The proliferation of race talk in Trinidad is indicative of a crumbling society, despite its unprecedented economic growth, continues to freefall into social decline. By scraping the bottom of the barrel respected members of society embrace racism, nationalism, class differentiation and religious differences in an attempt to rally support for their self serving agenda. The fragmentation of society on the basis of race, class religion etc. leaves in its trail horrific memories of the Jewish Holocaust, Bosnia, India, Rwanda and closer to home, Guyana in the 1960’s to mention just a few. In the end lives are destroyed and the painful pieces are difficult to put together again. The promulgation of social division on the basis of race is a sure sign that a nation has lost its way. Evidently, the lessons of history have been lost upon us.
Dr. Elizabeth Sieusarran was the latest to wade into the cesspool of racist rhetoric (T’dad Express 16/05/05). Her thinly veiled attempt to cover up her message of hate was pathetic to say the least. Who are these Dougla people to whom she is referring? Are they a sub cast like the untouchables in her ancestral India? What does she mean by “…do we accept them or ostracize them?” Does she envision herself as a member of a superior race? Is Trinidad and Tobago the patrimony of the East Indians more so than the Africans who laboured for free and by force for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of East Indians as indentured servants? What about the other races who have been here for what seems like forever? Are they all not people with hopes and dreams like she and her cabal? I have no qualms with people taking pride in and embracing their heritage but not at the expense of others. Trinidad is a multi-cultural/ethnic society and racial intermarriage, religious and cultural influences are to be expected. Isolation is not an option for a multi-cultural/ religious/ ethnic society anywhere in the modern world. It is regressive, divisive and potentially explosive. It is isolation that ushered in Europe’s “Dark Ages” which lasted for almost 500 years.
The selling off of valuable land to foreigners is a greater national issue than the racial flames she is fanning. Increasing poverty in this cornucopia, the lack of social programs, the lack of accountability by Government Ministries, drugs, corruption, sensationalism in the media, street children, education, affordable housing policies are all issues to which she can direct her energy and intellect. It is not for lack of important social issues that she has chosen to stoop to the lowest common and divisive denominator. Rather, it is her tribal instinct and false notions of assumed superiority which blinds her from embracing a common humanity. Her refusal to accept others who appear to be different, diminishes her and brings into question her intellectual achievements.
In unity there is strength, growth and promise. Show love, give people hope and society will flourish. Do not extinguish the flame of ambition in the heart of youths, forcing them to gravitate to criminal activity as a viable alternative to education on the basis of their ethnicity. When this happens, no one could be safe even in gated communities. The legacy of colonialism with its exploitation of racial difference must no longer be tolerated. It is past time that the artificial construct of race be relegated to the dustbin of history. Contemporary scientific evidence dispel old notions of racial superiority. Racism has no place in a progressive society. As an educator, her job is to build not to destroy. If she must emulate other, may I suggest she take her cue from more enlightened and progressive nations?
Canada is perhaps the most successful example in North America of what it means to live in a multicultural society. It is still a work in progress but already it is paying huge dividends in terms of peaceful co-existence in addition to numerous tangible benefits. All things considered, Canada is a model nation. When Canada adopted its official policy of multiculturalism July 21, 1988 during the Trudeau era, it was met with varying degrees of resistance. Since then the policies and practices have become entrenched, creating a more harmonious, productive, civil society. It is a strong nation in which differences are respected and similarities are celebrated. It is a good and decent society in which to live. A model nation rich with diversity, respected throughout the world, inclusive and prosperous.
Anti-discrimination laws must be implemented NOW and vigorously enforced if Trinidad is to avoid the inevitable bloodbath that accompanies irresponsible spew. It is not a matter of freedom of speech; it is a matter of responsible utterances. The word is indeed mightier than the sword but more frighteningly, it has the capacity to cause the sword to be drawn. The realization of Vision 2020 with its aspiration to achieve first world status, necessitate that people be held accountable for their words as well as their deeds. Implement and vigorously enforce progressive laws for the greater good. Let the nation know that tribalism will not be tolerated. No society can exist in a vacuum especially in the face of increasing globalization. More so, the fragmentation of a society on the basis of race is not a formula for success; it is a recipe for disaster and ultimately, destruction.
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