Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Ethnic cleansing, race and identity in T&T

By Dr Kwame Nantambu
August 12, 2009

The recent accusation by UNC's Dr. Tim Gopeesingh of "ethnic cleansing" of Indian-Trinbagonian doctors at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital smacks of an innocuous similar charge of "reverse discrimination" by Euro-White Americans whenever African-Americans seem to make some modicum of socio-economic progress in the United States.

The fact of the matter is that the alleged charge by Dr. Gopeesingh can only be described in acceptable layman's terms as "chupid", scandalous, bizarre, puerile and irresponsible.

Indeed, the facts/data are clear and precise. It may be that as Dr. Gopeesingh has alleged that two or three Indian-Trinbagonian doctors were either denied promotion to positions at the hospital and/or other doctors of similar ethnicity were forced to repatriate because of "frustration" at this institution.

However, such data only paint a miniscule picture of the real, skewed professional landscape/profile in T&T.

In other words, either by accident or design, what Dr. Gopeesingh has purposefully done is to wield a massive, all-inclusive discrimination paintbrush across the professional class in T&T a la Europeans' totally unfounded assertion that "all Black people are lazy." Everyone now knows that swooping assertion is false simply because one of these supposedly "lazy" Black people is now the 44th elected president of the United States-- elected by all the people.

The afore-mentioned European characterization is null and void--- so too is the absurd characterization of Dr. Tim Gopeesingh.

T&T's professional stats are very, very, very clear and totally irrefutable: Let's deal with them.

The vast majority of doctors who comprise the medical profession in T&T (MBTT) are Indian, including its president, Prof. Zulaika Ali.

Quite recently, it was publicly revealed that, "15 of the 16 members of the Executive Council of the Law Association are East Indians."

The vast majority of respected professional economists who publicly criticize Central Bank Governor, Ewart Williams, 24-7 in regard to the status of T&T's economy are Indian-Trinbagonians.

Moreover, a substantial number of civil servants at the Permanent Secretary and Deputy Permanent Secretary levels in the country's public service are Indian-Trinbagonians.

Specifically, forty years ago, when one walked into a government office as in a ministry, one had to look real, real, real hard to see an Indian-Trinbagonian civil servant sitting at his/her desk-- that's not the ethnic reality today, Dr. Gopeesingh-- who is cleansing whom?

Today, the majority of undergraduate students at UWI are Indian-Trinbagonians.

The same is also true for holders of high office in the financial/business professional sectors.

The fact of the matter is that forty years ago, it was an aberration, albeit anomaly, to see an Indian-Trinbagonian as a public school teacher and/or police man/woman-- that's not the ethnic reality today, Dr. Gopeesingh.

Moreover, forty years ago, it was "an out -of-body experience" to see a young Indian-Trinbagonian, male or female, "beating pan" in public-- that's normal ethnic musical behaviour today, Dr. Gopeesingh. In addition, 99.9 percent of the drivers who drive "D big truck mamma" on Carnival Monday and Tuesday are Indian-Trinbagonians, Dr. Gopeesingh-- who is cleansing whom?

In 2009, Indian Chutney and African Calypso/Soca are the de jure musical expressions of T&T; this duality did not exist nor was it this country's musical landscape forty years ago. Forty years ago, African-Trinbagonian female limbo dancers were the hit; today, Indian-Trinbagonian female bmobile Shiv Shakti dancers are it, Dr. Gopeesingh-- who is cleansing whom?

Truth Be Told: Indian-Trinbagonians have now successfully taken over the professional workforce, workplace and personnel in T&T.

The stark reality is that the only professional categories/ranks in which African-Trinbagonians predominate are in the membership of the country's prisons' population, vagrants, market vendors, trade union movement , TUCO, TUTA and URP/CEPEP-- upper echelons of the police service and Office of the DPP not withstanding.

On the flip side, Dr. Gopeesingh's flippant tirade speaks volumes as to the total misunderstanding of issues concerning race and identity in T&T.

The fact of the matter is that official government census statistics reveal that 42 percent of T&T's population consists of Indians, Africans comprise 38 per cent, Europeans (Whites) are 2 percent, etc.

These figures, therefore, prove that the majority population of T&T consists of Black, non-White, non-European, people of colour.

The stark truism is that people of African descent are not White; they are not European. They are Black, period.

The current Black population in T&T represents people, human beings, whose ancestors were brought involuntarily, violently and inhumanely from Africa to be enslaved on plantations. These people were neither brought from Afro-Land nor Negro-Land. They all came from Africa; ergo, their descendents in T&T in 2009 are African-Trinbagonians. That's their correct, historical, ancestral heritage/identity. They are neither Afro-Trinbagonians nor Negro-Trinbagonians.

In fact, the term "Afro" has been expunged from the societal lexicon of the United States since 1984. In 2009, therefore, the descendents of those people, human beings, who were brought from Africa to be enslaved in the United States in 1619 are now called African-Americans. That's their correct, historical, ancestral heritage/identity.

They are no longer called Afro-Americans. Barack Obama is America's first African-American President. He is not America's first Afro-American President.

The reality is that if one wants to insult, disrespect or denigrate an African-American, then, he is called an Afro-American. In other words, to refer to someone as an Afro-American is to use "fighting words." This description is totally unacceptable and a derogatory term in the United States today.

Now is the time for Trinbagonians "to get with the program" and accept, use and identify with their correct, historical, ancestral heritage as African-Trinbagonians just as African-Americans have done.

Similarly, the people, human beings who were involved in the Identureship System 1845-1917 came from India. They did not come from "Indo" to work on plantations in the Caribbean.

As such, the descendents of these people are Indian-Trinbagonians in 2009. That's their correct, historical, ancestral heritage/identity. They are not Indo-Trinbagonians. There has never been a country named "Indo" in world history.

The fact of the matter is that India as well as Pakistan are in Asia. They are not in Europe-- and never were. Ergo, according to the international community, Asians are neither White people nor Europeans. They are proud people of colour-- regardless of the lightness of their hue.

The stark reality is that Indian entrepreneurs from India inaugurated and financed the Indian Premier League (IPL). When the IPL was played in South Africa, it was called the Indian Premier League. Now, are Trinbagonians saying that if this cricket league were to be played in T&T, it will now be called the Indo Premier League?

The salient question that immediately comes to the fore is: How can someone or something be Indian in India and other parts of the world but Indo in T&T?

Now is the time for all Trinbagonians to be proud and respectful of each other's historical, ancestral heritage/identity. Now is the time for all of us to refer to each other as African-Trinbagonians, Indian-Trinbagonians, Chinese-Trinbagonians, Syrian-Trinbagonians, Lebanese-Trinbagonians, French Creole-Trinbagonians, etc.

In the apocalyptic admonition of slain African-American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Now the judgement of God is upon us and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools."

In the final analysis, Trinbagonians are no fools. As long as together we all aspire to the gaol of ethnic oneness, then, together we may all achieve national unity in T&T. One Aim, One Destiny.

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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