Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Ethnicity versus race in T&T

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
May 03, 2011

Within recent times, issues of ethnicity versus race have been discussed and bandied about in T&T without any clear, professional/intellectual/historical delineation.

The fact of the matter is that official 2000 census figures reveal that about 42 per cent of T&T's population is of Indian descent while 38 per cent is of African descent.

Ergo, the majority population of T&T (80%) is non-white, Black(African), non-European, people of colour. Put another way, African-Trinbagonians are Black, non-white while Indian-Trinbagonians are people of colour.

India is in Asia. India was never in Europe. Asians, as in Indians, are therefore, neither white nor European. They are people of colour, regardless of their sometimes very pale complexion.

The historical reality is that the ancestors of Trinbagonians of African descent were brought involuntarily and violently from Africa; they were not brought from Afro-Land or Negro-Land. There has never been a land mass or continent called Afro or Negro in world history. Ergo, the descendants of these ancestors are now African-Trinbagonians, whether they like it or not, period. You are an African... 'deal with it'.

You are definitely not an Afro-Trinbagonian. Such a label is an ahistorical, Euro-centric misnomer which must be expunged from T&T's societal lexicon.

The fact of the matter is that if one wants to insult, demean and/or disrespect a Black person in the United States today, then, one would address that person as an 'Afro-American'. Let's be very, very, very clear... those are 'fighting words' in America today.

Furthermore, the label 'Afro-American' has been expunged from America's societal lexicon since 1988. Now is the time for Trinbagonians 'to get with the program'. The stark historical reality is that we are African-Trinbagonians and Indian-Trinbagonians, period...half measures avail us absolutely nothing.

Indeed, Mrs. Beatrice Wilkinson- Welters, the American Embassador, to T&T is the ultimate, superbly distinguished, proud African-American and conversely, it would be the supreme insult and total disrespect for anyone in T&T to refer to her as an 'Afro-American-'... total disrespect, period.

Similarly, Barack Obama is America's first African-American President. He is not America's first 'Afro-American' President.

More specifically, what racial hue is considered 'Red' in T&T is Black in America--- let's be very, very, very clear about that. T&T is not the world.

Ipso facto, Barack Obama is not America's first 'Redman' President. He is America's first Black President. Now is the time for all Trinbagonians "to get with the program". One may be referred to as 'Red' or 'Reds' in small T&T but in the wider, outside world, one is very Black, period... "Nah leave."

Or in the poignant lyrics of our deceased grandmaster, Kitchener (1950):
"Your father is an African
Your mother maybe Norwegian
You pass me, you wouldn't say goodnight
Feeling you are really white
Your skin maybe a little pink
And that's the reason why you think
Dat de complexion of your face
Can hide you from the Negro (Black) race
No!, you can never get away from the fact
If you not white then you considered Black"
Now is the time for all conscious Trinbagonians to stop this insane, albeit small-minded 'race' "chupidness", period.

The fact of the matter is that the official census stats prove that T&T has an ethnic, not a racial problem.

By way of elucidation, when violence erupted in Pakistan in 2007 as then President Pervez Musharraf removed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, "ethnic bloodshed" erupted... not racial bloodshed.

In May 2008, when 35 people were killed in Rajasthan, a state in western India, that incident was described as "caste violence"... not racial violence.

In January 2008, when violence broke out in the slums in Nairobi, Kenya, that incident was described by the international community as "ethnic bloodshed in Kenya"... not racial bloodshed. Similarly, in August 2009, violent clashes between rival groups in south Sudan were described as "ethnic clashes"... not racial clashes.

Finally, in June 2010, 77 persons were killed in southern Kyrgyzstan during what was described as "ethnic riots"... not racial riots.

Indeed, what the above-mentioned litany suggests is that T&T does not have a racial problem but an ethnic divisive problem that was purposefully and vindictively enshrined by the Euro-British colonizer into the psyche of the colonized.

The fact of the matter is that the ancestors of African-Trinbagonianas and Indian- Trinbagonians were both colonized and enslaved by disparate European powers and it is this specific common denominator that should serve as the glue to keep African-Indian-Trinbagonians solidly united at the historical-cultural hip.

Now is the opportune time for all Trinbagonians to relegate the so-called 'race problem' to the ash heap of T&T's cultural history.

As the slain African-American Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King once warned in his apocalyptic admonition:
"Now the judgement of God (24 May, 2010) is upon us and we must either learn to live together as brothers (and sisters in common struggle)) or we are all going to perish together ( in coalition) as fools."
Truth Be Told: The politico-cultural landscape in T&T suggests that Trinbagonians should be judged/respected by the "content of their character" and neither by their skin colour nor how they look. Now is the time to treat/respect each other solely based on each other's depth of humanism rather than on each other's extent of crass materialism as "in making a statement without saying a word"... total cultural backwardness and madness, period.

What is good hair, any way?.

Shem Hotep )"I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.

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