Correcting 'racial tension' in TnT
By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
February 14, 2007
Within recent times Chairman of the United National Congress, Basdeo Panday, has not only blamed Prime Minister Patrick Manning for "racial tension entrenching itself in T&T" but Congress of the People Leader, Winston Dookeran, has also accused Manning of "provoking racial tensions" and erecting electoral "vote banks".
Indeed, it is very scary and instructive to realize that these two learned public officials are deliberately misleading the population for cheap, altruistic political brownie points.
To add insult to insanity, one finds that experienced attorney Hilda Goodial has put forth the most preposterous notion thereby indicting Manning for "the institutionalizing of racism" with his plans "to establish mixed communities on lands formerly owned by Caroni Limited".
Indeed, this latest salvo represents the importation and usage of American societal terms that do not fit into the population matrix of TnT.
The fact of the matter is that if a white student were to shoot and kill fellow white students in his high school in the United States of America, the American news media would never describe/label such an incident as "racial tension." And the sole/prime reason is because both the perpetrator of the crime and the victims were of the same racial hue - they were white.
The same holds true if the perpetrator of the crime and the victims were Black. No American news reporter would insert the word "racial" to describe these incidents.
To magnify this point even further, when an unarmed Afrikan-American (Black) man was shot 50 times by New York Police around the end of November 2006, the authorities sought to refute "any element of race in the shooting." This correct decision was taken for the sole/prime reason that the policemen involved were white, Black and Hispanic.
This was not a case of "racial tension" in New York; it was rather an incident of human rights violation.
However, if the perpetrator of the crime were white and the victims were Black, then this same American news reporter would be compelled to insert the word "racial" to describe/label these incidents.
The stark reality is that Afrikan-Americans comprise a miniscule 12 percent of the United States' population - this small percentage figure is not true for either Afrikan-Trinbagonians or Indian-Trinbagonians.
For any public official to attempt to draw any parallel between America's population mix and the "ethnic mix" in TnT not only tantamounts to mixing apples and oranges and/or "roti and egg" but also to gross, unabashed and shameful dishonesty, deceit, public malfeasance and outright dereliction of duty, trust and respectability.
According to TnT's 2000 population census statistics, the "ethnic mix" consists of 43.3 percent Indian, 39.5 percent Afrikan, 18.4 percent mixed European, 0.6 percent Chinese and other 1.2 percent.
In other words, the majority population of TnT is non-white, non-European and people of colour.
The historical record shows that Indian-Trinbagonians came from India. They did not come from Indo; as such, they are not Indo-Trinbagonians. Similarly, Afrikan-Trinbagonians came from Afrika. They did not come from Afro; as such, they are not Afro-Trinbagonians. The Chinese did not come from Chino. They came from China, hence, they are Chinese-Trinbagonians. They are not Chino-Trinbagonians and so on for the other ethnicities in TnT.
The fact of the matter is that India is in Asia; India is not in Europe. The international community recognizes Asians as people of colour. Asians are non-white, non-European people. Ergo, the same categorization applies to Indians in TnT.
The international community also recognizes Afrikans as Black people; Afrikans are non-white, non-European people. Ergo, this same categorization applies to Afrikans in TnT.
As such, any altercation (including violence) between these two major entities in TnT is not "racial tension"; it must and can only be described as ethnic tension. The sole/prime raison d'etre is that the two contending factions (Afrikan and Indian) are of the same racial hue - they are both non-white, non-European and people of colour.
To disaggregate this vital issue even further, in 1992, when the genocide took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina during which 250,000 people were brutally killed, the United Nations and the international community aptly described this incident as "ethnic cleansing". It was not described as racial cleansing or racial tension. And the sole/prime reason was because the two warring factions were of the same racial hue - they were white.
In 1994, when the wanton killing/slaughter of hundreds of thousands took place in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis, this incident was described as "ethnic genocide". It was not described as racial genocide or racial tension. And the sole/prime reason was because the two warring factions were of the same racial hue - they were Black.
In May 2005, when about 8,000 people were fleeing from deadly clashes/tensions around Ivory Coast's western cocoa town of Duekoue, the United Nations stated that they were fleeing from "ethnic clashes". They were not fleeing from racial clashes or racial tensions. And the sole/prime reason was because the warring factions were of the same racial hue - they were Black.
And finally, the current turmoil in Iraq is described by the international community as "sectarian violence" that is rapidly approaching the pinnacle of civil war or "ethnic cleansing". This situation is never described as racial tensions or racial war in Iraq. And the sole/prime reason is that the warring factions, namely, Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, are of the same racial hue - they are non-white, non-European and people of colour.
Ergo, recent tensions in St. Thomas, Felicity, only represent ethnic tensions in TnT; they do not represent "racial tensions" as explained above. It is absolute, total rubbish for anyone to promote, advance, fabricate such a ridiculous, insane, non sequitur scenario.
The fact of the matter is that if TnT is to live up to its status as a polyglot, multi-dimensional society wherein "every creed and race finds an equal place", then, Indian-Trinbagonians and Afrikan-Trinbagonians, who are of the same racial hue, must immediately expunge race and charges of racism from this country's social, body-politic lexicon. TnT needs a new and improved modus vivendi, human interaction and mind-set 24/7/365.
As such, only ethnic tension/ discrimination/ victimization exists in TnT. Anything else serves to create real tensions of divisiveness, apartheid mentality and Isfet (that is, self-destruction, chaos, disorder, imbalance, disharmony and hatred).
In this regard, Trinbagonians need to adhere to the principle that "none of us is free until all of us are free". Now is the time for all Trinbagonians to study race and racial tensions no more.
The apocalyptic admonition of slain Afrikan-American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King becomes apropos: "Now that the judgement of God is upon us, we either learn to live together as brothers or we'll all die together as fools."
In the final analysis, if this timely admonition is not adhered to, then the honourable achievement of national unity among the various ethnicities in TnT "will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained".
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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