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Race in UWI

This was sent to me and i am posting it for consideration and discussion.

Hey Everyone,

This is an extremely unfortunate matter to have to write about, but it bothered me so much, I felt I had to...

This bulletin is about racism in UWI, on the St Augustine campus in Trinidad. Today my friend and I were victims of racism, and in this instant, racial slurs were actually said to our faces. After only merely hearing about those incidents, it really surprised and hurt me when I experienced it first-hand. The following is more or less a condensed version of the incident.

My friend Trudy and I entered Rituals Coffee shop on campus Thursday afternoon to relax. We sat on couches that were seemingly free, because no-one was sitting on them, except for 2 Indian girls. About 10mins after that, 2 other Indian girls came to sit, informing me that I was in their seat. I obliged and sat next to Trudy on the adjoining couch. Eventually another Indian boy – I think his name is Aryan, and he belongs to the Hindu Society on campus - and Indian girl sat down too, filling up all three couches in the area. We sat there for awhile, minding our own business, when about 15mins after that another boy came, who was one girl's boyfriend. We were told rather curtly that they were 'saving' the particular seat we were in for him.

We said no, because we were tired, because we thought saving seats in a public place was ridiculous, and because we were leaving soon anyways. The whole group began to protest, and very rudely too. Trudy and I just kept telling them we would leave soon, and it was not fair to save seats in the coffee shop. The more we kept telling them not to get irate, and the hostility was not necessary, the more upset they became.

They began telling us, with no provocation, how we were 'low-class', and that we only understood 'market language'. They added that it was unfortunate that they had to deal with 'people like us', since we 'were obviously so ignorant', that even conversing with us was detrimental to them somehow. Aryan (the boy) even said that 'people like them like to take what isn't theirs and make it their own.' To this we said that those words were not necessary, that no-one was taking it to that base level. They refused to stop, and kept telling us about our up-bringing, class and education. Even so, we kept ignoring them.

Eventually, one girl got up saying that she could not stand to be around us anymore, that we were 'toxic people', and that being around us probably made her toxic too. When she said this, we said, "Ok then, go!" This must have upset her even more, because she doubled-back and was putting her hands close to our faces, plus she was practically screaming at us. We kept cutting her off, telling her it was a dead issue, there was no more conversation. She then pointed at us and said, "Thaz why all yuh so!!!" She then turned around and said, "Yuh see me, I fed up of them and their nigger mentality..."

Admittedly, I was so shocked I blurted out, "So is that a coolie mentality then?", asking about her to her behaviour. I was definitely not calling her a 'coolie', but merely pointing out to her that her actions were very vulgar. Under normal circumstances, I never say anything of that nature. However, by then I thought about all the derogatory comments they had been making the whole time, while I said nothing to disrespect them before her last comment.

Trudy was so upset by her remark that she followed her outside, and told her to never tell her anything of that nature again. Meanwhile, one of her friends on the couch indicated to me that I should not have made the 'coolie' comment, especially since she herself was of Indian descent - to which I replied, "So you didn't come to my defense when I was called a nigger?" I told her that I didn’t call anybody anything, least of all her. I then finished by saying, "Then stay out of this!"

The boy then proceeded towards the supervisor of Rituals. Even she was horrified that the girl brought race into the conversation. They complained to her, but even she had to tell them it was not policy to 'save' seats for friends in the shop.

Thus far, I have written a formal letter to the Guild of Students in hopes of getting this matter addressed. Trudy and I will also approach the University Newspaper, The Draft, to get our story published. If you have any comments, or even advice as to other forms of action which can be taken, please contact me at my e-mail address: ; or Trudy at Please use subject: Racism in UWI.

I have also tried to inform as much persons as I know about this incident to make people aware that it does happen. I also thought that circulating what happened to us would support our case, especially if the story somehow manages to change from their point of view.

I don't care what race you are, using racial slurs is totally uncalled for. I am also not making this an 'us against them' issue – I am just trying to promote tolerance on campus. I never in a million years ever expected this to happen to me. It is very important that this e-mail is passed around to everyone on campus, even everyone you know.


God Bless,

Tara T.

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