“The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.”

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 15, 2018

“Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold? No, gods, I am no idle votarist!…Thus much of this will make black white, foul fair, wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant.”

—William Shakespeare,”Timon of Athens”

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeTwo weeks ago, I made a case for “reparative justice.” Drawing on “Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow,” a report that was coauthored by Dr. Stephen Mullen, a well-respected scholar, I challenged the national community to think about this concept. I did not chastise anyone. I simply stated facts as I saw them.

Mullen’s report was important because it drew on my work, The Slave Master of Trinidad, to demonstrate how Burnley’s profits and the capital he bequeathed to his son, William Frederick, subsidized the development of the University of Glasgow (UG). UG launched a program for reparative justice because of Mullen’s report. (See “Glasgow University to make amends over slavery profits,” London Guardian, September 11, 2018).

Since my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my uncles, my brother, and I (to a small extent) worked on Burnley estates, I sought to capture how it feels to see such a large enterprise pass from one owner to another (from Home Construction Limited, to Colonial Life and now to Dominic Hadeed) who has little knowledge of this piece of geography, its history, or the social and cultural life of the people who worked on these lands.

My article, “Reparative Justice,” consisted of 18 paragraphs, three of which were devoted to Dominic Hadeed and Blue Waters. It noted that 285 acres of the land on which my people toiled are now leased to Dominic Hadeed, that his father came from Syria in the 1960s, founded the Fabric Land chain and Blue Waters in 1996. I ended as follows: “Blue Waters uses the site on which the old factory was located to produce their bottled waters and planted the rest of the land in over two dozen types of long and medium crops.”

Blinded by his money and his power, J. Hadeed, presumably a relative of Dominic, sought to malign me: “It seems to be a pattern now for Prof. Cudjoe to spew his venom at the Syrian/Lebanese community…on a regular basis” (“Unfair Attack on Syrian Lebanese,” Express, October 6).

Hadeed does not tell the reader how I spewed venom on the Syrian/Lebanese community.

He does not deny the facts I presented, the history of the land, or the nature of reparative justice. He praises the “indefatigable workers” of his community and the tremendous work they do for our society. I drew no conclusions nor criticized the work Hadeed’s community does to enhance the well-being of Trinbagonians and themselves.

Satisfied with his ill-founded refutation, he delivers his coup de grace: “The fact you [Professor Cudjoe] and others like you keep focusing on the so-called one percent cannot be interpreted any other way than through racist spectacles.”

Over the past 18 years I have written over 500 articles for different outlets on different subjects (“Selwyn R. Cudjoe’s Archives,” Trinicenter.com). Fewer than 10 of them dealt with or mentioned “the so-called one percent.” The “racist spectacles” Hadeed presumes to see reside in his mind and his careless reading, not in my written work.

After his infantile pronouncement Hadeed offers his epiphany: “Prof. Cudjoe, please awake from your slavery slump; otherwise you would be blaming slavery for everything for the next 1,000 years!”

How does one respond to this absurdity?

The Center for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave ownership was established at the University of London (UCL) in 2009 to trace “the impact of slave ownership on the formation of modern Britain” and the structure and significance of British Caribbean slave ownership 1763-1833. It was/is funded by the British Government and Hutchins Center at Harvard University.

In 2013 I received a professorial scholarship to do research at UC’s Institute of the Americas where I worked with Dr. Nick Draper, author of The Price of Emancipation and the current director of the Slave Legacies Program. At UCL I researched my recently completed The Slave Master of Trinidad. Scholars such as Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of UWI, has devoted a considerable amount of his scholarly life examining reparation as his book Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide demonstrates.

Prof. Beckles welcomed Mullen’s report. He said: “I celebrate colleagues in Glasgow for taking these first steps and keenly anticipate working through next steps” (“Glasgow University to Make Amends”).

Immigration strengthens and gives vitality to the economic, social, and cultural fabric of any country. Dominic’s father and his family worked hard to make a better life in this country. Trinidad and Tobago is a stronger and a more vibrant society because of the presence of the Syrian/Lebanese community. Their hard work does not absolve them from criticism.

The acquisition of money is a good thing. However, it should not blind one to the pain and suffering other groups in the society have undergone. Neither should it be used to malign others with impunity.

Methinks the gentleman protests too much. I prefer to be in the “slavery slump” with Professors Beckles, Draper, Mullen, Sir Anton Macatelli, UC’s vice-chancellor, and men and women of that ilk. This is not a racist sentiment. Call me a votary of scholarship and learning.

10 thoughts on ““The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.””

  1. The question to ask is whether or not social ethics are applied by entrepreneurs in T&T. The record so far indicates that ethical entrepreneurs, regardless of race, do not exist in T&T. They have little or no regard for the environment, workers, paying their fair share of taxes or contributing substantially to society. Their bottom line is company or corporate greed. They are purely profit-driven. Their growing enterprises do not focus on returning something to society, but are politically motivated to selfishly and unfairly influence governments and corrupt politicians with the goal of enriching their families.
    Their display of wealth, overt political influence and brave braggadocio in T&T will eventually prove to be detrimental to the future of our country.

    Hadeed is out of his intellectual league.

  2. The reaction from the 1% adds colour to the mix on the discussion of reparations. Having looked at Kanye West meeting with POTUS recently, here is a dude putting forward a suggestion on reparations for/from rappers. Can such a suggestion have merit to those who laboured on estates day in day out to the benefit of their descendants?


  3. As I read the article by Selwyn Cudjoe, a wave of disappointment came over me. Bacchanal. Not worthy of a “well respected scholar”. A personal fight between two people in the full view of readers who expect and anticipate some insight into the socio-political and economic drama of T&T. These were the thoughts that presented themselves to me. Then I asked myself – why would a “well respected scholar” indulge himself in such bacchanalia? I did some reading. I asked around. I heard from some reliable sources. And then the answer announced itself. Not as an epiphany perhaps, but as a detective novel unfolds. The clues on the way. The suspects incriminating themselves. The plot developing. And then the dramatic moment; the culprit is identified. Beyond this petty squabbling between two people – a “well respected scholar” and “J. Hadeed…a relative of Dominic” lay a tale of intrigue. It goes back a while, Kamla was Prime Minister, and a member of the “Syrian/Lebanese community” was a Minister of Government. That Minister had a conversation with a TV show host where he talked about Kamla being surrounded by rats. He accused a specific member of the “cabal” of controlling Kamla. Move along to a number of articles by our “well respected scholar” about the former Prime Minister. Eight articles prophesying the return of Kamla; like John the Baptist, our “well respected scholar” was “Preparing the way for Kamla”. Those articles were written in the Express; the other newspaper “Trinidad Guardian” is owned by ANSA McAL and the Sabgas, members of the Syrian/Lebanese community. Draw your own conclusions. The Express, an anti-PNM and a pro-UNC paper, has a journalist writing eight articles in support of Kamla. The Guardian an anti-PNM, pro-UNC newspaper, owned by ANSA McAL, has Sat Maharaj as one of its main commentators. Cudjoe quoted Sat Maharaj as saying about Kamla: “You take for granted that you can behave anyhow; do what you want, eat what you want, drive what you want, play the ass all over the place and the Hindu is still going to vote for you. Kamla those days are over.” So to put it out in the open, there is a conflict within the UNC between supporters of Kamla Persad-Bissessar who find their forum in the Express, Selwyn Cudjoe being one of them, and UNC supporters who are anti-Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who consider her a loser, and who find their forum in the Guardian which is owned by the Sabgas, of Syrian/Lebanese descent. Hence Cudjoe’s accusatory tone against the Syrian/Lebanese. So this fight we are seeing is not so petty at all, it signals a war within the UNC between supporters of Kamla Persad-Bissessar and other operatives who see her as a loser and want to get rid of her as political leader. Behind the bacchanal, there is serious political maneuvering, warfare within the UNC, and a tale of intrigue. As our bard William Shakespeare has said “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”.

    1. Your conspiracy as described above lack all the elements of a good “detective novel”.
      You have confused your characters, not created suspense, omitted an inciting incident, not provided a climax, conclusion or resolution.

      Conflicts within political parties are not revelations worthy of detective work. They unfold naturally before our very eyes for all to see.

      Presently the conflicts within the PNM are also being laid bare. In some arenas, these are considered healthy.

      1. Horatio:
        O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
        And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
        There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
        Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
        Hamlet Act 1, scene 5
        William Shakespeare

  4. I don’t particularly share the thoughts of the professor. (1) the land we live on was once the domain of the natives, (2) slavery was cruel unjust and all slave descendants should be compensated, however that is the job of the slave masters Britain who benefitted tremendously from free labour, (3)repatriation in a capitalistic economy where money is more valuable that ancestral past is difficult at best.

    The British built the industrial revolution on the backs of slavery and colonial nations. World War I & II was funded by exappropriation of funds from the colonies. Presently in the vault of England there are billions of dollars worth of gold stolen from the colonies.

    The British must be shamed into returning money to those colonial nations that suffered the most, broken homes, displaced families, unimaginable suffering and subjugation of the human will to the point of terrible self hate. These social ills continue to plague and torment TnT as the criminal element rise to destroy. One look at the home and there is the absent father. A legacy from slavery.

    These crimes against humanity must be healed by first an apology and admission of wrong. Then an effort to repatriate stolen wealth and stolen labour. Compensation is not a good will guesture to appease the past injustices, it is a vital tool to lift the destitute from the mental cast conveniently fitted around the head of the descendants of slavery and indentureship.

    Currently Canada has issued apologies to various groups the latest being the native Indians, land stolen, children taken away, culture decimated. But nevertheless a guesture to begin the long process of healing. It is a good place to start. Statues of oppressors are being removed from public domain, including the one of the first prime minister whose policies caused much harm.

    Perhaps as we move forward into this century over time and a next generation all will be forgotten. We must make the effort now to repatriate…..

  5. Mamoo, is not “repatriation” he talking about, its “reparation”. He don’t want all ah dem to be sent back to Africa, he want them to be compensated for their suffering and slavery.

  6. white folks should not fear losing their money to reparation,the way the world system is rigged, and the consumer mindset of some or majority of blacks, the payout will return to the the white economy in a flash

  7. Reparations is not if Britan owes those from who she extracted free labour and built her empire. It is a given that she does. It can take the form of “grants” or some scholarships etc.

Comments are closed.