Step Toward Pan-Trini National Unity
Posted: June 18, 2001
By Dr Kwame Nantambu
"History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. The role of history is to tell a people what they have been and where they have been, what they are and where they are. The most important role that history plays is that it has the function of telling a people where they still must go and what they still must be".. Dr. John Henrik Clarke.
History teaches and informs a people as to the problems and issues that confront and challenge then on a daily basis. In addition, history taps into the positive, communal energies of a people who have faced a common enemy from an historical perspective.
In the tradition of deceased international Pan Afrikan Nationalist, Trini Kwame Ture, this article not only seeks to destroy, debunk and decode the 15th century European internal ploy of Divide and Rule (Conquer) among oppressed peoples but also to raise the vital issue of Pan Trini unity to the next level. I argue that we must consolidate our oppressive heritage as a national asset in the 21st century.
The fact of the matter is that history is always made but glorious, unified history is only made by using a common, oppressed historical denominator and yardstick-this is the Pan Trini unity challenge to achieve either self-destruction or unified nationhood as a people.
Political economy suggests that "nationalism is the basis for the survival of nations" and TnT is no exception. Indeed, TnT is now passing through one of the regular birth pain cycles of the movement of millennium history, namely, the national struggle in support of nationalism and unity.
As such, any insecure, power-hungry entity who perceives that its interests are threatened tends to adopt "a factor of survival" which automatically becomes its "national innate momentum for survival" and the acquisition and control of power.
The factor of national unity and solidarity in any group is a social factor that is nationalism. For this detrimental reason, perception may become survival reality if a group does not have a clear and correct historical analysis of who is the real enemy. In the case of TnT, the real enemy is our documented history of European oppression, exploitation, enslavement, colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism and the fatal, ominous and real Trini-recolonization, by designed and not by accident.
This common European experience of oppression makes all Trinis one oppressed class of people, whether we like it or not. Let us use this common experience not to sow seeds of disunity, self-destruction but instead to scatter seeds that would blossom into tall, strong trees of Pan Trini divisiveness and national unity in every nock and cranny of TnT.
The fact of the matter is that whether we were DENTURED or INDENTURED, we were ALL SLAVES OF THE EUROPEAN. That experience is the spinal cord of our determination to achieve Pan Trini national unity
Any serious and functional step toward the achievement of Pan Trini unity must be conceptualized and not carnivalized-this is total insane, ahistorical behavior at its zenith. National unity must be rooted in historical reality and not in a typical J'ouvert morning Trini-way vacuum. This is historical insanity.
Caribbean historian Philip M. Sherlock points our in his Caribbean Citizen (1963) that:
Following on the European and African came the East Indian. Once again the magnet which pulled the migrant from his home was the demand for labour on the sugar estates. In Trinidad, British Guiana (now Guyana) and Jamaica, the estates were short of workers. Efforts to find new settlers and new sources of free labour in Europe and in West Africa failed and so the (Euro-)West Indian planters turned to India with its vast population. At first, the number of East Indians who were willing to migrate under contract as labourers was small, but gradually the conditions of service were improved and the trickle became a stream and then a flood. By 1870, there were some 28,000 East Indians in Trinidad (under slave contract); by the same year Jamaica had received 22,000 and British Guiana 128,000. Migration continued until the 1920's and thousands upon thousands of men and women came from India to the British Caribbean. (p.10).
The fact of the matter is that it is totally irrelevant and immaterial whether the East Indians came to TnT from India on their 30 May 1845 "Indian Arrival Day" via the Fatel Rozack or the "Indian Indentured labourers" landed in Guyana on 5 May 1847 under "the (European) Indentured System".
The historical bottom-line is that the Afrikan from Mother Afrika as well as the East Indian from mother India were both enslaved by the same individual-the European. He is our common oppressor, colonizer and genocidal perpetrator. This slave-enforced experience is the sole catalyst for us as an oppressed class of people to become united and solidified against our single, common enemy and oppressor. Our history of oppression dictates this action.
Instead, however, what has taken place is the typical Euro-centric 15th century ploy to divide the enslaved oppressed. So what exists today is the absurd, silly differentiation between enslaved Afrikans and indentured enslaved East Indians. In other words, the East Indians are ‘different' slaves because they received less lashes from their European slave-masters' whip and their period of indenturedship lasted much shorter compared to the Afrikan. This putative, ridiculous, circuitous rationale thus seems to absolve TnT East Indians of their European enslavement. They DO NOT consider themselves as descendants of SLAVES. They ONLY consider TnT AFRRIKANS as descendants of SLAVES in typical Euro-centric superior-inferior comparative terms. TnT East Indians would like to put their slave indenturedship under the historical rug as if it NEVER happened.
The fact of the matter is that it DID HAPPEN and there is NOTHING they can do to erase the AFRIKAN and EAST INDIAN common history/experience of European enslavement, Holocaust or MAAFA (" the Great Disaster").
The national survival and unity of TnT in the 21st century therefore demands that both groups of European oppressed classes MUST see themselves as such and not only to recognize and accept that common historical oppressive European denominator but also to use it as a very potent weapon in our nation's armory to achieve united, solidified nation-building.
However, as a result of the Euro-centric, ahistorical mind-set in TnT today, this common European enslavement has received much public currency as a liability and potent deficiency in the strive for national unity. This only assures this writer of the solid grip that the Euro-centric value system and view of history have on the slim majority East Indian population and Afrikan Trini Whites who share similar views.
In the 1960's, Dr. Frantz Fanon called such Afrikans "Black Skins, White Masks"; in the 1990's, Dr. Leonard Jefferies termed such people "Afropeans"; and in the 21st century, I have termed such Afrikan-Trinis as "Contemporary house-servants". Instead of colluding as they did with their European slave-master to control the field hands in the 15th century, now we find that Afrikan-Trini-Whites are colluding with the TnT East Indians to control the majority field-hand dark-skinned Afrikans. Indeed, this skin, class-cultural collusion only brings to the fore the solid and ubiquitous existence of "elite skinocracy" in TnT. This is the most potent and vicious impediment to the achievement of national unity.
There are Afrikan-Trinis who DO NOT acknowledge and accept the historical fact that they are an Afrikan people, that their past is that as an Afrikan people, their present is that as an Afrikan people and their future in TnT is that as an Afrikan people. And there is NOTHING they can do about this reality.
There are Afrikan Trinis who are ashamed and get totally annoyed, albeit violent, if you even dare to call them Afrikan. They reject their original, innate Afrikaness.
The fact of the matter is that both Afrikan Trinis and East Indian Trinis must realize that under the global system of European supremacy they are BOTH BLACK PEOPLE or PEOPLE OF COLOR. The myopic concept of Trini-White or East Indian is ONLY relevant to TNT at the micro level; at the global, macro level, the population of TnT is BLACK from the so-called Third World. It is just that simple. TnT Afrikans are BLACK and TnT East Indians are BLACK to the outside white European world-dominated system. To the outside world, the population of TnT were enslaved by Europeans at some point in time in their respective history.
The ONLY people who are in-between are the Asians who under this White, European world-dominated system are considered "Quasi Europeans" or "Honorary Whites".
Afrikan-Trinis and East Indian-Trinis, wake up and smell your own coffee and that coffee is BLACK! Let us use our common historical experience of European enslavement to stir our BLACK cup of coffee for all of our cultural benefit. Our history DICTATES this action.
It is at this crucial historical juncture that national unity MUST be conceptualized within the context of our common European enslaved experience, regardless of the time period. Slavery in all of its varied manifestations and modalities is SLAVERY PERIOD.
Whether your enslavement lasted one hundred years and mine lasted three hundred years, the fact is that we are both SLAVES of the European. Whether your European slave-master gave you ten lashes with his whip but he punished me with fifteen lashes, the fact is that we are both whipped by the same European slave-master. This is the common oppressive heritage of Afrikan and East Indian Trinis.
Let us therefore use this common European slave experience as the potent force to achieve national unity-our history DEMANDS nothing else. Let us not fall prey to the ahistorical Euro-centric analysis of our common oppressed history. Let us turn this historical liability into a modern day asset.
My fellow Trinis, let us step up to the historical, cultural plate and use our common oppressive heritage to cross the time-line into the 21st century as a united, solidified, committed, dedicated, empowered and conscious people.
Indeed, our common oppressive history teaches that the blood that unites us is thicker than the diasporan water, culture and accents that separate and divide us. We might have come from the ‘Old' World (Mother Afrika and India) to the ‘New' World (Caribbean) in different European slaveships but as Trinis, we MUST achieve total liberation and national unity in the SAME all-inclusive, Pan-Trini Nationalist freedom boat in the 21st century and beyond.
Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").
Dr. Nantambu is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University, U.S.A.
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