By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 14, 2012
Sometimes in our enthusiasm, we say extraordinarily silly things; such as the mutterings of Dr. Neil Parsan, our Ambassador in Washington, D.C. What is one to do with the following statement: “The Indian diaspora is a formidable force in Trinidad and Tobago, the largest numerical representation in the entire Caribbean; the most well-to-do and culturally strong and progressive ethnic group in the uniquely plural society of T&T.”
It is certainly true that Indians in Trinidad and Tobago form a part of the Indian diaspora and, as the largest ethnic group, represent “a formidable force in Trinidad and Tobago.” I presume the same is true for Africans who represent approximately 38 per cent of the population. They, too, are a formidable force in the society. There is nothing unique about this phenomenon. However, it is false to argue that “the Indian diaspora. . .is the largest numerical representation in the entire Caribbean.” The facts belie this assertion. For example, the entire population of Trinidad and Tobago (1,227,505); Guyana (744,768) and Suriname (491,989) where there is a substantial Indian presence is approximately 2,464,262. If we argue that 60 percent of the population of those countries are Indians, then we can conclude that approximately 1,500,000 Indians live the Indian diaspora in the Caribbean.
On the other hand, if we took the African populations in Haiti (9,716,932); Jamaica (2,868,380); and Barbados (286,705) we find that there are 12,872,017 persons (Africans) in these three countries alone. If we subtract 10 per cent for non-Africans, we can conclude that in those three countries the African population is about 11,584,816. Thus, Dr. Parsan is incorrect on his figures.
The next question is this: what does Dr. Parsan mean when he says that the Indians are “the most well-to-do and culturally strong and progressive ethnic group” in our plural society? I would grant him that the Indians have prospered under fifty years of Independence. What I am not sure of is how one measures the strength of a culture and its progressive content. Is Dr. Parsan willing to say that Hinduism and the culture it spawns is “more progressive” than the other cultures (“African culture”; Chinese culture; etc.,) in “our uniquely plural culture?” Is Dr. Parsan willing to say that all the cultures we find in Trinidad and Tobago are worthwhile but one—the Hinduism—is of more valuable and more worthwhile than the others?
Dr. Parsan’s utterances is a good case of Indian chauvinism gone wild and the tremendous amount of uninformed persons who represent us at national and international levels. When we place such mis-information and religious bias on our Trinidad and Tobago website we certainly need to think again about the poison we pour out into the world and the divisiveness we create at home.
Let us celebrate all of our cultures, even the last one that arrived on our shores. Our motto ought to be: Charity in all things; magnanimity in all of our actions.