Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Race and Identity in T&T

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
July 24, 2009

Dr. Tim Gopeesingh's recent public baseless and ridiculous accusation of "ethnic cleansing" of Indian-Trinbagonian doctors at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital 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 percent, 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 populations 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 descendants 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 descendants 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 and only then, he is called an Afro-American. In other words, to refer to someone as an Afro-American is to use "fighting words." This is a totally unacceptable, derogatory term in the United States today.

Now is the time for Trinbagonians "to get with the program" and accept/use their correct, historical ancestral heritage/identity as African-Trinbagonians.

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

As such, the descendants of these people are Indian-Trinbagionians 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.

Let's get with the program.

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 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 still called the Indian Premier League. Now, are Trinbagonians saying that if this cricket league were to be played in T&T, it will be known as the Indo Premier League? Excuse me!

The salient question thus becomes: How can someone and/or something be Indian in India 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 -Trinibagonians, 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 goal of oneness, then, together we may all achieve national unity in T&T. One Aim, One Destiny!

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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