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Race versus Ethnicity in T&T
Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2015

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
March 19, 2015

The recent firing of Board Member of the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) Jaishima Leladharsingh by the Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development Dt. Bhoe Tewarie speaks volumes as to the overt misunderstanding, albeit confusion, between race and ethnicity in Trinidad and Tobago.

At the outset, it must be stated quite categorically and equivocally that the public remarks by Mr. Leladharsingh via Facebook were not racist; instead, they were downright "chupid", unacceptable, foolish, insane, insulting, irresponsible and ignorant to the nth degree.

The salient ethnic reality is that after Mr. Leladharsingh had labeled Mr. Anthony S. Mcleod a "stinking nigger", he should have immediately taken the time to "look at the man in the mirror" wherein he would have also seen/noticed a Xeroxed "stinking c..."

More specifically, Mr. Leladharsingh should be extremely glad and lucky that he uttered those words to a Trinbagonian because those would have been regarded as serious "fighting words" by an African-American.

The fact of the matter is that according to the 2011 population census figures: Indians comprise 35.43 per cent, Africans 34.22 per cent, Mixed Other 15.16 per cent, Mixed African/Indian 7.66 per cent and Caucasians (Whites) 0.59 per cent. Ergo, the majority population in Trinidad and Tobago is non-White, non-European, Black/African and people of color.

By way of elucidation, if a Prime Minister of African descent were to deny a radio license to a citizen of Indian descent, then, that is not a racist/racial decision. Instead, it represents ethnic discrimination/victimization because the two entities are of the same racial hue.

Conversely, the incidents that took place in the United States between police officers and unarmed African-American teenage males were indeed racist discrimination/victimization because the two entities are not of the same racial hue. Such racist incidents took place in Sanford, Florida; Ferguson, Missouri; and Madison, Wisconsin.

African-Americans only comprise 13 per cent of the national population (minority). Ipso facto, the majority population of the United States is White.

This is the overt confusing correlation that has been and is still being made to describe events, decisions and/or public remarks/comments in the country.

Truth Be Told: The United States has a racial problem because of its minority-majority population paradigm/dynamics. Trinidad and Tobago has an ethnic problem because of its majority population paradigm/dynamics. And any attempt to equate the two scenarios tantamounts to mixing apples and oranges. Or as MC/comedian Sprangalang once put it: "mixing roti and egg."

The fact of the matter is that "foreign" is neither the solution nor frame of reference in which to analyze the myriad of unfortunate incidents/decisions/issues/ public remarks that confront Trinidad and Tobago; in fact, its use is the problem.

Indeed, now is the opportune time for all Trinbagonians "to get with the program" and to decease and desist from casting/painting such abhorrent Euro-centric labels on each other.

As the erudite, Afri-centric African-American scholar/historian Dr. Marimba Ani surmises: "You're not an African (Indian) because you're born in Africa (India). You're an African (an Indian) because Africa (India) is born in you. It's in your genes... your DNA... Your entire biological make up. Whether you like it or not that's the way it is; that's the way it is. However, if you embrace this truth with open arms... my, my, my, what a wonderful thing" for all Trinibagonians to live by 24-7-365.

In the final analysis, the Afri-centric perspective on race versus ethnicity in Trinidad and Tobago strongly contends that the blood that unites us is thicker than the diasporan water and culture that seek to separate and divide us. Furthermore, we might have been brought violently, involuntarily and inhumanely from Africa and/or come mostly voluntarily from India in different slave/indentured ships but as Trinbagonians "to D bone", we can only achieve national unity/identity and positive/potent nation-building in the same Pan Trinbagonian boat.

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.

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