Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Updating historical societal classifications

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
October 21, 2007

While Dr. Selwyn Ryan should be lauded for his "Trinidad elections of 2007" survey that was published in The Daily Express on 17 October 2007, however, there were certain outdated, rejected and expunged societal references/classifications of people that this writer felt compelled not only to correct but also to put in their historical context for the edification of the general TnT population.

In his analysis, Dr. Ryan wrote, inter alia, that "Indo-Trinbagonians are more definite about their voting intentions than are Afro-Trinbagonians." Now, this writer is neither taking issue with nor challenging Dr. Ryan's findings. However, this writer is vehemently contesting and bemoaning Dr. Ryan's use of the terms "Indo-Trinbagonians" and "Afro-Trinbagonians" to describe/refer to the majority population of TnT.

Firstly, the fact of the matter is that the historical record unequivocally shows that Afrikans were brought to the Caribbean, including TnT, involuntarily by various European slave traders from 1516 onwards.

These Afrikans came from Afrika; they did not come from "Afro". Ergo, their descendants in TnT today (2007) are Afrikan-Trinbagonians. They are not "Afro-Trinbagonians."

In fact, there is no Continent or country or landmass on planet earth called "Afro." The Afrikan Continent and countries in Afrika do exist.

Secondly, the historical record also clearly reveals that Indians came, mostly voluntarily, from India to the Caribbean, including TnT, as contracted/paid "indentured immigrants" from 1845-1917. As such, their descendents in TnT today (2007) are Indian-Trinbagonians. They did not come from "Indo." Hence, they are not "Indo-Trinbagonians."

There is no Continent or country or landmass on terra-firma named "Indo."

Thirdly, on 12 October 1812, immigrants came to TnT from China; hence, their descendents in TnT today (2007) are Chinese-Trinbagonians. They did not come from "Chino"; therefore, they are not Chino-Trinbagonians. As such, Sir Solomon Hochoy, Max Tywang, Brian Kuei Tung, Gerald Yetming and Howard Chin Lee are Chinese-Trinbagonians. They are not Chino-Trinbagonians. Similarly, immigrants came to TnT from Lebanon and Syria in the early 1990s; hence, their descendents in TnT today (2007) are Lebanese-Syrian -Trinbagonians. They did not come from Lebano and Syrio; as such, they are not Lebano-Syrio-Trinbagonians.

Anthony Sabga, Gregory Aboud, John Rahael, Najib Elias, Anthony Aboud are Syrian-Trinbagonians. They are not Syrio-Trinbagonians.

In addition, immigrants also came from Portugal to TnT between 1834-1860; hence, their descendents in TnT today (2007) are Portuguese-Trinbagonians. They did not come from Portugo; they are not Portugo-Trinbagonians. Albert Gomes is a Portuguese-Trinbagonian; he is not a Portugo -Trinbagonian.

Immigrants came from Corsica to TnT in the 1860s; hence, their descendents in TnT today (2007) are Corsican-Trinbagonians. These immigrants did not come from Corsico; they are not Corsico-Trinbagonians. Andrew Arthur Cipriani is a Corsican- Trinbagonian; he is not a Corsico-Trinbagonian.

Fourthly, the salient reality check is that the term/ classification/ reference "Afro" has been totally expunged/ deleted/ extricated from the societal lexicon in the United States since 1988. As such, ipso facto, Afrikan-Americans now exist in the United States today (2007); "Afro-Americans" do not.

Furthermore, it is historically correct to call them Afrikan-Americans because they are the descendents of slaves who were involuntarily brought to the United States from Afrika in 1619. They were not brought as slaves from "Afro"land to the United States. Hence, they are not "Afro-Americans."

Indeed, it would be the ultimate insult to call and/or refer to someone in the United States today (2007) as an "Afro-American." These would be translated/calculated to mean "fighting words."

In a similar vein, Dr. Roy Austin, the United States Ambassador to TnT, is a proud Afrikan-American. He is not an "Afro-American."

Moreover, if TnT is seeking to achieve developed world economic country status by 2020, then, there must be a socio-cultural plank coterminous with such "vision." In other words, citizens of TnT must begin to heed, accept, follow and adhere to the norms/ guidelines/ societal labels/ designations/ classifications that have been decreed/ operationalized by the international community. Half measures only tantamount to overt historical-cultural-ancestral disrespect.

In the final analysis, it is to be hoped that all Trinbagonians, including public policy-makers in government ministries, political party leaders and co-leaders, contesting electoral candidates, presidents of professional organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), intellectuals, media (print, radio, TV) personalities, political analysts/commentators, business persons, "Joe Public", etc., would refrain from referring to fellow Trinbagonians in ahistorical, unflattering, discarded, outdated, unacceptable, derogatory, insulting societal terms/classifications.

The bottom-line must be Respect, Respect, Respect!

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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