Judge not by colour

By Raffique Shah
February 08, 2014

Raffique ShahI know there are many people in the country who think that Keith Rowley is too black to be Prime Minister. I didn’t need Fitzgerald Hinds to tell me that, although his charge that such sentiment emanates from the bowels of the PNM, from important persons in the party, did surprise me somewhat.

I don’t know why we bury our heads in the sand when the issue of colour prejudice, which is often linked to race prejudice, rears its ugly head in the society. It has always been there, and, I imagine, it always will be. Most people of lighter or whiter complexion, whatever their ethnicity, believe they are superior to others who are dark-skinned, or worse, black.

But let me explain why I state categorically that there are people who believe that Rowley is too black to lead the country. Ever since he emerged in the front rank of the PNM, but more so since he assumed leadership of the party in the wake of its electoral defeat in 2010, I have heard many Indians or fair-skinned persons of mixed, sometimes dubious race, say, “Rowley too damn racial!”

On several occasions when such statement was made to me or in my presence, I asked the accusers, “Why do you say that? Can you point to an instance in which he showed racism?” Invariably, those making the wild charges would be stumped, unable to adduce one shred of evidence to support their allegations.

“Well…well…well,” they would mutter. “Well, what?” I would ask. “Why do you say he is racial?” “Well, he looks that way! Too besides, he crude! And (Patrick) Manning call him a Rottweiler!”

Now, I am not talking about one or two persons: I am talking about scores, in different locations, at different times, but mostly after he became leader of the PNM, and within recent time, a candidate for Prime Minister. Interestingly, there were some very black people among them, but that did not surprise me. You need to read Frantz Fanon to understand why some black people hate their own.

In the scenarios I described above, I deduced that these people detested Rowley based on two factors. First, he is black…very black (don’t give me the dark-skinned bull). Second, he leads the PNM, a party that many people love to hate, some with good reason, others without rhyme or reason.

On this latter score, if there is one man in this country who should go to his grave with hatred for the PNM, it would be me. Based on my revolutionary convictions and my involvement in the events of 1970, and the fact that to this day there are PNM fanatics and racists who believe I should be dead for my role then, I should hate them and their party.

But I don’t. I treat the PNM as I would any other political party: I belong to none, I jealously guard my independence, and I insist on my right to give praise where it’s due or criticism when necessary.

I have known Rowley as a government minister with whom I needed to interact, and as a politician with whom I sometimes had civil conversation. And not once then, nor indeed since, have I had cause to believe he is ‘racial’. If I did, I would pounce on him like the proverbial tonne of bricks.

However, I know too many fair-skinned creoles and ‘red people’ who, while they may mix with blacks, will never accept them as leaders—political, institutional or corporate. And I know too many Indians who would be very upset with their sons or daughters who are in relationships with black Indians (yes, there are many black Indians: black is a colour, not a race) or Africans.

But the aforementioned hypocrites would easily embrace whiter-shades-of-pale of inferior stature or intellect or looks as leaders or as sons or daughters-in-law. Ah lie?

Admittedly, such prejudices are personal matters. People have the right to determine who their friends and in-laws are, just as they have the right to be racists.

What they must never be allowed to do is get away with the hypocrisy of denying their prejudices when they are caught out. Watch how many of them who will never support the PNM even if a ‘maharaja’ is leading the party, are campaigning against Rowley because he is blacker than Penny Beckles, because they do not want him as Prime Minister.

As for the PNM faithful and its financiers who are similarly inclined, maybe their prejudice is understandable. The party never had someone as black as Rowley as its leader. Dr Eric Williams was brown, George Chambers was a ‘red man’, and Patrick Manning brown.

However, leadership of the PNM is PNM business, not mine, not yours.

I have heard some party people charge that Rowley has grown arrogant since he assumed leadership, that he does not acknowledge loyalists who have remained faithful during lean times, that he has his own cabal.

If hubris has set in before the prize, he will pay the ultimate price. But for humanity’s sake, do not judge the man by his colour.

19 Responses to “Judge not by colour”


  • “What they must never be allowed to do is get away with the hypocrisy of denying their prejudices when they are caught out.”……..Raffique Shah. Well said Raf. That statement represents the essence of what has made Trinidad an un-governable state. It is an undeniable truth of what the average Trinidadian goes to sleep with at night and opens his or her eyes with in the morning. Factual truth has no place in the history of this behavioral understanding because it gives the “I betta dan you” feeling. That is the reward the mind receives for innate prejudice and pride, no matter how foolish because without facing evidence to the contrary, they know that there are many who share their views. That in itself is the satisfaction for bedevilling the character of Mr. Rowley whose very behavior has cleared the way for a ‘lighter’ group of people to be in governance today because of his principled stand against the leaders of his own party. In defense of this inferior and prejudicial practice I must add that that is what COLONIALISM is all about. We were fed with and accepted the food of colonialism from the very beginning of landing on these shores by our “masters” from Europe and today even though the majority of our residents are either dark or dark brown, our preferred color is light, light brown or tan. As evidence of this, I too must acknowledge an act of inferiority on my part where, when Barrack Obama first appeared on the scene as a choice between himself and Hillary, I thought that he stood no chance therefore he should allow Hillary to run without any opposition. This is clearly an instance of “inferiority” laid in my head from birth (colonialism) that takes education and lack of self love to eradicate from my innate perception of self. I have similarly heard and spoke with people black like me and blacker than me who cannot bring it within themselves to accept the black man but will accept the more corrupted ‘lighter’ one with no comment. There is evidence aplenty to show the black (Trinidadian) man, especially when in a position of authority who will defend his fellow black when disparaging remarks or actions are made about his color. Case in point, when the AG made that asinine charge that Mr Manning tief the piano, not one black man of public repute got up and publicly castigate him for his public in-humility. I am sure privately they must have thought of the AGs behavior as stupid, uncivil,disrespectful and unparliamentary but in order to feel ‘accepted’ by the others they felt such defense is belittling to their standard. There is evidence to show that Mr. Rowley is the only and foremost political icon that offers Trinidad a chance to correct the advance of our direction towards a demise to total uncivil behavior and unrest, because he is clear headed, fair and a true Trinidadian with grit and purpose. Our government is falling apart with “takers” at its helm and the outcry is muted with fear and uncertainty. Mr. Rowley has acted without fear and favor to warn us that the “Reshmi” affair was disastrous, he told us that putting Jack Warner in positions of authority would have been awkward and dangerous, he told us that the SOE was backward and racist, he stood alone and in full public view of the emails which those in power tried to caste aside insanity but are afraid to pursue. He has clearly shown that he is a leader who is not afraid to take positions where strength and courage is needed. The color of his skin has nothing to do with ability and character. I do not take the position that ‘lighter’ means better and ‘darker’ means inferior. The whole world (Europe, Asia,the Americas, Africa, Australia) celebrates a black man, Nelson Mandella as the very epitome of strength and fortitude. Black begin ugly is a figment of the European imagination that has been fed to all and sundry where we are taught to be less than the “European” if we do not accept their figment. I say “damn you” to those who think that Mr. Rowley is too black to be my Prime Minister and all good minded people should rise against those who privately and publicly echo such asinine sentiments. The majority of Trinidadians are of the darker hue and we should therefore kick against those who foster these treatments of a good and decent man as Mr. Rowley. Good and bad come in all colors. We accept it without comment when it comes from the lighter hue so let us now accept when it comes from the darker hue…….Amen!

    • Rowley is unfit to become the PM of T&T, not because of his dark skin color but because of his frequent and deliberate errors in judgement and his persistent inability to control his emotions at critical times when cool, sober and timely responses are required by any Opposition Leader or Prime Minister.
      Rowley is leaving behind him a questionable trail of serious,improper decisions arrived at too hastily without proper consideration. The list is very long but most recently, his questionable actions on his “midnight” meeting with the head of the Integrity Commission, his unchecked and unproven email fiasco and his alignment with the OWTU without proper and adequate evidence, all prove his unsuitability to be PM.
      The media is already pronouncing the death of the PP in 2015 but let us not forget that Panday pulled off a tie when government was stolen from him at a time when the political pundits had written off his government. It was the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that an undefeated PM had to surrender his government to the leader of the Opposition as ordered by the President.

  • In today’s world, the color of money reigns.

    • Whilst this is a truism to a great extent, it can also mean that amongst those who have it(money) in abundance they see no color in the person. But God help you if you don’t share in the wealth. It is there most black people find themselves (without enough money to buy food, clothes and shelter for their families).
      It is very common in Trinidad to hear non-Africans speak about the laziness and the lack of the African to earn money as fast as the Indian, because they do not possess the acumen to run a good and profitable business or is not qualified enough to get a ‘good job’. Here, the color of money makes a huge difference. And one can be assured that there are not enough negative names to call the man who do not have it. In Trinidad, shades of color counts. In my family, as with many others that I know, those in the family with the lighter shade of pale are better off financially and socially than us in the darker side of the family. We are super sensitive about the shades we think that matter most and are only too happy to mention it when we need to. One of the richest man in this world, Bill Gates is on record as admitting that he gets the most pleasure by giving away most of his money. Yes giving!, there is pleasure in giving but it must be to the deserving. Oprah Winfrey built a boarding school in South Africa for the deserving and it brings great pleasure in the results of the academic prowess of those who were chosen to benefit from the education. In observation, how many rich people in Trinidad that we know take it upon themselves to generously use the profits of their ‘government contracts’ to help those less fortunate? Not ANY. Greed permeates our society where 99% of the rich get rich through the comfort of their dear friends in government. That money is the peoples money no matter how you twist it. They share the spoils more with their benefactors than with they people who actually make it happen through taxes, incomes, fines etc, etc. It is easier to call those of the darker shades all the negative names than those of the lighter shade.

  • The twin legacies of Colonialism and the Caste complex introduce by the Indentured continue to influence the views of citizens of T&T. I had long suspected that the visceral hate exhibited by many for Rowley was the product of fear and apprehension over his potential to become PM, and the racist anguish that they would have to live under the administration of someone like this.

    And it is not only to be black. It is to be black and not “their black”. A black who shuffles obsequiously and panders to the ethnic masturbatory acceptance of “their superiority”.

  • Rowley can be accused of many political failings as a Member of Parliament(just ask Manning) and as Leader of the Opposition(just ask Beckles)but I agree with Raff, he had never demonstrated any racial animosity. As a matter of fact, he had been making a special effort to make his Party more inclusive.

  • I do believe in “giving Jack his jacket” especially when a statement is represented by facts and in this regard I commend TMan’s contribution on this article as objective. On this forum our arguments should be not just on how we feel but also how issues affect our intelligence not our loyalty, while it is ok to express our frailties and fears we should not cloud the realities of the situations we face as individuals, ethnic groupings, our communities and our national identification. To this end our conversations will always remain mature and objective and that is what we should strive for. Personal attacks should not be encouraged. We should minimize this effort to build healthy and meaningful objectives. This election will be interesting and the issue of ‘color’ is very real. I have read the comments of those who have occupied high office, present and past that think the mere mention of this “jumbie” should not be brought to the limelight. To those who try to sweep this issue under the rug I say “damn you!”. We cannot grow by hiding all our bad habits by refusing to discuss them. The majority of us “live” it and are troubled by it, so why not discuss it? It is a little disconcerting when a country whose majority is peopled by those of the darker hue is prevented to be governed by one of its own. Are we trying to impress the visitor who lands at Piarco and looks up at the governing wall to see people who look like them only so that they can feel comfortable? This is backward thinking and one that should be discouraged and blasted out of our psyche.

  • Here is an example of Rowley’s politics. He shoots his mouth off without thinking….the raging bull again!

    Why Rowley ‘upset’ with Sparrow, Minshall awards?

    UNC: Here everyone is equal…

    Story Created: Feb 20, 2014 at 10:03 PM ECT

    (Story Updated: Feb 20, 2014 at 10:03 PM ECT )

    THE United National Congress (UNC) said yesterday that Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley seemed offended that calypsonian the Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco) and masman Peter Minshall journeyed to Penal to celebrate with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
    Rowley on Wednesday criticised Persad-Bissessar, saying her announcement of ‘gifts’ in recognition of the work of the two artistes was “cheap”, “classless” and “political”.
    Persad-Bissessar on Wednesday announced Sparrow will be given the Order of Trinidad and Tobago, the highest national award, and have his medical expenses picked up by the State, while Minshall would be given the deed to a State property at Federation Park where he has lived for several years.
    Minshall and Sparrow celebrated with Persad-Bissessar at the Siparia Women’s Association Children’s Carnival at Bhupsingh Park, Penal, on Wednesday.
    Persad-Bissessar left yesterday for a State visit to China.
    In a statement issued yesterday by the party’s acting chairman Khadijah Ameen, the UNC said Rowley’s displeasure stemmed from the fact that the event took place in Penal.
    “Keith Rowley is deeply offended because Sparrow and Peter Minshall went to Penal. Both men are associated with Carnival and the event was a Children’s Carnival parade and competition to which both men were invited,” the party stated.
    “So what’s ‘unacceptable’ about that? They certainly don’t share Dr Rowley’s juvenile opinion.
    “Dr Rowley’s problem is Penal. It’s the same problem he has with a Children’s Hospital in Couva, a University Campus in Debe and anything that happens outside his preferred constituencies.”
    In a story carried in yesterday’s Express, Rowley was quoted as saying, “To take them down, as national icons, to her constituency, to play politics with them and their award, and to have the most tacky presentation of an award to Sparrow and Peter Minshall, was most improper.”
    The UNC questioned Rowley’s opinion, stating, “What is wrong with ‘national icons’ going to Penal?
    “What he is saying is that these national icons don’t belong in Penal.”
    Rowley had also said that he would have preferred that the event took place in a “politically neutral” location in keeping with the character of their contribution.
    The UNC asked whether Rowley’s definition of neutrality in location meant the capital city of Port of Spain.
    “What makes Port of Spain less political than Penal or Fyzabad or Point Fortin?,” the party said, adding that Rowley had also implied that “Carnival” was out of character for Penal.
    “Dr Rowley’s puerile comments show his continuing lack of class and a divisiveness that has characterised his politics throughout his career,” the UNC stated.
    “It is also a trademark of the People’s National Movement (PNM). It was his former boss Patrick Manning, who said Kamla Persad-Bissessar was not fit to be Prime Minister because she was from Siparia.”
    The party “Rowley and his followers” must accept that Trinidad and Tobago is “one country that celebrates its diversity and where everyone is equal”.
    “The fact that Sparrow and Minshall went to Penal to receive the honour they deserve is a tribute to them and a signal they understand that we are one country and one people,” the party stated.
    “Keith Rowley and the People’s National Movement (PNM) must stop embarrassing the people of Trinidad and Tobago by their consistent divisive tribal politics.”

  • We assert strongly and unrepentantly, Dr. Rowley is too black, in fact too damned black to be the Prime Minister of this country. And it is a blackness that non African Trinbagonians, particularly and specifically our Indian population should dread, if indeed he becomes Prime Minister.

    But the blackness I refer to is not that of his skin tone or complexion but to the excessive blackness of his inner being, his mentality, his consciousness and most all all the blackness of his heart. It is a blackness which in our view has expressed itself on simply too many occasions, having punctuated too many of his political rants going back to the time he called for COSTAATT and UWI to single out young African males for preferential treatment so that they could gain an advantage over non African students when applying for admission to the institutions’ degree programmes.

    Over the last two or three years this blog has repeatedly objected to “the frequent, irrelevant and uncalled for references to the Prime Minister personal attributes in so many official PNM responses on national issues” and the party’s “irrational dislike of and animosity towards her” that are not only needlessly adversarial but beyond the cut and thrust of normal political rivalry and disagreement, almost personal one could say.

    Rasta Head Fitzgerald Hinds is no better. Neither is Marlene Macdonald. Their political mindsets are just as black, dreadful, malicious and envious. Hinds has made unnecessary and irrelevant reference to the Prime Minister being “all coiffed and made up”. He was incensed that some Rasta youth had kissed the Prime Minister’s hand; he called the youngster an “idiot” and said he felt like “cutting off the youth’s ‘Dred Locks’ for that act”. Macdonald took issue with the Prime Minister’s sweaters saying “She (the Prime Minister) trying to look cute like Michelle Obama in her pink sweaters but leh me tell she she ent cute and she ent no Michelle Obama”

    Who wants to look like Michelle Obama, anyhow? And what do Kamla Persad Bissessar’s beautiful face, hair, clothes and shoes have to do with the politics of the country?

    But to get back to the main purpose of this commentary. It is our view that the best palliative, at least symbolically, for the kind of poisonous invective and black venom that are routinely spat from the stank and putrid darkness of the Balisier patch would be a Penny Beckles victory in the upcoming internal PNM elections.

    • I do not understand what this writer was saying except that it’s obvious he hates black people, especially those who are in the public eye. This is not new to us because we survived the most vicious form of man’s inhumanity to man, brutality (slavery), self deprivation, psychological inferiority and social ostracism. In spite of this we excelled in every field of endeavor that were hitherto kept away from us. Yes, “from the stank and putrid darkness of the Balisier patch” the black man negotiated a bloodless independence agreement with the masters that we are so proud of today, he educated the population both academically and politically and was honest enough to allow all to have an even chance at upliftment. The venom comes from those who never shed blood yet demanded their “fair share” – and got it. Those who never stood in defiance of the white master yet demanded and shared in the dividends of it’s results. From the “putrid darkness” they fought the unfairness of slave labour with the colonials for a fair share that accounted for the good wages that you now take for granted and believes is due to you. They were hunted by the colonial forces like stray dogs in demanding to eat at the same table with the masters – and they got it. You were not among the hunted but you reap the benefits now fed from the table. In the “putrid darkness” we demanded, protested and got equal rights that all enjoy today. We excelled intellectually, physically, psychologically and yes, sexually to the begrudging of the likes of this writer. These rantings are the embodiment of hate by those who sit at the table they feel people who come from the “putrid darkness” are no longer entitled because they sit at the mantle of governance.

      • Kian,

        Your response tells me that you really have not understood what you have read.

        Black people excelling sexually “to the begrudging of the likes of this writer”??? How did you get there???

        But just to indulge your foolishness I will remind you that every horse hung African called “LoLo Man” has his Indian counterpart called “ToTo Sawh”.

        And what does Dr.Rowley’s inner blackness (which is what I was referring to) have to do with his skin tone or complexion (which I was not referring to).

        And what does the former have to do with black people in general?

        Maybe you should go back to school under this People’s Partnership Government. Literacy standards have improved remarkably within the last four years

        • Maybe you should continue finding foul names to call black people, I think it might provide therapy for your inner hatred.

          • Tsk, tsk, tsk.

            There you go again, Kian, indulging in what Trini-Indians call ‘gyan’. Try to rise above over the inferiority complex that colours your rants. It is not only demeaning to you but debilitating as well and will eventually consume you.

        • “Maybe you should go back to school under this People’s Partnership Government. Literacy standards have improved remarkably within the last four years”…….Radar

          Maybe that’s why I can’t understand you. Its too complicated and meanings too un-literal.

  • Contrary to Tman in usual attempt to hid what really drives his antipathy for Rowley, and in keeping with Raffique’s “What they must never be allowed to do is get away with the hypocrisy of denying their prejudices when they are caught out.”…….., Rowley is far more qualified to lead T&T than his two supremacist kin folk who is not even qualified ethically and morally to lead a girl’s guide troop. History has shown us that the most danger to any society comes from those with cultural and religious prejudices that is generational, concretized and permanent.

    Let us examine this from a historical context. Here you have someone who comes from a cultural and religious background with a history of dismissing the qualifications of people with Rowley’s physical African features, trying to disguise what everyone, except the most obtuse, knows influence and drive his opinion. Well, wake up old chap, we have peeped your whole card a long time ago, so you can no longer hide behind the fatuous postulations of “he lacks judgment”. Of course he lacks judgment in your eyes, because good judgment for you translates into him accepting the inherited skewed values you and many more bring to the politics of T&T and the Caribbean.

  • I’m not sure Radar adds to the conversation but he thinks that he does, so I will allow him to rant and rave about his love and support for the UNC. Bye Radar……….

  • Radar wrote, And what does Dr.Rowley’s inner blackness (which is what I was referring to) have to do with his skin tone or complexion (which I was not referring to).

    Rowley’s inner blackness? You must have jumped out of some ignorant and backward racist barrel that inhibits you from understanding how absolute stupid this statement is. What inner blackness. What biological and psychological discipline recognizes “inner blackness”. Inner blackness is a product of the ignorant assumption that you can vent your racist antipathy under the disguise of some deceitfully concocted concept without challenge. Your inner narrow assed prejudice is laid bare in that assertion.

    A hostility to blackness have always been the key element that drives racial antipathy, because it conflicts with the preferred coloration standard handed down from generation to generation. When the white man relinquished his power and racist role in the Commonwealth Caribbean, little did we know that there was a replacement even more devious waiting eagerly to assume that role. So please, spare us your explanation. We can see the direct genealogical link between you and your Aryan Ancestors who adopted the same kind of reasoning to explain their supremacist views.

    One thousand plus years of culturally passed down concepts that stratifies humans on a scale of superior and inferior, I will argue, is far more predictable of internal pollution id the soul and mind than your confused synthesizing of blackness with negativity. What limb did they find you hanging upside down from?

    • Rodwell, Indian bloggers like Radar almost never get involved in details or imaginative process that lead to better understanding of an issue, because they are always too willing and eager to want to show themselves as superior or better educated whilst denigrating blackness with inferiority. There must be someone that has to be seen(in their eyes) as unimportant, so they can position themselves as important, so this is Radar’s opportunity to be “seen” as important. Read the blogs in the dailies and it is easy as cherry pie to pick them out. Motives of self-importance is always present, they may not necessarily clarify a point but putting down others as “stupid”, “unintelligent”, “uninformed” or “uneducated” will always accompany their comments. Rodwell, they read our blogs and know they are not dealing with fools, so sending us “back to school under this People’s Partnership Government” is their way of expressing “superiority”. No different from Sat When he says let the Africans beat pan while the Indian beat books.
      Racism under the PP is alive and well even in Carnival. Read the results of the Calypso competition from winner to looser. It range from the appreciated “wedding” to the most hated “false papers” in order of acceptance. The grading is the same as the caste system, from highest to lowest. Finally, I believe that giving prominence to the puerile comments of Radar is a waste of good time.

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