Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Judge dead wrong on race

by Dr. Kwame Nantambu
April 18, 2008

This critique is in response to an article titled "Judge: Address racism to move ahead" that appeared in The Daily Express (14 April 2008) in which Justice Wendell Kangaloo is reported to have said that "we in Trinidad and Tobago would do well to start a conversation about race" in order to move this country forward.

Apparently, Justice Kangaloo's eye-opener on race in T&T resulted from his amazement while viewing a programme on race via MSNBC-TV in the United States.

The fact of the matter is that Justice Kangaloo has fallen prey right into the trap whereby he is equating the "race" problem in the United States with "race relations" in T&T. It is at this crucial juncture that the esteemed Justice is naively mixing apples and oranges.

The salient truism is that African-Americans (Blacks) are a national minority (circa 13 per cent) in the United States, while Whites comprise the majority population. These are two distinct and separate people who have different skin color or hue. Ergo, racial problems/inequalities do exist in the United States.

However, the same is definitely not true in T&T as far as the population mix is concerned. Census figures reveal that East Indians (Indian-Trinibagonians) comprise 42 per cent of this population, Africans (African-Trinbagonians) 38 per cent and Europeans (Whites) .01 per cent. This, therefore, proves that the majority population in T&T is non-White, non-European, people of colour. This population dynamic does not obtain in the United States.

Ergo, T&T has an ethnic problem not a racial problem because its majority population is of the same skin colour or hue.

The stark reality is that Indian-Trinbagonians came from India; India is still in Asia. According to the United Nations and the international community Asians are not Europeans as in White. Ergo, ethnic problems exist in Asia, not racial problems because the people all have the same skin colour or hue.

By way of elucidation, when the upsurge erupted in Pakistan between President Pervez Musharraf and Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the international community described the wanton carnage as "ethnic bloodshed"; it was not described as racial bloodshed simply because the two entities involved in the impasse were of the same skin colour or hue.

Now, if this scenario had erupted in the United States between the President who is White and a judge who is Black, then, it would have been correctly described as "racial bloodshed" simply because the two entities in this hypothetical impasse do not have the same skin colour or hue.

The same is true in the case of Bosnia where the carnage was described as "ethnic cleansing" for the same afore-mentioned reason. The same is true for "ethnic genocide" in Rwanda; "sectarian violence", "sectarian carnage" and "sectarian inferno" between Shi'ites , Kurds and Sunnis in Iraq; and "factional violence" between Fatah, Hamas and Palestinians in Gaza. All these entities have the same skin colour or hue. This litany does not represent racial problems; it reflects ethnic problems/conflicts between similar peoples.

Indeed, one should never seek to Americanize a local problem between Indian-Trinbagonians and African-Trinbagonians; furthermore, concepts such as "low self-esteem" and "at-risk youths" are societal constructs that only apply to the United States. They do not apply nor are applicable to T&T because of this country's population dynamics and political structure and any attempt to squeeze these two square pegs into round holes must be challenged very strongly.

The fact of the matter is that "foreign" is neither the solution nor frame of reference to analyze the myriad of issues that confront the majority population of T&T, 24-7-365; it is the problem.

Now is the time for all Trinbagonians to come to grips with the historical reality that Africans and Indians were colonized and enslaved by the same European. This is the common denominator that must bind us together as one; it should never be used, by accident or design, to separate us.

In the apocalyptic admonition of slain African-American Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King: "We either learn to live together as brothers; otherwise we'll all die separately as fools."

Now is the time for Trinbagonians to judge each other "by the content of (our) character rather than the color of (our) skin."

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.

Share your views here...

Nantambu's Homepage / Trinicenter Home