Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Role of History in a multi-cultural society: TnT

by Dr. Kwame Nantambu
January 18, 2006

Against the backdrop of the universally accepted truism that TnT is a polyglot country, this article examines the role of history in TnT's multi-cultural society.

At the outset, it is a sine qua non to stand back and look at the historical determinants of TnT's multi-ness and then ascertain how to deal with present realities.

TnT did not start off as a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic society; something happened along the way to re-transform TnT into its present multi-landscape.

What happened to change the history of TnT was European colonialism, enslavement cum plantation system, imperialism, expansionism, hegemony -- all now wrapped-up in their 21st century clothing of European supremacy or Globalization.

The challenge in TnT today is how to use its multi-ness to unite, solidify and empower all Trinbagonians. In other words, how can Trinbagonians use their multi-ness to defeat/ destroy centuries of European-imposed Divide and Rule ploy and turn it into a powerful strategy/ tool/ mechanism to build nationhood and Trinbagonian nationalism.

The fact of the matter is that the majority population of TnT are the descendants of former colonized and enslaved people who were brought involuntarily from Mother Afrika, while others came voluntarily (for the most part) from Mother India.

History, therefore, suggests that Afrikan-Trinbagonians and Indian-Trinbagonians are not only brothers and sisters from two different original/ biological/ ancestral Mother Lands but who also suffered the same fate under the yoke of Father Europe.

This is our common historical denominator.

History further indicates that as Trinbagonians we might have come from the Old World (Afrika-India) to the New World (TnT) in different European slave-ships but we must seek national unity in the same Pan-Trinbagonian freedom boat.

History teaches that the original colonized-enslaved blood that unites us is thicker than the diasporan water, cultures, religions, ethnicity and race that seek to separate and divide us.

TnT's national strength lies in its multi-ness and this must not be allowed to be used to lead the country into the morass of self-destruction and division.

The fact of the matter is that the majority population of TnT is non-White, non-European and people of colour. It is not White. It is not European. The fact of the matter is that the people who were brought involuntarily from Afrika in 1516 to be enslaved are Black, non-White. Similarly, the people who came mostly voluntarily from India in 1845 as "indentured laborers" are non-White, people of colour. They are not White.

Afrikan-Trinbagonians (dark-skinned or light-skinned) are Black . The assinine concept of "Red man" is a misnomer that does not exists in the real, sane world; it only exists in small TnT.

In addition, Dougla-Trinbagonians are Black.

India is in Asia and Asians are non-White, people of colour. They are not White. They are not European.

Similarly, China is in Asia and as such, the descendants of the Chinese who came voluntarily to TnT in 1806 are Chinese-Trinbagonians -- non-White, people of colour. They are not White. They are not European.

Ergo, if a Prime Minister of Afrikan descent were to deny a job to a civil servant of Indian descent, he cannot be accused of racial discrimination/ victimization/ wickedness. He can only be accused of ethnic discrimination/ victimization/ wickedness -- nothing more, nothing less.

This is so because the Prime Minister and the said civil servant are of the same racial hue -- they are both non-White.

The stark reality is that when the genocide took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992 between the Serbs, that incident was not termed/ classified as racial cleansing. Rather, it was correctly termed/ classified as "ethnic cleansing" precisely and simply because the two warring factions were of the same racial hue--- they were White.

Similarly, when the slaughter/killings took place in Rwanda in 1994 between the Hutus and Tutsis, that incident was not termed/ classified as racial genocide. Rather, it was correctly termed/ classified as "ethnic genocide" because the two warring factions were of the same racial hue -- they were Black.

Ergo, it is prohibitive, ahistorical and ridiculous for the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) to publicly charge "racial imbalance" in the membership of the Board of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).

GOPIO charges that there is "now only one commissioner of East Indian descent on the EBC board" and that "a racially imbalanced EBC in a multi-racial society could not inspire public confidence."

This is just a typical Euro-centric, ethnocentric, albeit false, accusation. The fact of the matter is that the majority board members of the EBC, including its recently appointed chairman and the East Indian commissioner, all have the same racial hue -- they are non-White, people of colour. What's the problem, GOPIO?.

GOPIO's charge tantamounts to only a massive, classic non-starter. The notion of "racial imbalance" in the EBC thus becomes a figment/ illusion in the organization's sub-conscious mind-set and myopic world view.

The EBC board membership reflects the ethnicity of the majority population of TnT; this majority population is made up of non-White, people of colour and that, in fact, is the make-up of EBC board membership.

If it so decides, GOPIO can only lay an honest, puerile charge of ethnic imbalance not "racial imbalance" in case of the EBC as elucidated in earlier examples of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda.

Truth Be Told: TnT's multi-ness must be seen as the potent pillars of its resiliency and our common history must be used as a unifying force not a divider.

History should conjoin Trinbagonians at the hip where the Ganges meets the Nile.

The fact of the matter is that a people without a clear sense of history are ill-equipped to visualize and plan a united future because of an unclear and distorted (Euro-centric) picture/ perspective/ frame of reference of their past.

Truth Be Told: History is the only mechanism to bring about national unity and self-respect in this multi-cultural society. The forefathers of Afrikans and Indians in TnT were colonized and enslaved by the same European. This is our common historical legacy and heritage as one people.

Until Afrikan-Trinbagonians and Indian-Trinbagonians see/view/regard each other as one class of people who were colonized and enslaved by the European, national unity will "remain a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained."

Truth Be Told: Let us recall the dissertation of Dr. Eric Williams in which he asserts: "Slavery was an economic institution of the first importance. Slavery was not born of racism; rather, racism was the consequence of slavery. Unfree labor in the New World was brown, white black and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and pagan."

The European slave-master couldn't and didn't even care less about the slave's skin colour; he saw only one colour and one colour only---- that colour was green as in money(profit maximization).

History, therefore, dictates that ethnic division not racial division, exists in TnT's multi-cultural society.

In the final analysis, it is now the correct historical time for Indian-Trinbagonians, including politicians, intellectuals, columnists, public officials/ organizations, entrepreneurs, etc, to cease and desist from charging/ claiming/ fabricating racial discrimination and victimization in TnT.

Afrikan-Trinbagonians and Indian-Trinbagonians are one people in the same non-White, non-European, people of colour boat.

Indeed, racism, racial discrimination and institutionalized racism do exist in America. And this societal reality is so because the minority population, that is, Afrikan-Americans (12%) and Asian-Americans(8%) and the majority, Euro-White-American population are not of the same racial hue.

This genre of population mix does not exist in TnT.

Shem Hotep( "I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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