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Amazing, But Without Grace
Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2005

by Linda Edwards

Is it not amazing that all kinds of people who are not of recent African blood, who never went to rent a house that was vacant, and see the light of interest die in the eyes of the would be landlady; who were never demonized by being called coonoomoonoo, and assumed to be stupid because to assume otherwise might put dangerous ideas in their heads; who never helped set up a business, a bar, and who was dismissed from this bartendering job in Sangre Grande the minute the MP for the area, an African, had completed visiting for the opening ceremony; who has never had the experience of being told that "The camera cannot adjust to your dark skin colour" in order to take a visa picture; who never was told, "you sure you belong in that family boy, you come out so dark", and who has never known what it is like not to be called on in class, even when you are the only one who knows the answer, because you are very dark-skinned and not supposed to know; is it not amazing how people like these can presume to lecture African people on having chains on their minds?

My father was fond of saying that we Africans are the kindest people in the world, the most understanding, the most versatile. Let a person of some other race, say a Chinese, Indian or Middle Eastern person starts a business in multi-cultural TnT and you could drop in and tell who the owner is, ethnically, based on the people who work there. It may have changed a bit now, but like "integration" in the US, you sometimes have to look very hard, and memory is a difficult thing to overcome. Now that he is long dead, and his empire foundered, someone should go back and check how many African looking employees Mr. Ram Kirpalani had in his establishment at its heyday.

But let an African control a department, or any employment system, and he shows how broadminded, how fair he is. All kinds of people could work in his place, my father said. And it was true. It is true.

Things may have improved slightly in recent years, in terms of employing TnT's multi-faced work force, but it was once true that "family" was imported from wherever, so as not to employ local people who did not look like you.

When some attempt to lecture Africans on what they perceive as insulting and racist, they need to remember that they have not walked one inch in the shoes of African people. Therefore they cannot berate others who think they are insulted.

If I feel that I have been slighted by someone, I am interpreting his or her behaviour through the lens of my experience; and if that person had not meant to slight me, then the proper thing to do is express regret for the misunderstanding and move on. Do not berate me for my anger, but try instead to understand my pained concern.

If Dr. Cudjoe thinks that the organizing of another major event on the same day as major Emancipation activities was insulting, and racially motivated, and says so publicly; then those organizing the Principles of Fairness discussions need to examine whether their motives included forcing an icon like Leroy Clarke to choose where his inputs would go. No one who is serious about the significance of Indian Arrival Day will expect leaders of the Indian community to attend a retreat in Toco on that day, to discuss with other groups, plans for improving the common weal. It would naturally be expected that they would be involved in significant activities relevant to the Indian community; and out of respect for that community, major events that need their inputs would be rescheduled, if a scheduling error was the problem. The same would be true on Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day (I refuse the "Shouter" word, they were exulting, not shouting).If they tend to schedule baptisms of converts, prayers of thanksgiving, and pilgrimages to other churches on that day; it would be downright stupid of any planners who really wanted their inputs- say the IRO for example- to set up a major workshop on coming together as people of faith for a better TnT, on that same day.

Now all these examples being cited leads to the one question: What about this did the planners of the Fairness thingie not understand? Anyone with half a brain and a smidgin of sensitivity to the feelings and values of the other groups would have got it right; there would have been no need for Mr. Raffique Shah's column, which did not, in my humble opinion, build any bridges on this Emancipation Day. Perhaps no bridges were intended.

Sensitivity to the other cultural and ethnic groups that inhabit this small planet, is one test of a civilized society, one that gives a tad more than lip service to working together.

Historians will remember that one of the charges the Thirteen American Colonies brought against George 111 of England was that he called meetings in places far away, and difficult for these gentlemen farmers to get to, without considerable expense and inconvenience.

George 111 was calling his meetings in England.

He had no idea, or did not care, perhaps; that his colonials in the American colonies might want the meetings held in a more accessible place, like New York, Boston or Philadelphia, at a time when they were not planting. Such are the tiny things that cause irreparable damage.

Let the planners for next year show goodwill. Emancipation Day is a fixed feast on the national calendar. Planners must take it into consideration, and not appear to cause conflict for some members.

People of goodwill must show it by actions.

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