TnT politics: Race out, policy in TnT politics
Posted: October 18, 2002
An analysis by
Dr. Kwame Nantambu
As Election Day inches towards 7 October 2002, this writer voluntarily joins the chorus of Trinis, at Home and Abroad, who are calling for the exclusion of the proverbial race-card in the up-coming general elections.
This card has no role whatsoever to play nor should be allowed to play in the political process. It is the sordid antithesis of what this polyglot society stands for and represents.
Indeed, the living national anthem speaks to the real issue that TnT is a society where "every creed and race find an equal place." This credo should not be stricken down to the ground for selfish political ends or means. This would tantamount to a bastardization of our anthem.
There can never be free and fair elections in TnT if this race-card variable is in the political mix.
The fact of the matter is that this race issue is a direct legacy of mental or psychological slavery or enslavement.
This European slave-master's ploy not only divided up the Afrikan slaves so that he could rule and conquer them for centuries but he also separated the category of slaves into dentured and indentured classes.
The European slave-master purposely did this in order to convince and
condition the indentured slaves that they were "better" than the dentured slaves.
Indeed, the record shows that indentured slaves were treated far better than the dentured slaves but the reality is that both major populations in TnT were enslaved by the same European. This is our common historical denominator. This experience must not be or should not be used, to divide, destroy and self-destruct TnT as the European sought to do.
Race and racial prejudice should not polarize nor segregate politics and governance in TnT. Now is the crucial time to make TnT a race free zone.
After forty years as an independent nation and twenty-six years as a Republic, any political figure who plays the race-card should be loudly driven off the political stage.
The majority TnT population reflects an enslaved, exploited and oppressed class of people.
One group was brought involuntarily from Mother Afrika, while the other came voluntarily from Mother India. The first landed in the Caribbean in 1516, the second landed in TnT in May 1845.
Trinis must use this common historical experience to consolidate
nationalism, togetherness and sense of oneness.
The fact of the matter is that European enslavement was not based on race but on economics/profit. As the expert on this topic, deceased historian, Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams explains in his magnum opus, Capitalism & Slavery (1961)
"slavery was an economic institution of the first importance. the origin of Negro (Afrikan) slavery . was economic, not racial; it had to do not with the colour of the labourer, but the cheapness of the labour. As compared with Indian and White labour, Negro (Afrikan) slavery was eminently superior (most profitable).In each case,. it was a survival of the fittest. Both Indian slavery and White servitude were to go down before the black man's superior endurance, docility and labour capacity. The features of the man, his hair, colour, dentifrice, his 'subhuman' characteristics so widely pleaded, were
only the later rationalizations to justify a simple economic fact: that the colonies needed labour and resorted to Negro (Afrikan) labour because it was cheapest and best."(pp.5-20).
As an independent people, it is imperative for Trinis to rise above this 15th century European control ploy and to place each other in our proper, historical context and resistance in order to glue society together; Trinis should not use this history to tear the country asunder into political violence and self-destruction.
This writer does not think for any split second that racial violence a la Guyana will erupt in TnT. Although our European enslavement is similar, the political outcome/dynamics will be dis-similar.
This writer totally and emphatically disagrees with the Prime Minister that by adding "race relations and comparative religion . To the curriculum of schools" that "a lot of discord" may not arise among Trinis.
Mr. Prime Minister, history is a clock that reveals who a people are, where they came from, what they have done, where they are going and how they see themselves in relation to other peoples of the world.
To focus only on "race relations and comparative religion" of a people, is to truncate, compartmentalize and pigeon-hole a people's history. As such,this approach, analysis and interpretation of a people's history is totally Euro-centric and by extension, a historical, divisive, dysfunctional and devoid of any sense of sanity.
The totality of a people's history embraces their religion, culture, arts, sciences, racial attitudes, economics, politics, governance, human interaction, etc.
History is a people. History represents the holistic nature of a people's existence.
What you are suggesting, Mr. Prime Minister is a typical, insane, Trini-like approach to a people's history. This approach should be relegated to the garbage can of nuttiness which resembles PnM's policy-making madness.
This is an absolute Euro-centric policy decision, if there ever was one. Again, this public statement reflects the PNM's carnival-Dimanche Gras-like mentality and decision-making process.
The Prime Minister must realize that the only way to prevent national
"discord" is to offer and teach the history of the people involved, just as his wife's Ministry of Education contributed "two-thirds or $14,446,870" to the building of the SWAHA Hindu College in Coalmine, Sangre Grande.
What's the dichotomy, Mr. Prime Minister? All history is history.
And what was the policy-position or re-action by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education, when an innocent "five-year-old boy has been sent home from school because of his hairstyle" by the principal of Rosary Boys RC School on 12 September 2002?
Where is the "discord" in this unfortunate case Mr. Prime Minister that was leveled at this innocent child in TnT? What a traumatic experience on the psyche of this child? Does any one care, Mr. and Mrs. Politician?
And furthermore, what does a "groomed" hairstyle mean Mr. Prime Minister and Lady Minister?
No, the "discord" does not lie or reside with the people, but instead in the Euro-centric mind-set and value system of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education. They reflect historical amnesia, cultural degradation, inflicted self-hate and shame.
Who is emancipated or liberated, 24-7-365?
The fact of the matter is that enslavement and resistance are on our side; European history, albeit HIS-STORY, and European values are not.
As Election Day approaches, Trini political figures need to show a
historical sense of maturity on the macro level and not to scrape the bottom of the barrel and use the race-card for altruistic, myopic political gains.
As such, the race-card should be anathema to the political process in TnT. In its place, primary emphasis and focus must zero in on social public policy and its attendant economic infra-structural development.
As Trini sociologist Dr. Lloyd Braithwaite warns in his "The Problem of Cultural Integration in Trinidad" (1954):
"Every social system possesses some symbolic means by which the unity
of the society is affirmed. In those societies which are highly stratified or in which there are several groups with sharply divergent cultures, there tend to be a variety of such means. In the case of Trinidad, we have a highly stratified society in which there is nonetheless a great deal of common cultural allegiance."
This "common cultural allegiance" should be used as the tide that binds all Trinis together. Instead, it has been and is being, used to pit one culture against the either couched within a superior-inferior matrix.
This is insanity that has now more than ever, seeped into the political process with poisonous multiplier effects.
The fact of the matter is that no culture nor race is superior or inferior to the other in TnT, at least from an historical perspective.
However, that's not the case in TnT. Instead of "cultural integration", there now exist cultural domination, degradation, humiliation, discrimination and negation, depending on which party holds political office. And one does need a "Certificate" from UWI to figure out which culture is the victim of the above.
The reality is that all the above Euro-centric cultural manifestations have been fueled by financial, economic success by one ethnic group.
Just as economic success precipitated European supremacy, economic success has also precipitated ethnic supremacy in TnT. Different skin colour but same mind-set. There is a certain Arrogance of Cultural Superiority that permeates public policy decision-making and human interaction in TnT.
And this situation is further compounded by the insane, arrogant attitude of so-called "light-skinned" Trinis who perceive and maybe conceive that they are "better" than Trinis with a darker hue.
Such Trini "Whites" conceive that they should live in certain plush areas to the "exclusion principle" applied to dark-skinned Trinis.
Moreover, economic success seems to have invented a new, callous, biased over-the-counter prescription drug call racial gramazone that is being injected carteblanche into the process of politics and governance in TnT.
The bottom-line is that one must give the European a lot of credit for doing an excellent job on the mind of all his enslaved people in TnT. Job, well done! And the after-effects of this 15th century process still continues in TnT 24-7-365 despite the fact that the White, Euro-slave-master/colonizer has been sent packing since 1962.
The European colonizer may not be physically present but psychologically he is alive and kicking in every aspect of life in TnT. His daily presence is felt in education, civil service, law firms, gas companies, human interaction, etc, and now politics.
What a sad legacy, my fellow Trinis. It should be hoped that after 7 October 2002, a Trini would be judged, evaluated and treated on the content of his/her character and not the colour of his/her skin.
Some Trinis may laugh and say that this is mere wishful thinking but having decoded European supremacy, this is the only conclusion that this writer expects.
Ironically and functionally, the theoretical concept of "Leh we all live as One" only applies to calypso, carnival and winin, but not to
socio-cultural-economic parity, power politics and governance. What a
As of this writing, Trinis are behaving like independent-Republic
"subjects", "appendages" and "jewels" in their paternal Euro-British-American Crown.
As this racial Divide and Rule European victimization action exists at the Hugh Wooding Law School in which a dark-skinned TnT student name Adaffi is faced with the academic reality that she may stand to receive a "C" grade from her lecturers because of the quality of the colour of her skin rather than the content of her exams.
Skin colour seems to be one of the primary determinants of grades in this supposedly prestigious Law School.
In addition, in the private sector, it is the acceptable norm to see Trinis of the lighter shade of pale /hue in secretarial positions while their dark-skinned counterparts are purposely and vindictively relegated to perform menial jobs as security guards, cleaners, etc.
These victimized Trinis are subtly given the message that that's their lot in life, by ethnic supremist fiat.
Trinis have not passed that racial stage; on the contrary, they are still winin on it 24-7-365.
In TnT, racial prejudice functions as follows:
If you're Light-skin
You're Right in
Come to the front office and prosper
But if your skin is Dark
Then, go to the basement in the Back
And stay there and suffer forever..
In this atmosphere, leaders of both major parties must renounce racial
prejudice and bigotry and any linkage to political violence that seems to be the order of the day leading up to D-Day.
There must be a national clarion call from these responsible leaders to their supporters that they must decease and desist from such unacceptable behaviour.
The next general elections should not be adjudicated by violence and racial overtones. There is no room for the barrel of a gun or gasoline can.
Another factor that disturbs this writer is the fact that alliance and
coalition politics seem to be a non-starter in TnT as a valid, potent
alternative to the nuttin PNM and corrupt UNC.
And based on the past performance of Patrick's Nuttin Movement, the
achievement of a "developed nation status by 2020" is just a political
election exercise in futility. The Prime Minister is just fooling himself.
Nuttin from nuttin breeds nuttin. Zero multiply by zero still equals zero.
And no one needs a third Presidential academic award to compute this new nuttin math. The PNM represents a clear and present danger to the
socio-economic development of TnT. But more scary, it represents the worse of two evils or poisons.
It is also disturbing to find out that the National Team Unity (NTU) has decided not to participate in the general elections process. This writer hopes that the leadership of the NTU would urge its followers to cast their vote on Election Day, despite the party's non-starter decision.
Democracy speaks to full participation not partial abstention. Let us not put national responsibility into jeopardy. Let's not go there.
On Election Day Trinis have to decide who is best qualified to run the
country. They have to decide what are the risks they intend to take/absorb in electing either party as government for the next five years.
Trinis must realize that constitutional reform, the eradication of public corruption, sound socio-cultural-economic planning and the five-point proposal of the Constitution Reform Forum (CRF) should guide for whom the bell tolls on D-Day.
Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").
Dr. Nantambu is an Associate Professor, Dept. of
Pan-African Studies, Kent State University, U.S.A.
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