Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Crisis of African youth in T&T... Prof. Cudjoe dead wrong

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
August 17, 2010

This analysis is a critique of the following articles: Prof. Selwyn Cudjoe, "The Crisis of Black Youth" and Joel Mohan, "Cudjoe Right About Afro Male Youth", Trinidad Guardian, 12 August 2010, pp. 32-33.

At the outset, it is necessary to issue the following caveats. Firstly, Prof. Cudjoe has uitilized a Euro-centric Americanized analysis/context of the "Crisis of Black Youth" in T&T.

The fact of the matter is that in terms of raw population dynamics, one can speak of White vs Black in the United States; in this scenario, Black Americans are the minority (12%) while White Americans are the majority. This differential American racial hue is very clear.

However, the boundary lines are not so clear in the case of T&T. The stark reality is that T&T does not consist of Black and/or White a la U.S.A. T&T is more polyglot.

Indeed, T&T's 2000 population census figures categorically state that Africans account for 39.5% of the population, Indians 43.3%, Europeans (as in White) .01%, etc. Thus, the Euro-centric American comparative analysis by Prof. Cudjoe becomes null and void, to say the least.

The fact of the matter is that Dr. Eric Williams became the first Prime Minister of T&T of African descent while Basdeo Panday became the first Prime Minister of T&T of Indian descent.

Now, how is Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar going to be classified using Prof. Cudjoe's Euro-centric American yardstick?

Indeed, she cannot be termed T&T's first Black female Prime Minister, Prof. Cudjoe? Historical/ancestral reality suggests that Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar is T&T's first female Prime Minister of Indian descent. Let us be reminded that Indians are categorized by the international community as Asians.

Now is the time for Trinbagonians to judge/classify ourselves using our own indigenous criteria, albeit ethnic reality and not fall prey to foreign, albeit alien, square pegs in round holes analysis. Or as MC/comedian Spranalang once quipped "mixing roti and egg."

Prof. Cudjoe needs to understand that this is the Republic of T&T, not the United States of T&T. The majority population of this Republic is of African and Indian descent; ergo, any ethnic analysis must be made within this context, period. Racial divide does exist in the United States; don't even try to import that kind of mind-set into sweet T&T, Prof. Cudjoe.

Furthermore, it is totally ridiculous for Prof. Cudjoe to speak about "black on black crime", etc, in T&T. Again, he is imposing/interjecting Euro-centric American sociology on T&T's milieu. And this alien imposition/juxtaposition must be totally rejected, period. T&T's problems must be seen through the societal lens of Trinbagonians and not through the lens of American-trained professors.

On the flip side, Mr. Mohan needs to understand that the term/label "Afro" has been expunged from the societal lexicon/jargon of the United States since 1988 - this in 2010 - "get with the program."

Trinbagonians need to understand that the terms "Afro" and "Negro" are regarded as insulting, denigrating, derogative, demeaning and "fighting words" in the United States. Maybe, Mr. Mohan and the majority of Trinbagonians do not know this but as a retired American university professor, I know that my colleague Prof. Cudjoe knows exactly what the deal is.

By way of elucidation, if one wants to insult/disrespect an American of African descent, then, one would refer to him/her as an "Afro-American" or even use the "N" word description.

The stark reality is that all Trinbagonians, regardless of ethnicity, not race, need to be cognizant of the historical/ancestral reality that since 1988, the descendants of the Africans who were involuntarily brought from Africa in 1619 to be enslaved on the plantations in the United States are now regarded/called /labelled as African-Americans, period.

Ergo, the descendants of the Africans who were brought involuntarily to be enslaved on the plantations in T&T circa 1516-1517 must be regarded/called/labelled as African-Trinbagonians. They did not come from Afro-Land. They came kicking/screaming/fighting from AFRICA, directly or indirectly.

The fact of the matter is that Chief Servant of the people, Makandal Daaga is a proud, revolutionary, conscious African-Trinbagonian leader. This writer sincerely hopes that Mr. Mohan would never refer to Ambassador Daaga as an Afro-Trinbagonian.

Similarly, the descendants of the "indentured workers" who came to T&T on 30 May 1845 must be regarded/called/labelled as Indian-Trinbagonians. They came from India. They did not come from Indo; as such, they are not Indo-Trinibagonians. Let's "get with the program."

As a corollary, Prof. Cudjoe and Mr. Mohan need to reflect on the historical truism that the seeds of the "crisis of Black youth" were sewn since 1956 by the PNM government under Dr. Eric Williams. And the harvesting has continued until 24 May 2010.

Indeed, since 1956, the policies of successive PNM governments have been to keep African-Trinbagonian youths and young people locked into a state/condition/mind-set of powerlessness, defenselessness and the Euro-colonial "dependency syndrome", ad infinitum.

In order to achieve these Euro-colonial and neo-colonial goals, then Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams introduced the "Crash Program"; today, in keeping with tradition, former PNM Prime Minister Patrick Manning introduced/implemented the CEPEP and URP programs. What's the difference - same dependency khaki pants for the African-Trinbagonian youths. As the adage goes: "the more things change, the more they remain the same".

At this crucial juncture, my colleague Prof. Cudjoe should recall the then poignant but now apocalyptic prognostication Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams made in 1962 in regard to the "great responsibility" of the children/youths of this nation. He stated: "On your scholastic development the salvation of the nation is dependent...you carry the future of Trinidad and Tobago in your school bags."

That was in 1962; however, this writer challenges his colleague Prof. Cudjoe to conduct a "regression analysis" using the items children/youths now carry in their school bags as the variables under the former Patrick Manning PNM government.

What genre of "future" for the children/youths and T&T would have been possible?

In the final analysis, the stark reality is that the policies of various PNM governments have undoubtedly created the problem of the crisis of the African-Tringbagionan youth; however, it is to be hoped that the new visionary policies of the current People's Partnership (PP) government will be the solution.

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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