Judge dead wrong on race

by Dr. Kwame Nantambu
April 18, 2008

Trini PeopleThis critique is in response to an article titled “Judge: Address racism to move ahead” that appeared in The Daily Express (14 April 2008) in which Justice Wendell Kangaloo is reported to have said that “we in Trinidad and Tobago would do well to start a conversation about race” in order to move this country forward.

Apparently, Justice Kangaloo’s eye-opener on race in T&T resulted from his amazement while viewing a programme on race via MSNBC-TV in the United States.

The fact of the matter is that Justice Kangaloo has fallen prey right into the trap whereby he is equating the “race” problem in the United States with “race relations” in T&T. It is at this crucial juncture that the esteemed Justice is naively mixing apples and oranges.

The salient truism is that African-Americans (Blacks) are a national minority (circa 13 per cent) in the United States, while Whites comprise the majority population. These are two distinct and separate people who have different skin color or hue. Ergo, racial problems/inequalities do exist in the United States.

However, the same is definitely not true in T&T as far as the population mix is concerned. Census figures reveal that East Indians (Indian-Trinibagonians) comprise 42 per cent of this population, Africans (African-Trinbagonians) 38 per cent and Europeans (Whites) .01 per cent. This, therefore, proves that the majority population in T&T is non-White, non-European, people of colour. This population dynamic does not obtain in the United States.

Ergo, T&T has an ethnic problem not a racial problem because its majority population is of the same skin colour or hue.

The stark reality is that Indian-Trinbagonians came from India; India is still in Asia. According to the United Nations and the international community Asians are not Europeans as in White. Ergo, ethnic problems exist in Asia, not racial problems because the people all have the same skin colour or hue.

By way of elucidation, when the upsurge erupted in Pakistan between President Pervez Musharraf and Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the international community described the wanton carnage as “ethnic bloodshed”; it was not described as racial bloodshed simply because the two entities involved in the impasse were of the same skin colour or hue.

Now, if this scenario had erupted in the United States between the President who is White and a judge who is Black, then, it would have been correctly described as “racial bloodshed” simply because the two entities in this hypothetical impasse do not have the same skin colour or hue.

The same is true in the case of Bosnia where the carnage was described as “ethnic cleansing” for the same afore-mentioned reason. The same is true for “ethnic genocide” in Rwanda; “sectarian violence”, “sectarian carnage” and “sectarian inferno” between Shi’ites , Kurds and Sunnis in Iraq; and “factional violence” between Fatah, Hamas and Palestinians in Gaza. All these entities have the same skin colour or hue. This litany does not represent racial problems; it reflects ethnic problems/conflicts between similar peoples.

Indeed, one should never seek to Americanize a local problem between Indian-Trinbagonians and African-Trinbagonians; furthermore, concepts such as “low self-esteem” and “at-risk youths” are societal constructs that only apply to the United States. They do not apply nor are applicable to T&T because of this country’s population dynamics and political structure and any attempt to squeeze these two square pegs into round holes must be challenged very strongly.

The fact of the matter is that “foreign” is neither the solution nor frame of reference to analyze the myriad of issues that confront the majority population of T&T, 24-7-365; it is the problem.

Now is the time for all Trinbagonians to come to grips with the historical reality that Africans and Indians were colonized and enslaved by the same European. This is the common denominator that must bind us together as one; it should never be used, by accident or design, to separate us.

In the apocalyptic admonition of slain African-American Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King: “We either learn to live together as brothers; otherwise we’ll all die separately as fools.”

Now is the time for Trinbagonians to judge each other “by the content of (our) character rather than the color of (our) skin.”

Shem Hotep (“I go in peace”).

5 Responses to “Judge dead wrong on race”


  • I would like to add a few things to what I’ve just read. In the United States who was free of British rule much longer than Trinidad and Tobago. The British abolished slavery long before the U.S. and didn’t have government sponsored segregation afterward. In the U.S. there are many people of other racial groups besides European (White) and African (Black) who have become to self identify as or with Whites whenever there has been a lack of Whites within a particular area such as many neighborhoods in the inner cities outside of downtown in the east especially. This is about perception and who has the power and who is perceived to have the power. One only needs to fly in from another country on a first time visit and not be familiar with the current population statistics of Trinidad and Tobago to know at PIARCO what group has the power and has assumed the acated role of the European Colonialist. There are more African (Black) “Trini’s” living outside of Trinidad and Tobago than inside.

    One thing is for sure is that Triniagonians need to find their own way to assimilate to one standard and cultural norm for the identity of Trinidad and Tobago instead of following the lead of the imperfect U.S.. Blacks in the U.S. at one time were regarded as a nation within a nation and yet the U.S. refuses to rebuild that nation of citizens within its boarders while spending over 70 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan on borrowed money from the Chinese. Surely Trinibagonians don’t want to follow their example on civility, humanity, democracy, human rights, and the pursuit of happiness?

  • I note with interest the comments about race relations in Trinidad. I’m part Trinidad part Brit. Frequent visitor to T&T. Yes there is racial tension on occasion between ethnic groups. I’ve been in areas like Felicity and as far as Africans were concerned they couldn’t have been more frowned on if one turned up on a whites only golf course in 1950s Alabama!
    As for the slavery thing while I’m not condoning it I would love to know how many descendents of African slaves now living in The USA and Trinidad could trace their ancestry back to a slave who wasn’t captured by a white European slave merchant but captured by a fellow African who had been trading African slaves to for centuries before the Europeans blew in.
    Don’t forget there was also a thriving trade in slaves captured by North Africans from Ireland & Britain.
    Finally. It’s a historical fact that us Brits were outlawing slavery long before Honest Abe came along and made it trendy.
    DAVID.

  • Does the fact that many British Citizens spied for and supported the Nazi regime excuse the acts of that regime?

    The difference between the plundering of Ireland and Britain by North Africans is the circumstances of the enslavement was not justified by their membership in particular and distinct racial group. It was not generational. They wre not removed in large numbers from their point of origin to labor on behalf of their masters. In other words, while human slavery had always been exitant, perhaps as long as man was walked the earth, it was never taken to the dimensions of the Atlantic Slave Trade. If it were there would be a lot of descendants of Ireland and Brits in those North African Countries, with Arabic names and spaking only Arabic.

  • It would seem as if the esteemed professor is not aware that Africans and East Asians are of different races.

  • Race does not matter. What matters is the fact that there is a need to mention the word race at all.

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