Black Betrayal (In the Age of the Coronavirus)

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 13, 2020

“They say the sun will shine for all/But in some people’s world, it doesn’t shine at all./ So much been said, so little been done./ They still killing the people/ And they having their fun”

—Bob Marley, “Crisis”


Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeI have been writing about the plight of black people in Trinidad and Tobago for a while. Like Marvin Gaye, sometimes it “make me wanna holler/The way they do my life” (“Inner City Blues”). I have argued that we will never solve black impoverishment unless we see it as a national problem that demands the same resolve that we brought to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 30, 1986, I addressed the 35th Anniversary Emancipation Celebration of the Spiritual Baptists. I said, “Today, in Trinidad and Tobago, the plight of the black man [and woman] is truly alarming. Most of us are at the bottom of the economic ladder, with the highest levels of unemployment, and, with the coming economic crisis we can confidently predict that we will receive the worst end of it.” (Afterword to Eudora Thomas, A History of the Shouter Baptists in Trinidad & Tobago.)

On July 2019, I wrote: “Sometimes I wonder if it won’t be better to scrap the Toco-Manzanilla highway and pump that money ($2.5 billion) into social, educational, sporting, and academic programs for our young people and our children. Might it not be better to favor young minds (spiritual/intellectual) over roads (material/infrastructural) at this point in our social development?” (Express, July 30, 2019).

Last month I visited South East Port of Spain Secondary School. I wrote: “The school’s unhealthy surroundings assume more importance in light of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The homeless people who defecate and urinate round the school’s premises remains a substantial threat to the well-being of the teachers and the students.”

I also cited the failure of the Port of Spain City Corporation to wash down the surrounding streets although it promised the school’s PTA that it would do so (Express, March 16).

The plague arrived a week later. It was only then that the Port of Spain mayor realized his neglect had created a health hazard for all of his burghers.

Neither the PNM nor the UNC has taken the plight of black people seriously. On August 24, 2017, I wrote: “The economic disparities between the rich and the poor are becoming more pronounced while the growing poverty among Africans threatens the integrity of our social fabric. Increasingly, Africans are sliding to the bottom of the society economically. Many people argue that Africans are risk averse and hence their impoverishment….

“If there was an outbreak of bubonic plague in the Caroni area, would citizens in other parts of the country describe this catastrophe as an Indian problem which Indians should solve themselves?

“If such a catastrophe were to occur, the entire nation would come together to eliminate this plague from the land in the knowledge that if we did not get this plague under control it would spread until it engulfed the entire nation. Such a tragedy could even mean the end of our civilization as we know it” (Express).

When the coronavirus landed we did things we said we couldn’t do: paid attention to social inequalities we had overlooked and acknowledged the vulnerabilities of our poor people. The government found the money it thought it didn’t have; took measures it believed it couldn’t take; and paid greater attention to people’s lives in a way it had not done in the past.

On Wednesday, the New York Times led with the following headline: “Black Americans Bear the Brunt as Deaths Climb.” Its report opened: “The coronavirus is infecting and killing black people in the United States at disproportionately high rates, according to data released by several states and big cities highlighting what public health researchers say are entrenched inequalities in resources, health and access to care.”

In Chicago where blacks are 30% of the population, 68% of the deaths were black. In Louisiana where 33% of the population is blacks 70% of recorded deaths are black. In Michigan 40% of the people who have died are blacks even though they are only 14% of the population. In New York City black and Hispanic people are twice as likely to die from the virus as whites. Underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases were major contributors to their deaths.

Asked about the disparity of deaths between blacks and whites, Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, responded: “Why is it the poorest people always pay the highest price?” (Express, April 9).

Black people in T&T will suffer disproportionately from this pandemic. More than likely they have underlying health symptoms that make them more vulnerable. They do not have the same access to medical care as their fellow citizens; their cash reserves are nonexistent; and their low-paying jobs won’t see them through this crisis.

They will go back to work in fast food joints and other low-wage jobs that keep the country running. Since they are more exposed to the public, they are more likely to become infected. As they consume Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mario pizza, and doubles, their health will continue to deteriorate and create heavier burdens on our health system.

Black people have suffered too long while our politicians keep on having their fun. The deadliness of this unseen enemy should convince those in government that they need to take their jobs more seriously. They should be doing everything to ensure that the sun shines equally in everybody’s world, no matter what the crisis is.

If they do not, more of us will die.

10 thoughts on “Black Betrayal (In the Age of the Coronavirus)”

  1. this been going on way to long in trinidad,my only concern ” is the state responsible or where is self responsibility ” ?

  2. “Most of us are at the bottom of the economic ladder, with the highest levels of unemployment, and, with the coming economic crisis we can confidently predict that we will receive the worst end of it.”
    That is not an accurate description of the black folks in TnT. It reeks of victim hood. When in fact black folks savoured and continue to savour the fat of the land. Black folks are amongst the wealthiest in TnT.
    Let’s first look at Tobago. Most Tobagonians own villas in Tobago and work for the government in Port of Spain. They got a budget of $2.283 billion in 2019 or 4.3% of the national budget. Their population 60,000. Trinidad population 1.3 million. Now see who is enjoying the fatted calf.

    The PNM led TnT for over 40 years out of 58 years of independence. As we all know the treasury with oil dollars was the national patrimony of black folks. The $50 million secret scholarship fund, the national housing where thousands of homes were given to black folks, 75% of government jobs went to black folks, the oil company with highest salary saw 90% of black folks getting jobs. Mostly Grenadians and St. Vincentians hired by the importation of over 50,000 in the 1960s. Bajans came and were hired as police officers and nurses.

    To say that black folks are disposed and suffering is a blatant lie, when the facts show otherwise. Recently Rowley had a big ceremony for those getting housing in St. Joseph. Empirical evidence shows only one Indian in the photo opt.
    Indians got land but it was the most inhospitable flood prone land given. Whilst the prime hill country went to black folks. Current PNM leaders who did not cleared the water ways told poor Indians if you build in flood prone areas what do you expect. What an insult, by these shameless scumbags who are pillaging the treasury.

    Today the black man is claiming victim hood whilst handing over the national patrimony to massa, the billionaires 1% made rich by the contracts inflated in the billions. Yes the real victims in this country are Indian people. Let’s set the record straight.

  3. The USA is not Trinidad. In our analyses, it behooves us to use Trinidad data to explain Trinidad’s socioeconomic phenomenon. What is the demographic breakdown of the fall out from SARS-CoV-2 in Trinidad? Does Covid-19 impact certain members of the population differently in Trinidad? Are there racial distinctions in incidence, prevalence, mortality and morbidity here? Are there gender differences, and are they comparable to that in other countries? What is the age distribution of the disease in Trinidad? Is access to healthcare in Trinidad a major factor in the clinical outcomes of people with Covid-19 here and is there a disparity in disease outcome that can be linked to access and socioeconomic status? The answers to these questions require data, not presumptions, assumptions or hyperbole. Let us get the data first before publishing another epistle.

    1. After listening to David Mohammed on the radio last night, I decided to do some fact checking on his stats on MD, USA. and the virus impact on African people in MD.. To keep it short.. The stats do not add up. I can firmly say, it is a boldface lie..a propaganda exercise to create what is/was happening in China recently. Our leaders MUST be objective and not suck up all that … anyway..

  4. *In Chicago where blacks are 30% of the population, 68% of the deaths were black. In Louisiana where 33% of the population is blacks 70% of recorded deaths are black. In Michigan 40% of the people who have died are blacks even though they are only 14% of the population.*

    Professor. I think you should consult with that statistician colleague of yours to really analyze these stats… A lot of these stats just don’t add up.

    These Stats from MD just don’t dd up

    Black Marylanders make up largest group of coronavirus cases as state releases racial breakdown for first time

  5. Selwyn Cudjoe uses data and information about the effects of the corona virus in the US and extrapolates it to Trinidad, without any data about Trinidad to verify what he is claiming. The rate of diabetes, heart problems and high blood press among Afro Trinis and Indo Trinis are not much different. Lets get the statistics. It is unbecoming of a “scholar” to propagate misinformation and claims without data.

  6. Let us stop blaming history and slavery for the demise of a small sector of the Black population of T&T.
    It is a fact that after emancipation Blacks were not given a head start; however, one government after the next has provided multiple programs and opportunities for advancement to certain low income , socio-economic areas of T&T. And let us not forget that we are speaking about a small minority here, because the majority of Blacks in T&T are very successful in a variety of occupations and professions.
    As far back as the Eric Williams days, the slums in POS were excavated and rebuilt with very decent brick dwellings and the residents and supporters of the PNM were provided with these homes and make work programs with good pay. Within a relatively short period this area became slums again as it appears today. To be fair, every government has created programs specifically catering to the disadvantaged, low socioeconomic Black areas.
    The bigger question is ,”why do these programs fail?”
    Over the years there have been numerous articles and editorials lamenting the plight of this sector of the population.
    How many of these reflections have presented solutions or plans of action for improvement?
    How many of these “complaints” have expressed the need for individual responsibility and accountability?

  7. Be careful what you call for, Dr. Cudjoe.

    The national resolve we bring to battle the deadly COVID 19 has but one aim: to defeat and destroy it.

    If we cannot achieve total defeat and total annihilation we hope to at least achieve isolation, containment and severe suppression.

    Consider what would happen if we brought that same resolve to defeat the cancer of crime in Trinidad and Tobago.

    It would alter, at least for the next 100 years, the racial composition of our population and reduce the African component to an absolute minority.

    Think about that

  8. And Professor, about those MD. stat. It’s mostly elderly white people in those ‘nursing homes’ that are dying…so much so, that the mainly ‘African Nurses’ who work there are leaving their jobs.. Retirement/Nursing homes have become a major industry in MD.. and those fake stats do not include the Latin population that has outnumbered the African American population in this past decade..

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