The Racial Divide

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 16, 2020

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeWhen T&T gained independence in 1962 we reveled in the possibility that we had set ourselves upon a path to deal with the problems of colonialism, particularly the sinful racism, that had disfigured our society. In 1970, disappointed that Black people were still being denied jobs and position because of their color, the Black Power Rebellion added the struggle of anti-blackness to the national agenda.

Fifty years after independence, we are still plagued with racial discrimination even though it has taken a different dimension. In the 1970s we were faced with white over black racism, today it’s brown over black, the former having inculcated some of the nastiest racial biases of the white ruling class.

The recent incident between Dr. Avinash Sawh and one of his workers demonstrates this tendency clearly. Sawh owns Medical Associates in San Fernando which hires many workers. He decreed that anyone applying to be a nurse in his employ had to submit a photograph because “some of his East Indian patients did not want nurses of African descent treating them.”

Sawh also referred to African police officers as being “uneducated and dunce n……” He threatened to fire the affected worker if she considered reporting him to the Labor Board. On Wednesday Sawh apologized for his behavior promising that “in the future he would hire nurses based on their qualifications, and not their race.” I thought that was the law of the land.

A few months ago the Ministry of Health fired Dr. Dhelia Gabriel, a medical intern assigned to the Port of Spain General Hospital, “after a video surfaced on social media of her using racial slurs towards a patient and her colleagues” (November 13). She says the Ministry “took away her future” by that decision.

Dr. Fuad Khan, a former member of the Medical Board of Trinidad, “believes no disciplinary action can be taken against Sawh because his behavior is not clearly defined under the [Medical Board] Act.” He argues that the case between Gabriel and Sawh is different because “Sawh works for himself, therefore cannot be fired by the Ministry of Health” suggesting that racist behavior is permitted when it is committed in the private rather than the public sphere.

Under the circumstances, it would be all right if Sawh decided not to hire a Black medical doctor because an Indian patient says that she did not want a Black doctor to attend to her. It’s a private establishment. According, to Khan, this behavior would not be subject to disciplinary action because “his action is not exactly defined under the Medical Board Act.” I remind Khan that the whites in the southern USA and the apartheid regime in South Africa practiced this behavior in the dark ages of colonialism. The Medical Board of those countries supported these practices by the laws on its books.

T&T’s Medical Board was established in 1887 in the bowels of colonial (read white) Trinidad where racism was rampant. Its constitution was amended in 1961 and 1976. It says: “Any person who established to the satisfaction of the Council that he holds a diploma…and that he is of good character and a fit and proper person to practice medicine shall upon application…be entitled to be a member of the Board.”

While its constitution denies membership for many things (such as using a “false or fraudulent representation”), it never included the practice of racism as an infraction that can deny a doctor the right to practice medicine. In 2020 racism is defined as a crime against humanity.

Even in its backwardness, Section 24 (3) of the Medical Board Act notes: “If the Council finds, after due enquiry, that a medical practitioner is suffering from a physical or mental condition might, if he continues to practice, constitute a danger to the public or a patient, the Council may suspend the member from practicing until such time as the opinion of the Council such member is able to resume practice.”

Sawh, an Indo-Trinidadian entrepreneur, holds a medical license that the people of T&T, through its laws, allows him to practice his profession and conduct his business. Today Sawh’s mental and psychological condition prevents him from acting in the best interest of his patients and the people of Trinidad. His behavior exasperates the tension between the two groups and contributes to a racial divide that grows deeper each day.

The Medical Board exists within a larger society which holds that certain practices are harmful, even detrimental, to our wellbeing. The rules of such a body should conduce to the overall social and mental health of the society. Sawh should be relieved of his medical license immediately and his health institution investigated thoroughly because he violated our most sacred trust: the elimination of all forms of racism within our ranks.

I had hoped the UNC would have been the first political body to condemn Sawh’s behavior. At the time of writing nothing, except the voice of Khan, one of its members, has been heard from that body. As an Indian-based party, it has a greater stake in this issue than the PNM.

Martin Wolf writes: “A successful democracy is far more than a set of institutions. The state must be seen to serve the interests of most citizens. The latter must also share patriotism-a love of country that transcends differences of social positions, political belief and economic interests” (FT, November 11, 2020).

Dr. Sawh’s racism is detrimental to his patients and the society. Therefore, it is in the state’s best interest to deny Sawh the privilege of practicing medicine in the country. He is likely to do more harm than good if he is not reprimanded for his anti-human behavior.

22 thoughts on “The Racial Divide”

  1. Dalit: The Black “Untouchables” of India-Dr. Velu Annamalai – YouTube

    How can T&T eradicate racism if indian racism is their religion?
    Brahmanism a.k.a. “Hinduism” has as it’s core belief white-supremacy (racism). Do you think brahmanists (“hindus”) referring to africans as monkeys is coincidence? The brahmanist holy book, the baghavad gita, refers to africans as “BANDHAR”….Bandhar means MONKEY! In ramleela, do you think the monkeys were real monkeys? They were indiginous black sri lankans!

  2. There is no racial ‘divide’ indian society is scornful and hateful of dark skin, african hair and african facial features! The indian muslims and presbyterians are converts from brahmanism/”hinduism”, and they carried over the racism to their new faiths…They also (as a group) practice anti-black racism !

    India Untouched: Stories of a People Apart – YouTube

  3. Dr. Cudjoe,
    Brahman-ists (“Hindus”) and indian/”Brown” society did not learn anti-black racism from white christian “ruling class”…they get their racism from their sacred textxs and fundamental religious tenets, which teach scorn and deeply rooted hatred for african people based on their phenotype (skin, hair, nose, lips, etc). The whites, chinese, middle easterners AND MULATTOS/”MIXED” africans do legitimize their racism by egging them on though…

  4. Dr. Cudjoe and the african “lick bottom” “educated” class are also a CRITICAL part of the problem though. When Dr. Cudjoe exonerated satnarayan maharaj, the hindu and indian community’s racism, he and the other africans in the media EMBOLDEN indian racism. The LIES told ad nauseum by indian racists who accuse PNM and africans of racism, it is merely a stepping stone to validate the racist hatred they plan to pour into the society ANYWAY as ‘religious duty’!

  5. Professor.. It is time to STOP this doltish ‘Brown, Indian’. thing.. Jesus… They are Black like TAR.
    Maybe it is time to move the discussion to, what is, TAMIL?. it’s AFRICAN links (The Fulani, Dravidian, etc.) Anyway, ‘Ma Kamala’ was just another ‘sister’ in the AA community… just look at her..

    And we need to stop the use of Dougla..

  6. Hue: A Matter of Color is a feature Canadian documentary by renowned director and cinematographer Vic Sarin, available from the Canadian Film Board. It is a personal yet global investigation into the history and current state of colorism: the discrimination within one ethnicity based on differences in skin tone. Sarin travels the globe to discuss this complex cross-cultural social issue with individuals whose lives it affects, including a Filipina entrepreneur whose business has flourished within the billion-dollar skin-whitening industry. Hue leads viewers on a thoughtful and surprising journey to the heart of a painful and pervasive social issue that not only polices appearance, but also class, gender, and geography.
    The issue of dark sink, hair texture and facial features cannot be easily generalized. This is a very complicated issue that goes beyond simple inter racial calling, generalization and biased opinions.

  7. It is the tradition of Dr Cudjoe to tar every Indian with the same racist brush as Dr. Sawh. This type of subtle stereotyping is deeply embedded in the psyche of tribalist.
    For the record Dr. Sawh represents himself and not all Indians. We are not a strongly homogeneous culture as some may think.
    What he said represents only his world view, he can choose to hire based on his clientele.

    Let me say I like my racist out there in the open. The most dangerous racist is the silent ones sitting in seats of power who use their position to pursue a racist agenda. It was the late Sat Maharaj who said “the central bank looked like the Congo”. He said that when Dr. Cudjoe a PNM political appointee was there on the Central Bank board.

  8. First I would like to say that Dr Avinash Sawh is an arrogant, fool who deserves to lose his medical licence for his racist comments. and Ariel Figaro sh and should be given a Medal for outing him.
    Now for the the more substantive subject of racism in T&T.
    Who is more racists than whom?
    Let us step back to the dawn of independence, 1962, and look at the media coverage of the celebrations-only one race is prominent. Look around you in the Police, Army, Trade Union Leaders, Permanent Secretaries, Prime Ministers etc and only one race is prominent. Now tell me who is more racist? For more than fifty years in T&T the Indians are being subjected to institutional racism and no one raises a whimper of protest on their behalf.

    1. LIES!
      Firstly, tariqandalus posted the name of the individual who he alleges outed his beloved doctor. This is the typical behaviour of the indian community’s racists, whenever one of “their own” gets exposed for racism against africans, they try to spite whoever did it. THIS is who Tariqandalus is
      Secondly, along with the hatred of african people comes the only thing that rivals the hate…DISHONESTY! Indian Anti-African racism is a TWIN with LIES!!!! Just as in india!!! Lies are served with the racism, to JUSTIFY it, by slandering the victim while cloaking themselves in FALSE VICTIMHOOD!!!
      Indian culture and religious beliefs regarding african people is 2500+ years of sickness that was purposely imported to african populated countries by the racist european colonialists, to UNDRMINE african people with hostile & recalcitrant racism!!

      Why I decided to reject Hinduism | openDemocracy

      Alternative Facts Of Indian Trinidadian racist, dishonest politics!!

      Ask anyone of age and integrity….Indians SHUNNED the police, army, fire-service etc because they considered these jobs “Dog Work” and an economic a dead end!!! When DID indians in large numbers enter the police service??? After availability of FIREARMS!!! Listen to the rarely spoken truth from an trinidad’s first indian officer in the regiment

      Raffique Shah – Memories of Regiment’s first Indian officer…a personal experience

    3. Who is more racist than whom? Who are the racists and who are the victims?????
      GLOBALLY Africans have 1300 years history of being VICTIMS of enslavement, racism and being ANTI-RACIST!
      GLOBALLY, Indians have a history & reputation of being the producers, worshippers, practitioners and EXPORTERS of the worlf’s ONLY racist religion and ELDEST system of apartheid and anti-black anti-african racism!! Indian racism is the twin, demonic sister of lies & deceit!!The intended target & victim of indian racism is the black african, and in order to justify their intended abuse, the target is SLANDERED!!!…LIES & DECEPTION are used as a “Primer” in order to facilitate the successful “adhesion” of the “coating” of racism they cannot help applying!! Indian racism is religious doctrine originated! Ever wonder why africans have so much documented history attacking european racism and promoting inter-ethnic unity, while indians ONLY attack and accuse africans of racism? Indian society sees evily only in black african FACES for 2,500 years!

      South Asian anti-black racism: ‘We don’t marry black people’ – BBC News

  9. There are lots of rabid racists – on both sides! Dr Sawh is one and it disgusts me what he said. I’m also disappointed in Dr Khan’s statements too. Then there is that Tobago police woman public servant who is supposed to protect us stated that the “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” It’s unfair to think that all black policeman think that way. There was a lot of silence on one side too. Then Manning publicly said that he didn’t want any Indian doctors to operate on him, hence the trips to Cuba. There’s the Calcutta ship thing – stirring fear of Indian ‘takeover.’ Check the lyrics of Sugar Aloes and Cro Cro. An organization called the National Empowerment of East Indian Peoples (NEEIP) would be called racist! Jesus said to check the mote on your eyes first…

    1. (NEEIP), Funny… ‘East’ Indian’? Just to make ‘me’ a ‘West Indian’?
      So Gopaul, are you a ‘West Indian- East Indian’ or an ‘East Indian-West Indian’? It doh get much more doltish dan dat, eh? We continue to dabble in the doltishness that the colonials orchestrated.
      Do you think if we were told of great men like Dr. Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga in our educational system, we would be in deep doo-doo with Covid or continue this foolish ‘Racial Drama’ in TT?

      How are you, Mr. Stephen Kangal?

Comments are closed.