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Racial Undertones Mar Arrival Messages
Posted: Sunday, June 6, 2004

By Stephen Kangal

I agonised prior to deciding to publicly express my regret that on the multi-culturally unifying occasion of the observance of Indian Arrival Day 2004 the Heads of State and of Government tarnished their addresses/messages by making controversially unnecessary racial slurs and innuendoes and left their recipients/audiences palpably unsettled. Their statements are more notable for what they conceal than what they reveal.

They seem to have been geared to placing limitations on media freedoms/editorial judgements as well as the right of individuals/groups to free speech and to express alternative view points that may be supportive of legitimate enlightened-group and national interests.

The messages held the preservation of the prevailing socio-cultural and economic status quo as sacrosanct irrespective of how manifestly unjust and discriminatory it may appear to be to the plaintiffs and the dispossessed. The population must be told the meaning of the many coded but premature racial insinuations directed at predominantly Indo-Trinbagonian audiences.

The underlying message is clear: Those who challenge and reject the discriminatory-based configured public status quo must surely have a personal agenda of disrupting the delicate and brittle harmony so beneficial to the ruling class.

The dropping of the word "Indian" albeit temporary and for a second time from Arrival must have unwittingly telegraphed that it was not only a bad word but also exclusively and inherently racist. The sacrificial lamb media was again made responsible for exacerbating the racial divide, publishing front-page negativities but also misrepresenting the dropping of the word "Indian" although a reading of the message confirms the contrary.

What are we to make of the statement that the Best Village Trophy Competition hitherto was exclusively Afro-centric? You decide!

Let me appeal to our leaders that they must come to terms with the role of the liberated, de-monopolised media, ubiquitous access to telephones, the Internet (world in our living rooms) and the speed of information-based technology in driving our fledgling democracy to craft new visions and conducting more intensive and extensive levels of national dialogue and ferment. All the media talk shows must not be discredited. They provide inputs for social and cultural re-engineering, for inclusion as well as for achieving equality in diversity. They are expressions of a continuing participatory democracy that refuses to cease with the closure of the ballot boxes and the commencement of the tyranny/monopolization of the elected 36. They are the voices of the people even though some are discordant and others may have been silenced for too long during the monopolistic era exploited by 610 Radio, Radio T’dad and TTT.

We must disabuse our minds from overly focussing on the strand of ethnicity. There are other grounds for discrimination in T&T- location and geography (rural decay-urban renewal considerations), class, caste, religion, skin pigmentation, disability, gender, political affiliations, articulation/speaking skills, secretive lodge membership and sexual preferences. In fact there is a correlation between geography (location) and ethnicity (race) and it is easy to confuse one with the other.

We must listen carefully, empathetically and dispassionately to the expanding chorus of dissent and complaint especially those of the rural marginalised fringe. I have not witnessed one public demonstration for facilities that did not have intrinsic merit.

I am always wary of the defenders of the status quo because they have an inherent interest in its defence and preservation by concocting imaginary fears that are made out to be detrimental to our tenuous stability and disruptive to nation building.

Remember Dr.Williams and the colonial status quo of pre- 1956 the change of which was his main agenda.

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