial/ethnic relations came to be what they are. But let's not start with Dr. Williams in the way Dr. Job loves to do it — although he does have a lot to answer for so to speak. Let's first look at what the British — who no one seems too willing to indict — did. Make no mistake, the seeds of the poison in our minds today were actively cultivated by the British. Don't want to believe me? Cool, but look at their legacy in Palestine and their hand in the conflict between Jews and Muslims there; in India and the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan; in Iraq — a state they actually created by forcibly fusing together the ethnic groups living more or less autonomously there. Indeed, look right in our backyard in Guyana and the way their "civilising" of the natives and peoples brought together resulted in so much loss of life since the 1950s. Am I to understand and accept that ALL of these ethnic groups were senselessly fighting and killing one another all this time until the Brits showed up? Allyuh still accepting that narrative after all this time?

What about the concept of Othering which was particularly strong in Western worldview, how did that play a part in how we looked at each other? Let's lift that carpet and throw light on the role of religion in that aspect. How did such metaphorical concepts as the Light=good/Darkness=evil dichotomy inform the way we kept each other at a distance? Already on another level we are seeing it beginning to rear its ugly head again as the Ministry of Education is seeking to re-examine religious education — for me an oxymoron, but I'll look past it just this once — in schools. Almost as soon as the Minister of Education made that announcement, reactions from largely Christians showed just how much ignorance and imbalance is by no means limited to the Police Service.

In other words, let's stop leaving these things to chance, hoping that it goes away. Let's really make an effort to confront them and hopefully get somewhere for a change.

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