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Racism As a Marginalisation Strategy
Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2006

By Stephen Kangal

Throughout my 66 years of life spent in mother T&T I have frequently agonised and became depressed at the extent to which Indo- Trinbagonians have had to conduct an uphill struggle and a demoralising, bruising and losing battle to be accorded the constitutional and internationally recognised human right to equality and fairness.

Believe me when I say that I have moved in every facet of both national and international life. I therefore I speak from actual experiences, keen observations and careful dispassionate analyses.

Two recent events illustrate the extent to which my African brothers/ writers/ critics use intellectual dishonesty and misinformation as a basis on which to make racism charges whenever Indians articulate legitimate and convincing claims to be treated equally and fairly. It is as if the covert agenda is to bludgeon us into submission, persistent servitude and second class status. From my experiences Indians have to be twice right to be considered right and legitimate.

These reactions relate to the adoption of the exclusionary name "Soca Warriors" to image brand the T&T Football Team and the Africanisation/domination of the composition of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) even by persons who I worked with for 22 years and who have been known PNM operatives.

In this context let me reiterate the well known legal principle that justice must not only be done but it must also appear to be done.

With respect to the use of the term "Soca Warriors" to brand our football team it is clear that that name excludes the Indian Community from the international and national image of T&T since soca is essentially a musical expression of the African community even though Indians participate and enjoy the music. It was derived from African rhythms imported from Nigeria according to Sparrow. So also is the use of the term "We Culture" by NCCTV and the glaring exclusion of other aspects of our cultural mosaic.

The use of the label "Soca Warriors" is accordingly unnecessarily and avoidably exclusive when a more appropriate and inclusionary title should have been used. That is the point that Anil Mahabir was making. We have to be multiculturally sensitive and diversity responsive since it is an official and much publicised policy of the Manning Administration of leaving no one behind.

The Indian community has to raise the red flag whenever we are being taken for granted and/or being marginalised and excluded because we are the largest minority here. Justice will not be dispensed automatically because of the imperative of tribal loyalty, ethnic priority and cohesiveness. There has been a covert and sinister master plan to de-culturize us just like the Indians in Jamaica have been jamaicanised and eventually disrespected. But even the colonial masters failed in this endeavour in the face of cultural persistence among the Indians.

I still hold the expectation that those who wish to preserve the unfair status quo that is skewed against the Indian community would one day out of respect and appreciation for other human beings would take the time to assess the legitimacy of our presence in T&T and to be accorded real equality, fairness, appreciation, respect and civilised responses to our claims.

Young and educated professional Indians are understandably becoming increasingly sensitive and committed to the guarding of their cultural identity, ancestral memory and the defence of their cultural space. Some will say that identity is an act of disloyalty to T&T by mixing culture with nationality.

I have never met in my whole lifetime or read the works of anyone African brother or sister save and except the late Professor Lloyd Braithwaite, PVC of the UWI Campus in St.Augustine who really understood and/or is willingly to take the time to unravel and appreciate the intricacies and depths of the personality of the Trinbagonian of Indian ancestry and his penchant for cultural persistence. It appears that we are not worth the time and effort it takes for others to really appreciate the intricacies, the complexity and the legitimacy of our personality and of our ancestral memory.

Indians are the product of 6,000 years of a civilising acculturation process.

I am not being divisive because that is the standard operating charge inflicted on us when we make our legitimate demands to be included. After all we have been excluded for so long without any protest and our silence or lack of assertiveness was interpreted as acquiescence of the continuing injustice. Anil Mahabir was making a sound and legitimate claim for equality and fairness and not to be marginalised and excluded as we have been without protest since the advent of the ethno-nationalistic policies spawned with vigour and intensity since 1956 when I was 16 years old. I have observed the PNM's afro-centric, ethno-nationalistic, urban -based modus operandi for 50 years.

In reply to Mahabir, George John could not himself extricate himself from his racist lenses in his Express column of 11 January 2006, p. 11. It is really pathetic to read John- a veteran journalist flippantly dismissing Mahabir's legitimate concern on exclusion. John did not find Randy Glasgow's identical comment on the exclusive nature of the label "Soca Warriors" objectionable and the case he made for inclusion of the chutney element in the " Chutney- Soca Warriors"( See Newsday 15 Jan. p. 28). Glasgow was not branded a racist. That term is reserved exclusively for usage against the new breed of articulate and identity-conscious Indians who have the testicular fortitude, unlike their ancestors, to pursue and demand justice and fairness in plural T&T because it will not fall as manna from heaven.

And then we had to put up with the sheer ignorance of Ms Debbie Jacob. She appeared to have to jump into the racism fray to justify her Guardian space every week in her Guardian Monday 16 January column. I am convinced that Debbie never attended a Chutney show in her life because that would in her brand of logic be a racist act. She does not know that Chutney is distinct and fundamentally different from Soca music in many ways. Lord Shorty did not invent Chutney Soca. It was promoted and given air- play and popularity by the late Moeen Mohammed. Chutney is Indian folk songs and original compositions set to spicy Caribbean rhythms. Debbie cannot see the forests without being diverted by the trees.

Why did PM Manning announce that the Gov't cultural contingent to Germany would include an East Indian component while the football team management does not the merit in reflecting the racio-cultural diversity in Mother T&T.

The Sunday Express editorial of 15 January 2006 had to jump in also to fortify the John thesis by quoting the meaningless and inaccurate statements attributed to Earl Lovelace to justify its exclusionary agenda. Diversity for the Express is divisiveness. What empirical evidence can the Express muster to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that elements of Indian culture are being adopted and patronised in convincing numbers by other communities in T&T? What does the Express mean by ""... Trinbagonians are integrating more and more...".

Mr. Prakash Persad in his Commentary of the Guardian of 16 January, p. 25 succinctly summarised the mind-set displayed by George John, Debbie Jacob and Kelvin James when he wrote:

"So you have those who think that because their ancestors came here first, they are more Trinidadian than those who came later, irrespective of the contributions they may have made. This, the earlier- comers believe endows them with a kind of super right to national patrimony.

As happened during the period 1956-86 T&T is fast returning to an era when our international image portrayed and indeed reflected T&T as a predominantly Africanised society. This is what I had to fight against and endure for fear of victimisation when I joined the T&T Diplomatic Service in 1978. The current ethnic composition of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as revealed during the Feroza Ramjohn constitutional motion is instructive. Indians are an endangered species in the diplomatic staff with a ratio of 10:1. But even such a factually correct statement makes me vulnerable to charges of racism.

The racist is not the one who in the first instance institutes the exclusionary, discriminatory and unfair practices. In the minds of those who want to monopolise the definition of everything and preserve the unjust status quo, it is the one who reveals, squeels or refuses to accept the inequality and inequity.

Will the national community remain silent were the T&T Cricket Team to be branded as the Chutney Cricketers although having won the Carib Championship in Barbados for the first time in 21 years they were accorded a low key welcome and no offer of monetary rewards similar to what was offered to the Soca Warriors.

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