Obama's Identity Lesson for T & T
By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
June 21, 2008
Now that Obama-mania has subsumed T & T and Trinbagonians have publicly recognized and acknowledged the historic phenomenon that an African-American is running for the presidency of the United States, it is very apropos to posit the identities of Trinbagonians in their proper historical context.
At the outset, however, it is very instructive to observe that absolutely no component of the American news media nor the international news media referred to Sen. Barack Obama as an Afro-American. In addition, he was never referred to as the potential first "Redman" to run for President of the United States.
On the contrary, Sen. Obama was correctly referred to as the potential first Blackman of African descent to be elected as President of the United States.
The raison d'etre for his historical identity is two-fold: First, the term/label "Afro-American" has been expunged/deleted from America's societal lexicon/jargon since 1988.
Second, and most importantly, Sen. Obama's forefathers (not ancestors) were brought violently and involuntarily as slaves to the United States in 1619. Therefore, the descendants of these slaves are correctly and historically identified as African-American.
These slaves were not brought to the United States from Afro-Land or Afro. In fact, there has never been a Continent or landmass called Afro-Land or Afro on terra firma. Ergo, these descendants are not Afro-Americans; their correct, historical identity is African-Americans.
Furthermore, Dr. Roy Austin, the U.S. Ambassador to T & T, is a proud African-American; he is not an Afro-American and it would be the supreme/ultimate diplomatic insult/disrespect to describe him as such.
Ergo, Sen. Obama's identity lesson for T & T is that some of these slaves were also brought from Africa to the Caribbean, including T & T, from 1517 onwards. Therefore, a la Sen. Obama, the descendants of these 1517 slaves are and must be correctly and historically identified as African-Trinbagonians.
Their identity label is not Afro-Trinbagonians for the very same afore-mentioned reasons.
Similarly, Indians were brought to T & T as "indentured immigrants" from India on 30 May 1845. They were not brought from Indo-Land or Indo. Again, there has never been a country or landmass called Indo on this planet.
Therefore, a la Sen. Obama, the descendants of these 1845 Indians are and must be correctly and historically identified as Indian-Trinbagonians.
Their identity label is not Indo-Trinbagonians.
As such, Basdeo Panday, Dr. Rudranath Capildeo, Sat Maraj, former Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma, Winston Dookeran, Kamla Persad Bessessar, Ramesh Lawerence Maharaj, just to name a few, are all proud Indian-Trinbagonians. They are not and must not be identified as, Indo-Trinbagonians.
On 12 October 1806, about two hundred immigrants landed in T & T from China. They did not travel from Chino-land or Chino. There has never been a country or landmass on this earth named Chino-Land or Chino.
Ergo, a la Sen. Obama, the descendants of these 1806 Chinese immigrants are and must be correctly and historically identified as Chinese-Trinbagonians. Their identity label is not Chino-Trinbagonians.
As such, Howard Chin Lee, Ulric Lee, Max Tywang, Brian Kuei Tung, Gerard Yetming, just to name a few, are all proud Chinese-Trinbagonians. They are not and must not be identified as, Chino-Trinbagonians.
Indeed, the record shows that when slavery was abolished in the Caribbean in 1834, Portuguese laborers came to T & T from Madeira between 1834-1860. Ergo, a la Sen. Obama, the descendants of these laborers are Portuguese-Trinbagonians. Their identity label is not Portugo-Trinbagonians.
For example, Albert Gomes, a Portuguese-Trinbagonian, is one of this country's most valiant politicians.
In the 1900s, businessmen from Lebanon and Syria came to T & T . As such, a la Sen. Obama, their descendants are and must be correctly and historically identified as Labanese-Trinbagonians and Syrian-Trinbagonians. Their identity is not Lebano-Trinbagonians and Syrio-Trinbagonians.
Therefore, Anthony Sabga, Najib Elias, Anthony Aboud, Gregory Aboud, John Rahael, Jimmy Aboud, "Mighty Trini", just to name a few, are all proud Syrian-Trinbagonians.
In the final analysis, Sen. Barack Obama's identity lesson for T & T is that since the country is moving towards developed nation status, then, it becomes even more imperative for Trinbagonians not only to step in line with but also to adhere to and internalize acceptable international identity labels that are used to describe and recognize citizens of a country.
Ipso facto, as a necessary but not sufficient condition for First World developed nation status, citizens of T & T must now begin the process of describing and recognizing themselves as African-Trinbagonians, Indian-Trinbagonians, Chinese-Trinbagonians, Lebanese-Trinbagonians, Syrian-Trinbagonians, French-Creole-Trinbagonians, Portuguese-Trinbagonians, European-Trinbagonians, Corsican-Trinbagonians a la Captain Andrew Arthur Cipriani.
The stark geo-political reality is that as a sovereignty, independent nation-state, T & T is a de jure member of the international community. T & T is not a twin-island Republic unto itself--no man is; no citizens should be.
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.
Nantambu's Homepage / Trinicenter Home