In defeat, defiance

By Dr Selwyn Cudjoe
August 12, 2020

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeLast Tuesday, Joseph Biden, the nominee of the Democratic Party, selected Kamala Harris to be his running mate in the next US presidential election. If she is elected, she will become the most powerful woman in the Demo­cratic Party and a strong candidate to become the first US woman president.

Harris was not selected primarily because of her academic brilliance, political acumen or prosecutorial experience, although she possesses all these attributes. She was selected because black demo­crats demanded that a black woman be selected because they saved Biden’s candidacy when it was floundering.

We all remember that when Biden’s primary campaign arrived in South Caro­lina he was on the verge of dropping out. James Clyburn and the black electorate rescued his candidacy.

From that point on, blacks in the Democratic Party were determined they would be rewarded for their efforts. Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader, acknowledged that race was one of the most important factors in selecting Harris. He noted: “I think he [Biden] came to the conclusion that he should pick a black woman. They are our most loyal voters and I think that the black women of America deserved a black vice-presidential candidate.” (New York Times, August 14.)

There is a deeper backstory to this narrative. In 1863, when Lincoln freed the slaves, the Democrats were the slave party; the Republicans were the liberal party. In gratitude, black people supported the Republican Party for close to 100 years until Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, was elected in 1964. There­after, black people supported the Democratic Party until the election of Barack ­Obama in 2008. This time around the blacks demanded their pound of flesh and got it.

This is what mature politics is all about. I will support you, but you must reward me for my support. You must never take my vote for granted. That is what I tried to say when I endorsed the UNC three weeks ago. The PNM should never take the black vote for granted.

Although I endorsed the UNC “this time around”, I emphasised that I remain a member of the PNM. It did not mean that I had abandoned my blackness (as some people have said) and the party, even though I reserved the right to vote for another party in the future if I believe the PNM is not attending to the needs of black people, its primary constituents.

Such political considerations are not unusual. Tomorrow night the Democrats begin their convention to formally select their presidential candidates. John Kasich, a Republican and former governor of Ohio, an important swing state in the presidential election, will be one of the three major speakers at the convention. Kasich has not left the Republican Party. All he says is I will not support President Trump and the Republican Party because of how they have governed over the last four years.

A few weeks ago, George Bush, a Republican and former president of the US, spoke at John Lewis’s funeral although Lewis refused to attend his inauguration. Bush explained his decision: “John and I had our disagreements, of course, but in the America that John Lewis fought for—and the America I believe in—the differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in ­action.”

This is how politicians, at their best, behave. They ­allow for disagreements but always retain the right to act as their conscience bids them to act. They never lose their idealism, their hope or their faith. They keep pushing on because they believe in the correctness of their position. I supported UNC and endorsed Jearlean John because I had hoped they would see that looking out for black people’s concern would be in their own best self-interest.

The PNM won the election. Black people voted for the party overwhelmingly ­although the overall numbers of voters decreased by about ten per cent. The PNM even lost one seat in the process. Yet, the major question remains: are black people tenacious enough to demand that they be rewarded for their unremitting support over the years? Or, will PNM go back to business as usual?

Last week I condemned UNC’s “despicable portrayal of black people in one of their ads”. This racist portrayal and stereotyping continue incessantly on social medial. Jason Gordon, Catholic Archbishop, has bemoaned: “It is clear in this country right now that we are blinded by race.” (­Express, August 14.) We should stop treating racism as a taboo subject we can’t discuss.

There may be one T&T on the surface, but another on the inside. We may ­portray ourselves as an island of racial harmony, but there is a deep underbelly of racial distrust in the innards of our society. There may well be a perfect ending to our story, but these deep racial undertones and acerbic condemnation of those who express different points of view are inimical to the well-being of our society.

On October 29, 1941, when things seemed bad for his nation, Sir Winston Churchill offered his nation the following advice: “Never give in. Never, never, never give in—in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” (These Are Great Days)

Let us fight tenaciously for our positions, but let us ­remember the words Churchill appended to the frontispiece of his book, History of the Second World War: “In War, Resolution; in Defeat, Defiance; in Victory, Magnanimity; and in Peace, Good Will.”

Our society still has a long way to go when it comes to honouring and respecting peaceful dissent.

12 thoughts on “In defeat, defiance”

  1. Selwyn Cudjoe is delusional or senile? He endorses a racist anti-african party, the affirms his ‘blackness’ because he ‘is a meber’? What the hell does that mean? If he didn’t support pnm, that would not have tarnished his ‘blackness’, but endorsing kamla and the UNC? selling a false image of satnarayan maharaj as a ‘freedom fighter’, MLK equivalent and patriot? This guy is as delusional as those who are proud to see kamala harris chosen over an actual american lineaged, black skinned, african woman. Kamala being pole vaulted to her position after expressing unwillingness to support for reparations is a slap in the face and racist. Only beige, bi-racials with no strong lineage to enslaved africans can be representatives for africans. At least obama’s mom was an american social justice wasrrior, before it was chic and had consequences…Kamala’s mother is an actual (supposed) brahmin, and her father is a typical bourgeoisie, beige jamaican , who pedestalized non-african women. Kamala grew up majority with her mother….Coincidence? Colourism=Racism! I would rather they selected a full indian woman, or altogether non-african, at least that would have been more honest.

  2. To understand Kamala’s relevance as “African” representation, imagine reema and anthony carmona as her parents, with reema doing majority of parenting because of parted ways! Or imagine if anil roberts’ harvard graduate brother (obama’s classmate), was female…Have you seen anil robert’s bannana eating picture he took and posted for his racist supporters, who made racist monkey jokes? Why was anil smiling? Is THAT what africans accept as ‘one of them’? As far as i’m concerned, anil is an indian name, and so is his psyche and loyalty! Why should anil’s lineage equivalent be given that prestigiousopportunity, earmarked for a black/african american woman? Would indians accept the reverse as representation for their representatives? No! Imagine again, better yet, if hulsi bhaggan and raoul ‘bimsee’ pantin were her parents…is that someone conscientious masses of african people would elect to represent their interests as one of them? And also, she chose to marry a non-african…What a joke! These types of ‘blacks’ are the ones who gobbled up all of the benefits of african political ascendency post 50’s then jumped to the ‘mixed’ politics post ’81…Notice the anitas, marsha’s, khadijahs and David’s basking in their privileged social STATUS? They are elevated by those non-africans, who see them as the only ‘relevant’ ‘africans, primarily because of their phenotype and secondarily because of their need to be accepted by indians.

    Colour-ism & Feature-ism=Racism, which corrodes african cohesiveness and sovereignty…eveyone wants to be ‘special’.

  3. Rowley will deliver to the black population. He is not an economist so there will be enough cheese and bread with left over for those who supported him.
    As for the national community, the weaning away from government will continue, however, inevitably taxes will increase. With the economy near bankruptcy, the first to go will be state enterprises. Current state of the economy —10% growth in past 4 1/2 years, $70 billion borrowed, Deficit at $107 officially, unofficially $121 billion. When Kamla left office she had increase the deficit by $25 billion but had left $32 billion extra in the HSF. All ministries were well funded.
    Not to blame Kamla alone (sic) for the -10% economic downturn. There has been a global shift in the world and the PNM has not responded quickly or don’t seem to understand it.
    So your support for KPB this time around was not misguided because it will require someone of her forte’ to deal with the current state of the economy.
    As for the US, the election temperature has just heated up considerably. Kamala a blend of Indian and Caribbean DNA married to a white man fits well into the narrative of the Democratic Party. She will be stepping into a world possibly as the most powerful woman. The world has change into a quagmire of uncertainty. There is the belligerent world dominating Chinese who are locked on a border dispute with all its neigbours. More importantly the PLA is currently “squatting” on Indian territory. Kamala performed the last rites for her mom and scattered her ashes over the Ganges. President Trump has had a great relationship with Modi and it remains to be seen if Kamala steps in the US influence in the East will be at its highest. Necessary to tame the Chinese dragon. But in the world of the Democrats will it be a pre Trump response to China??? Politics is a strange thing the US have Kamala, TnT have Kamla…
    Will be locked on to the Democrat convention not a fan of their policies……but in the US my friends just don’t like Trump..

    1. Mamoo.. Wonder if Kamala ever heard of the term Dougla?

      *Wiki on Dougla:The word Dougla originated from doogala (दुगला), which is a Caribbean Hindustani word that may mean “many”, “much” or “a mix”.[1] Some of the connotations of the word such as bastard, illegitimate and son of a whore are secondary and limited to sections of North India where the term may have originated.[2] In the West Indies the word is used only for Afro-Indo mixed race,[3] despite its origin as a word used to describe inter-caste mixing.*

      I saw India is welcoming Kamala Harris with open arms. I Too am waiting to see how this plays out on in TT..

      1. Don’t worry RamK, they will welcome her with open arms.
        You know why? Her name is Indian (hindi) and possibly the next Vice President of the United States. Indians will not
        loose that opportunity to identify. Only trouble is that it
        will confuse their “attachment” to Trump, whom they were dependent upon to invade Trinidad and Tobago.

        People who are transient in their identity for opportunistic
        purposes will always find a reason to shift. “the US have Kamala, TnT have Kamla…” ……..Mamoo

        1. Tamil…

          I’m ah buckle down for this ride… interesting times ahead for TT..

          *Kamala’s mom raised her to be a “strong, Black woman.”
          Kamala shared a tribute to her mother for Black History Month:

          “My mother was very intentional about raising my sister, Maya, and me as strong, Black women. She coupled her teachings of civic duty and fearlessness with actions, which included taking us on Thursday nights to Rainbow Sign, a Black cultural center near our home.”*

  4. One wonders about the relevancy of “Black lives matter in Trinidad& Tobago”.
    Since Independence T&T has had a predominance of Blacks in all positions of power.
    The PM and Deputy PM are Black
    The President is Black.
    The Chief Justice is Black
    The Chief of Police and his Deputy are Black.
    The majority of the Parliamentarians are Black.
    The Speaker of the House is Black.
    The majority of the heads of Local Government Corporations are Black
    The majority of the Parliamentary Secretaries are Black.
    The majority of the NGO’s are led by Blacks.
    The majority of the private corporations are headed up by Blacks.
    The face of the Media and its contents are primarily Black.
    The major cultural influences are Black.

    Are Blacks left behind?

    1. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” is not simply about skin color as TMan appear to be asserting. If it were, there won’t be people in Europe, Africa, Asia, China, South America, Middle East and yes even India protesting against the systematic bias they face in their daily lives using that slogan. In some places such bias is more evident than others but nevertheless when racism, bias and oppression is faced by stigmatized peoples, it raises a concern that should be addressed and corrected from a systematic point of view, hence the reason displaced peoples in Syria sought to identify themselves as such.

      In the history of Trinidad and Tobago, there has never been an organized effort to concentrate solely on the lives of black people. Every organized effort made to elevate lives of the poorer class (even those led by black leaders) never targeted black people singlularly as victims. The beneficiary of these efforts have always been multi ethnic and multi-racial groups.
      The black power movement occurred when the country was ruled by “a black government”. The Labour movement in its battles for better wages and working conditions, while led by black leaders were never meant to benefit black people only. Indians benefitted from these movements just as much when the corrections to the disputed conditions were made. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” highlights a condition in life that suffocates a group (black American life) by denying them basic human and commercial amenities that their white counterpart enjoys. But
      that is not to say that other groups are not equally denied or strangulated by the same condition. The condition of the native American Indian is probably worse than that of black Americans.

      The dalits and muslims in India have used the phrase to highlight
      the conditions in that country. They too are denied basic human and the ability to uplift themselves that the hindu majority enjoys. In the case of the muslims, their basic citizenry status is being questioned by the hindu leader of that country.

      There is a big difference between “Black Lives Matter” and “All
      Lives Matter”. All Lives Matter is just a simple phrase to counter and diffuse the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement.

      1. I agree with everything you are saying and I am fully aware of the relevance and importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in other jurisdictions.
        I believe that in T&T , Poor Lives Matter.
        People populating poor and distressed areas are totally disadvantaged by the education system which encourages and caters to those who belong to the conventional middle class and the elites. There are poor students from depressed areas who occasionally break through but this success is not the norm.
        Conforming to the demands of the SEA and guaranteeing a spot in a prestige school is not an education system. It is a continuation of a failed tradition, resulting in depriving poor kids of an education because they learn differently and may have talents and abilities which do not fit the expected mould.
        It seems that the majority of these young people who are shut out are Black. Where do they end up?
        I am encouraged by the recent statements of the new education minister who is promising to make relevant changes. Let’s see if this materializes.

        1. No doubt, the education system as is currently constituted is poor. I am not impressed with what passes as a “good education” either. The quality of the education is played out everyday in public
          life and what comes out as “informed” surely lacks pedigree. I think our education system needs to revisit its curriculum to provide a well rounded product. In the so called depressed areas, people no longer see an education as a means towards a better life because the economy lacks a more diverse opportunity.
          I think an education that focuses on academics, technical training and agricultural training will will produce a better society.

Comments are closed.