Is Sat Really a Racist?

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 13, 2016

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeLast Sunday, in this newspaper, Sat Maharaj mentioned casually (or perhaps not so casually) that he couldn’t possibly be a racist since I was his best friend and Desmond Hoyte was a close friend. Most of my friends were aghast that Sat should consider me to be among his best friends and, even if we are, they asked, why should he use our friendship to camouflage his racism?

The same morning I appeared on “Showdown” on i95.5 fm. One of the hosts asked if I believe Sat is a racist. I answered No! The listeners’ responses were fast and furious. The next day (Monday) the offending clip was replayed as a news item after which listeners were asked if they agreed with my position. I was at the National Archive so I did not hear the responses. However, I was told that many listeners disagreed with my assessment of Sat.

As early as 1994 George “Umbala” Joseph in his own Inimitable manner asked me the same question. My response was the same: I do not believe Sat is a racist. Sat advocates for his people, the Hindus, as loudly as he can. I do not believe that makes him a racist.

I have been doing a similar thing for my people for the past fifty years. I have devoted my entire academic, political, and social life advocating for the rights of my people, at home and abroad. That does not make me a racist.

A racist is someone who believes that his or her racial group is superior to another group and deliberately discriminates against that group purely on the basis of a person’s racial origins. Moreover, a racist has the power to withhold certain goods and services from others simply on the basis of the power he holds over them solely because of their racial origin as was/is practiced in places such as the United States and South Africa.

I am not aware that Sat believes that his group is superior to my group (even though he has said some unfortunate things) or that he possessed the power to withhold (or has withheld) goods or services from the black community simply on the basis of our skin color, especially when Indians from Madras (we called them Madrasi or Madras Indians) are even of darker hue than many Africans.

I am aware that color plays an important part within the Varna, the Indian caste system, and that the word “varna” itself is taken from the Sanskrit, the literal meaning of which is “color.” Necessarily this has led to much speculation that within the various castes there has been much discrimination based on the difference in skin color. This itself may have led to various levels of color prejudice within the Hindu group itself.

But then again, that’s nothing new. Within African groups in the Americas the question of colorism remains a chief concern in that one is more likely to gain certain economic and/or social benefits the lighter one’s color is. This has led to the saying, “If you’re White you’re alright; if you’re Brown stick around; if you’re Black get back.”

When Sat’s wife died I was the only black person (as far as I remember) who attended the wake at his home in Champs Fleurs. The following day I attended the cremation in central Trinidad. I sympathized with Sat as I would have with any of my friends, black, white, or pink, who lost a dear one.

Correspondingly when I launched my book, Indian Time Ah Come, at the Port of Spain Town Hall, during the first months of UNC’s reign, Sat delivered a major address even though he disagreed with some aspects of the book and found the title in bad taste. But he came to support me and that was important.

Although Sat says offensive things, that does not necessarily make him a racist. Sometimes he is even unaware of the hurt he causes others. In spite of these shortcomings, Sat will go down in our history as someone who worked arduously for the betterment of his group-that is neither a bad nor racist thing to do.

10 thoughts on “Is Sat Really a Racist?”

  1. Sat is not a racist, he speak bluntly for those he represent but racist no. Many years ago I had a friend from the black power movement, he loved his people and taught me how to love my own. He worked hard to improve the lot of his people. Yet the very people he was helping many turn against him. I suppose in some ways his zeal rubbed of on me and at times I have been a bit of an antagonist. The SDMS school that I attended had black, white, Muslims and Christians. Of course they were in the minority but the doors were open to all. Education was very import to the community.

    1. Mamoo, I really admire you. I don’t keep copies of your writings, but I am sure you might have referred to Dr. Selwyn Cudjoe as a PNM racist before. You have referred to most Afro-Trinis as either PNM or racist or both, but never an Indo-Trini, even Suruj Rambachan or Anand Ramlogan.
      Dr. Cudjoe is simply avoiding controversies by his answer. So what say you about Dr. Eric Williams?

      1. Dr. Cudjoe has changed over the years, that does not mean he is no longer pro-black or anti PNM. He being a child of the PNM with Eric being a great inspiration to him, growing up in the pan Africana era where racism was a reality I am sure he had to overcome many obstacles during his lifetime. Reminds of the black intellectual who went to give a talk on peanuts, he was shown the back door until the white fellow at the door realized he was the guest speaker(haha). Fronts as people head into their latter years they realise their own frailty and try to make friends rather than enemies. They realise the futility of humanity wrapped in hate produces only a cocondrum of slain innocent bodies. For which there can be no balm.

        As for Eric he was an enigma, a man who added much to the national framework. He will always be loved and hated as any leader of a political party post colonialism. So I can only write from mine perspective. I was just a boy but I owe my post primary school education due to Eric. I think as a national leader Eric did much for development. The father of TnT industrial revolution was Errol Mahabir a man whose name should be in every TNT history books. The Point Lisas industrial estate was his Labour of love, but that was only possible because Eric saw the nation as a whole and despite strong resistance from within his party he moved along for the national good. They were telling Eric why are you building anything there that is an opposition area. Under Eric I could travel and come home late at night due to the “pax Trinidada” ( the peace in the nation). Also Eric was a giving PM we had our roads fixed, we had a truck borne supply of water. People found employment. The struggle that we face was with the government service that was predominantly Africana, arrogant and unresponsive to the public good. Eric gets blame for it but it was not entirely his fault as tribalism and power meant oppressing all perceived opposition. Now that is mine perspective seeing things from a distance. But others would see it differently.

  2. Selwyn Cudjoe is way off the mark. By virtue of the tenets of Hinduism, proudly espoused by Sat Maharaj and his pundits, he is, without question, racist. Contrary to what Cudjoe may think, Sat Maharaj believes that his group is superior to Africans. In Brahaminist cosmology, as the SDMS pundits have preached on the airways, Black people came about when Ram (Hindu god) burned Ravana (their idea of a devil). In other words, Africans, in their view, are absent of divinity. Thus, when Sat said that he would disown his daughter if she marries an African, he was not making that statement because of mere religious differences; he never said he would disown her if she married a non-Hindu (Indian, European, Chinese etc.). He was very specific in singling out Africans, because, in his view, they are demonic, inferior beings. Thus, racism is at the very heart of the Brahaminist belief system of which Sat Maharaj is an ardent devotee.

    One major difference in Trinidad, however, is that unlike India, he cannot exercise his racism to the extent that “goods and services” are withheld from Africans to keep them in a permanent state of subjugation. Further, Africans do not, for the most part, believe that they are innately inferior beings who must accept upper caste abuses as many dark-skinned Indians are conditioned to do in India. However, Sat does have the power to deny Africans equal treatment in their schools, an allegation that has been made even by a principal in one of his schools. He also has the power as a religious leader to mis-educate many Hindus into accepting and treating Africans as inferior. His entire Hindu campaign is not about the betterment of Hindus per se, but most importantly political and financial control for himself.

    While there is indeed colorism in the African community resulting from legacies of slavery and colonialism, to compare this to Brahaminist Hinduism where this colour hierarchy carries the weight of the law of god is really disingenuous . . . especially when trying to absolve Sat Maharaj from the charge of racism.

    I think Cudjoe is trapped by his delusion of ‘friendship’ as well as by previous statements he made in defense of Sat, so he is spinning now to defend past positions. Or, it could be worse: he just does not understand racism as he thinks he does.

  3. JustRight, you are so on point with your comment. It is like saying, “My best friend is black, but I would not want my son or daughter to marry a black person”.

  4. would him calling sat a racist label him as a racist since he agrees that he does the same thing . “I have been doing a similar thing for my people for the past fifty years.”
    Personally i think both of them are racist .

  5. Dr. Cudjoe is just trying to keep a fragile nation from breaking, exploding, erupting.

    Don’t think it will work…

  6. The Christian proverb says, there is a friend that is closer than a brother. I believe there are may kinds of friends: some good, some better, and some whom others may even consider to be their best. But, there is nothing completely good about human nature. Some mean you no well, and they may laugh and smile in your face when things are fine, hence the term ‘so-called’ friends.
    How well does a friend or friends compare to the struggles someone goes through in life when it comes to family, community, and faith/religious convictions? They stand by you, through thick or thin, rain or shine, heat, and, cold. Much is yet to be seen and heard in the sense of reciprocation of thought, experience, and compassion in the person of Sat Maharaj.

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