Setting the race-ethnic question straight
Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Correcting TnT's stereotypes
By Kwame Nantambu
Within recent times, there have been ahistorical, dysfunctional and divisive socio-cultural labels/ stereotypes/ terms to describe certain Trinbagonians.
The two main culprits are "Afro-Trinbagonians/ Trinis" and "Indo-Trinbagonians."
The fact of the matter is that there is no country or Continent named/ called/ labeled "Afro" or "Indo." The historical record shows that in 1516, various/ several/ different Europeans brought Afrikans involuntarily from Afrika as slaves to works on the plantations in the Diaspora; these slaves were not brought from Afro.
The historical record also reveals that the European-British brought Indians, mostly voluntarily, from India in 1845 to work as indentured workers on plantations in the Diaspora; these immigrants were not brought from Indo.
As such, their descendants in TnT are now Afrikan-Trinbagonians and Indian-Trinbagonians. They are neither "Afro" nor " Indo"-Trinbagonians.
In other words, if one were to carry out these ahistorcial, dysfunctional and divisive labels/ stereotypes/ terms to their logical, asinine conclusion then Captain Andrew Cipriani is a Corsico-Trinbagonian; Albert Gomes is a Portugo-Trinbagonian; Sir. Solomon Hochoy, Max Tywang, Brian Kuei Tung, Gerard Yetming, Ulric Lee and Howard Chin Lee are Chino-Trinbagonians; Anthony Sabga, Gregory Aboud, John Rahael, Nagib Elias, Anthony Aboud, are Syrio-Trinbagonians and " Mighty Trini" is a Syrio-Trinbagonian calysonian; Danny and Robin Montano, Colm Imbert, Michael De Labastide, Cyril Duprey are Franco-Creole-Trinbagonians; and the U.S. Ambassador to TnT, Dr. Roy Austin, is an Afro-American.
Furthermore, if the Presidents from Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda who have been invited by Prime Minister Patrick Manning to attend this year's Emancipation festivities, were to obtain TnT passports, then their new socio-cultural label will be Afro-Trinbagonian. They would automatically be defrocked and striped of their ancestral Afrikanness. They came from Mother Afrika as original Afrikans but are now derived, naturalised "Afros" in Father TnT.
Now is the time for Trinbagonians of all elks to face historical reality and to delete, expunge and eradicate these ahistorical, dysfunctional and divisive labels from TnT's socio-cultural vocabulary. They are totally insulting, to say the least. One does not need 20/20 vision to figure this one out.
We are all emigrants in this land and our existence and daily human interaction should reflect our disparate national origins.
Ergo, TnT is a multi-cultural, polyglot society made up of descendants from Corsica, Syria, China, Afrika, India, France, Portugal, etc. Hence, in the pursuit of national unity, the historical, functional and unifying socio-cultural labels that are applicable are: Corsican-Trinbagonians, Syrian-Trinbagonians, Chinese-Trinbagonians, Afrikan-Trinbagonians, Indian-Trinbagonians, French-Creole-Trinbagonians, Portuguese-Trinbagonians, etc.
In addition, Dr. Roy Austin is an Afrikan-American and a damn proud one to boot!.
Indeed, he would consider it an outright, blatant insult if the Prime Minister or any other Trinbagonian for that matter were to refer to him as an Afro-American especially on 4th July.
The fact of the matter is that Irish-Americans would also consider it an outright, blatant insult if the TnT Ambassador to Washington, D.C., were to refer to them as "Iro- Americans" during their annual celebrations of St. Patrick's Day on 17th March.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy is the first Irish-American President; he is not the first "Iro-American" President. His forefathers came from Ireland to America--- they did not come from "Iro."
The term/label "Afro" has been deleted, expunged. Eradicated from America's socio-cultural vocabulary since 1988. Trinbagonians: Get with the program.
Now is the time for this label/term to be deleted from all government public policy documents and be re-placed by Afrikan- Trinbagonian---- the same holds true for Indian-Trinbagonian to re-place Indo-Trinbagonian.
Now is the time also for all the professionals at UWI, newspaper columnists and reporters, radio and TV news personnel, including reporters and the general TnT population to follow suit. Let history be our guide.
Calypsonians must cease and desist from using the word "Negro" in their lyrics.
The general TnT population must also stop using this derogatory, opprobrious label or epithet to describe the Afrikan- Trinbagonian. Let us learn to respect each and one another.
In fact, if one wants to totally disrespect, insult, belittle or make a fool or laughing-stock of, an Afrikan-American then calling him a "Negro" is the perfect label to use. This should not be the case in TnT.
The word "Negro" is a dehumanizing, demeaning and denigrating label that was invented by the European- Spanish to spread the so-called inferiority of Afrikans. This etnocentric, zenophobic Euro-centric myth must neither be tolerated nor perpetuated in TnT.
In a similar vain, the concepts of race and ethnicity seem to be subsumed in a pelau matrix.
Charges of racial discrimination, oppression and victimization have received much media currency for quite a while.
The fact of the matter is that when more than half-million people were slain in Rwanda in 1994 between the warring factions (Tutsis and Hutus), this carnage was described by the United Nations and the international community as "ethnic genocide"---not racial genocide.
In November 1995, when 250,000 people were killed, 21,000 women raped, 90,000 placed in detention camps and 1.8 million became refugees during the conflict between the Serbs in Bosnia- Herzegovina, this human tragedy was described by the United Nations and the European Union as "ethnic cleansing"--- not racial cleansing.
When the militants of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) killed Irish or British citizens, those atrocious acts are considered as "sectarian / communal violence"--- not racial violence.
In February 2003, when up to 50,000 people died in Darfur, Sudan, this incident was described as "a campaign of ethnic cleansing"--- not racial cleansing.
In May 2005, up to 8,000 people fled "deadly ethnic clashes around Ivory Coast's western cocoa town of Duekoue"--- they did not flee from deadly racial clashes.
The historical record reveals that in 1974 when the Democrats of the US House Judiciary Committee forced then President Richard Nixon to resign from office, the Republicans did not accuse the Democrats of racial discrimination, oppression and victimization.
And in 1998, when the Republicans returned the favour and sought to impeach President Bill Clinton, the Democrats did not accuse the Republicans of racial discrimination, oppression and victimization.
However, Black South Afrikans suffered racial discrimination, oppression and victimization during the heydays of Apartheid from 1948 to 1990. Apartheid means "separate development of the races"--- White and Black.
Moreover, Afrikan-Americans are the victims of racial profiling and Driving While Black (DWB) in the United States.
The societal dynamics are different inTnT. As such, if a Prime Minister of Afrikan descent is accused of unfairly treating a government employee of Indian descent then such a Prime Minister only stands accused of ethnic discrimination, oppression and victimization. Race is a non sequitur.
Apartheid cannot exist in TnT, "except in the sickest of minds."
The majority population in TnT is non-white; Afrikan-Trinbagonians are Black, non-white people (including those who euphemistically call themselves "Redmen" or "Reds"). Indian-Trinbagonians are a non-white, people of colour.
Truth Be Told: India is in Asia and under the system of European supremacy (which now masquerades under the sobriquet of Globalization), Asians are considered "Quasi Europeans" or "Honorary Whites," while Asian-Americans are "Probationary Whites."
TnT does not have a race problem; TnT has a deep-rooted, historically-Colonial-driven ethnic problem that does not seem to go away. And it is at this crucial juncture that certain politicians and professionals are purposefully, viciously and callously muddling the two concepts to ossify their power base and political ambitions.
Truth Be Told: We all came here from different Mother Lands but we now live in and belong to one Father Land--- "sweet,sweet TnT."
TnT is that historical junction where "De Ganges done reach dah Nile."
Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani Labour College.
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