The Limitations of Multiculturalism in Trinidad and Tobago

By Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 09, 2011

Part I – Part IIPart III

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIt was an amazing thing. One week after I offered my reservations about the Government’s multiculturalism initiative, David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain, made a scathing attack against his country’s approach to what he called “state multiculturalism” at the Munich Security Conference. In doing so, he echoed Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor who, in October 2010, called for “the end of multiculturalism” in her country.

Let me add that whatever quarrels I may have with the People’s Partnership [PP] approach to multiculturalism, I do not share the racist, jingoistic approach of Cameron and Merkel who are using the negative aspects of multiculturalism to assail Islam which they see as contributing to the spread of terrorism. Cameron’s speech was a scathing attack against what he called “Islamic extremism.” However, there is some merit to his assertion that “state multiculturalism” allow people “to conduct separate lives and fail[s] to create a sense of community.” It is a charge I made against the PP’s advocacy of multiculturalism in Trinidad and Tobago.

In my address to the GOPIO at Chaguanas, I argued that the reasons adduced for a multicultural policy in T&T is based on a false premise which can end up disastrously for the country. Just when Chancellor Merkel was speaking about the failure of multiculturalism in her country our Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism outlined his government’s approach to multiculturalism at the Center of Excellence. He noted that it came about because his government recognized that “a large portion of the citizenry [meaning the East Indians] feels itself alienated from sharing in the development of the nation.” He did not say why they felt that way.

In light of such alienation his government wanted to foster “a climate of inclusion, equitable distribution of resources and recognition and celebration of cultural diversity.” In his short statement, he mentioned the word diversity nine times and national identity once. He never mentioned national consciousness which leads me to conclude that his policy is based on our differences rather than our commonalities sadly highlighting some of Cameron’s fears.

In the first instance, the term alienation is used too loosely and is inappropriate within this context. I spend some time in my paper saying why this is so. Suffice it to say that while the Minister argues that the East Indian population may feel separated (not alienated) from the mainstream of what some call “Creole society” he does not pay any attention to the inverse of that proposition that the East Indians may have separated [rather than alienated] themselves from the society because of their cultures and religions.

We cannot have it two ways. It is either East Indians are more closely linked to and interwoven in their various religions and cultures in ways that Africans are not; or East Indians have deliberately separated themselves from the society because of the particularity of their beliefs, their geographic location in the country, and the various cultural constraints that prevented them from intermingling with the larger majority group. V. S. Naipaul has taken pains to make this point in his non-fictional writings.

There is another problem. When the Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism speaks about ensuring “the equitable distribution of state’s resources” to each group in the society I wonder if he is aware of the fatuity of his statement. The “Housing and Population Census” that is taking place in the island at the present time identifies nine different categories of people in the society: 1) Africans; 2) Caucasians; 3) Chinese; 4) East Indians; 5) Indigenous; 6) Mixed: African and East Indians and Others; 7) Syrian Lebanese; 8 ) Other Ethnic groups; 9) Others.

How do we identity these groups (that is, how do we determine their group characteristics) and do such fine-tuned distinctions further separate the various groups from one another? In other words, how do persons of the mixed category group (to take one example) organize themselves to benefit from this well-intention initiative? Does such a policy fragment the society further or does it bring us closer together?

At the eve of our national independence Dr. Eric Williams launched his hurriedly-written History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago at the University of Woodford Square in which he advanced what I call his “Mother Trinidad and Tobago Speech” although the words are in the conclusion of the book. I have argued previously that this speech enunciated the first outlines of a national cultural policy in which he sought to break down the boundaries within which the various races and cultures had entrenched themselves.

I was at the University when he launched this book. I still possess an original copy of same. It is important to repeat his memorable words since the proponents of multiculturalism-the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, for example-tend to forget what he wrote: “There can be no Mother Africa for those of African origin and the Trinidad and Tobago society is living a lie and heading for trouble if it seeks to create the impression or to allow others to act under the delusion that Trinidad and Tobago is an African society.”

He also repeated the words of India’s Commissioner contained in Ismith Khan’s The Jumbie Bird that advised Indians “to stay in Trinidad and become good Trinidad citizens.”

The PM and AG should emblazoned these words on the walls in which they conduct national business. Dr. Williams never conceived of T&T as an African or an Indian society.

In November 2010 the PM invited Jason Edward Kaufman, a foreign correspondent, to share the diwali celebrations with her. Ramlogan told Kaufman that “People think of Trinidad and Tobago as predominantly African country. We want to rectify this mis-perception.’ Previously there was ‘discrimination manifested in subtle ways…one of which was the allocation of state funding.” Such reasoning cannot be the basis for upturning a policy that has served the country well during the first 49 years of existence.

On February 8 the Financial Times editorialized about Cameron’s speech. It said: “The challenge for Britain, as elsewhere, is how an open and tolerant liberal society that embraces diversity of all types, can also conjure a sense of solidarity and belonging, especially when the economic climate turns harsh.”

Do we wish to develop a policy that creates a collective identity or one that separates and divides us? This is the question we must answer as we pursue multiculturalism?

Part I – Part IIPart III

24 thoughts on “The Limitations of Multiculturalism in Trinidad and Tobago”

  1. Multiculturalism, with all its ethnic festivals, religions,celebrations on National holidays, does nothing to foster and encourage a factual and clear minded vision of our neighbors.Multiculturalism can lead an already divided nation to further social divisiveness.

  2. The PP’s vision of multiculturalism functioning in T& has not been well thought out. The policy has not been defined. The government has not stated in clear terms how this policy will be instituted or how it will function.
    It seems that the idea, much like many ideas being instituted, was borrowed from Canada, without a full understanding of the goals and functioning of multiculturalism in the Canadian context.
    The introduction of the department of Multiculturalism in Canada was meant to facilitate the influx of new immigrants to the country and to foster understanding and tolerance of the new cultures coming in to the country. It was decided that the American melting pot policy did not fit the Canadian context. The multicultural policy was designed to soften the impact of new immigrants in adjusting to Canadian life by providing services and opportunities to compensate for language and religious differences. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms already provides for freedom of association, language, religion etc. Generally the policy in Canada created an atmosphere of tolerance, rather than full acceptance. Politicians now exploit this policy to gain favor and votes in ethnic communities. It was Neil Bissondath who wanted to be called a Canadian, not an Indo-Trinidadian Canadian, in his book entitled, The Cult of Multiculturalism, who claimed that “multiculturalism encourages exoticism, highlighting the differences that divide Canadians rather than the similarities that unite them.”
    In any event, this policy might serve some useful purpose in countries which welcome a steady stream of new immigrants with language and cultural differences.But the expectation is that the next generation will assimilate fully into Canadian life,while retaining their unique characteristics. T&T does not fall in this category. The undefined and misunderstood institution of this policy in T&T is questionable.
    If there is an image problem in T&T with regard to the recognition of the Indian population and the diversity of the country locally and abroad, then the government should address that problem directly. There might be some legitimacy in their complaint. Correcting this problem should not be masked with the creation of a multicultural department. Also, Indians in T&T are not a homogeneous group. The Hindus often forget that.

  3. “It was an amazing thing. One week after I offered my reservations about the Government’s multiculturalism initiative, David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain, made a scathing attack against his country’s approach to what he called “state multiculturalism” at the Munich Security Conference.”

    I could not disagree with Cameron’s statement. There is a lot of truth in the way the British viewed “multi-culturalism” today. People from across the British empire came “home” to the mother country Britan. There instead of practicing social intergration they remain within their cultural perimeter. The West Indian communities and the other communities simply stayed where they were socially accepted.

    Today Britan is facing an enormous problem with 1 million Muslims living inside their nation. The Muslims dress like they are in Saudi Arabia and live as though they are in another nation. That cannot be blamed solely on multi-culturalism. It has to do with a strong sense of religious and cultural beliefs. The belief that the West is corrupt and therefore Muslims cannot integrate with the infidels. Across Muslim areas there are statellite dishes recieving programs from Muslim countries. There has been several arrest just recently as last week where 18 and 19 year old Muslim youths were planning to attack subways and other high value targets. The British security service knows that the time may come when they will not be able to stop these criminals and that is the fear that Cameron is expressing. In saying all of that the majority of Muslims in Britan are peace-loving people. It is like in the black community the small but determine groups that sway the pendullum.

    In Trinidad there has been social integration with 19% dougla population. However, to some extend that type of integration has changed. The PNM under Manning was the worst for causing such “fracture” in T&T. When kidnappings started he did not do enough to make the Trinindian population feel safe. As a result the level of trust between the ethnicities diminished. And instead suspicion and fear rule the day. Today with the PP in charge there is greater social interaction and the whole idea of mother T&T is begining to re-emerge. It is my hope that Trinidad will continue to be strong and cultural integration as the society evolves will be the future of the nation.

  4. To total-up all that was said and done, we tend to forget the main purpose of Dr. Eric Williams saying. We must never forget where our ancestors came from, but those of us that was born in Trinidad & Tobago need to understan the words MOTHER TRINIDAD & TOBAGO. It does not matter if you came from Africa, India, Syria, China or a mixed race (Dougla). That’s what makes our little island so exceptional. The natural resources we have, no other island in the area can boast about. Our unique Carnival is second to none. Our steel pan is copied worldwide. Why can’t we as a nation come together in peace and harmony to enjoy what the Lord has blessed us with?

    I continue to pray and hope that T&T will continue to be strong, respectful, understanding of each others cultural well being.

    Please let us not forget. For those of us that born in T&T, no matter what culture we came from, MOTHER TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO first and foremost.

  5. MULTICULTURALISM …a view from Canada

    Louise Beaudoin, the Parti Québécois’s secularism (!) critic, repeated her claim that multiculturalism was a federal policy but it wasn’t a Quebec policy, pointing out that Quebec has not signed the Canada Act 1982, which enshrined multiculturalism within the Constitution.

    On the other side of the pond, British Prime Minister David Cameron has joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in declaring multiculturalism a failure.

    “Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream … we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism,” he said in Munich, which is where British prime ministers go to sell their souls.

    But not all the foolishness is to be found on one side of the debate. In Winnipeg, a dozen newly-arrived families are demanding from the public school board that their children be exempted from compulsory classes in music and phys-ed, claiming that music and mixing genders are forbidden in their interpretation of Islam.

    Such an accumulation of incident is bound to ignite the spark of debate. Though we should always be free to talk about everything – the public square is, after all, the essence of democracy – some debates are healthier than others.

    Debating multiculturalism gives a voice to the angry, the frustrated and yes, the bigoted. It makes newer Canadians feel less welcome. It has the best walking on egg shells and the worst throwing eggs.

    It gives rise to demands for a more robust definition of citizenship, which in essence is a demand for a loyalty oath. It forces us to endlessly parse language – like reasonable accommodation, or multiculturalism itself.

    Worst of all, it undermines the greatest strength of Canadian society – our capacity to get along – and strengthens its greatest weaknesses – the cultural and linguistic divides that undermine the country whenever we choose to let them.

    There is good news in this. Despite an effort by the Bloc Québécois, none of the national party leaders was willing to reconsider the policy of permitting the kirpan in Parliament.

    Leaders of the Muslim community in Winnipeg were are as surprised and disturbed as anyone else by the demands of the dozen families, whose Islam is not their Islam.

    The consensus around multiculturalism – that it remains an integral value in Canadian life, even if no one can explain what it means – remains broad and deep. For most of us, citizenship is sufficiently encompassed in our Constitution, our laws, and the performance of the men’s hockey team at the 2010 Olympics.

    The country will survive a debate over multiculturalism, even if we may not be able to prevent one.

  6. “We cannot have it two ways. It is either East Indians are more closely linked to and interwoven in their various religions and cultures in ways that Africans are not; or East Indians have deliberately separated themselves from the society because of the particularity of their beliefs”

    I grew up in the countryside. My early formative years entertainment was a matinee in the cinema where I enjoyed a good Bollywood movie for a low cost. I was surprise when I met an African Muslim from Tanzania and he could repeat Amitabh Bachan (Bollywood Superstar) word for word. You see culture does not have any constraints when it is good entertainment. My neighbour listen to Sparrow, (he use to sit on the “banister” and play sparrow aloud), his nephew was half-muslim and around Eid he would bring out the radio and listen to Muslim songs all day. My relatives played mass.

    There is no deliberate seperation from society by people of my extraction because I was influenced by Bollywood, Calypso, American Rock and Roll, Pan music ( i have my collection), gospel, Cuban music, rapp and the American superstars, Micheal Jackson, Bonnie Raitt, Roch Vosin (my fav) amongst others. The point is that no community can claim exclusivity in culture. We are all influence by a generous mixture of cultural expressions.

    And so we are more enriched than most people who are confined to cultural bondage….

  7. “For those of us that born in T&T, no matter what culture we came from, MOTHER TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO first and foremost.” Hear, hear! As a base brat who was pulled out of Chaguaramas before 6 mos. and who later returned on a visit in ’91 and left with my TT passport, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments that TT is and should be inclusive. When I lived in Indianapolis and approached the West Indian Assoc. of Indiana, I was welcomed with open arms by the Trinis, Jamaicans, PRs and Guyanans to the man. They didn’t care that I didn’t grow up in TT or the Caribbean. It’s good to recognize differences but maybe not so good to enshrine them.

    …And how about those Egyptians!

  8. Multiculturalism has failed, says French president
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Thursday that multiculturalism had failed, joining a growing number of world leaders or ex-leaders who have condemned it.

    “My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure,” he said in a television interview when asked about the policy which advocates that host societies welcome and foster distinct cultural and religious immigrant groups.

    “Of course we must all respect differences, but we do not want… a society where communities coexist side by side.

    “If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France,” the right-wing president said.

  9. It is these facetious references that evidences the deceit of the khems and the TMans. “Yeah I knew a black man, and I listen to black music”, and this is the evidence that is suppose to impeach any criticisms of their ethnic bias. Give me a break. It is the surfaced deceitfulness in presenting things like these as evidence of your openeness that shows the narrowness of your views.

    African culture is not isolated in rap music and song and dance. Those who partition it in this manner display their cultural comfort zones, to wit, a singing and dancing black man. Ironically, that is in keeping with the preferences of the slave master, who, as long as the black man sang and danced he was assured that the more meatier human traits and personalities would be remain dormant, and he would not have to give up his stereotype.

    Racial prejudice is a product of cultural and religious belief systems. If your ancestry is rooted in such systems, that measure socially stratify people according to the color of their skin and texture of their hair, it is likely that your group will be more predisposed to be prejudiced.

    Ignorance and ego enhancement are the fulcrums upon which ethnic and racial prejudice operate. It does not matter that a belief system that rate people based on which portion of the body of their God they were produced was intended to be a literal measurement of their worth. The fact is that ignorance and ego enhancement influences believers to extraopolate that literally. To the point that even those who because of their physical appearance was thus stratified in the mother land, when they came to the Caribbean and encountered a group that they perceived to be more qualified to be categorized as being produced from the feet of their God, they became the products from the upper portions of his body, and adjusted their interaction with the African based on that. Today it remains the sacred cow behind the tensions in T&T, Fiji, Guyana et al.

    quote: Untouchability is the most horrible and odious form of racism ever devised. It is racism because it is based on race and color and began as a system of oppression based on race and color. Today, untouchables are primarily of Black Indo-Negroid Dravidian and Kushic-speaking as well as “Ayranized,” Indians of India. Yet, untouchability also affects some lightskinned people and whites (Europeans) to Black African types of faces and features are victims of this racist caste system.

    There is little doubt that this perception, if you will, continues to be an overarching effect upon the relationship between the descendants of the enslaved, and the descendants of the indentured. Those who are most enamoured with this kind of human stratification are most stridently expressive in denying its existence and influence upon atitudes and behaviours in places like T&T and Guyana. That the same pattern of denial erupts among the defenders of this culturally learned prejudice in places like the US and South Africa, suggest that not only is their symbiosis in its origin, but also in the reaction to its exposure.

    Quote: According to M. Gopinath, (“Nagaloka: The Glorious and Fractured History of the Bahujan Indians,” pub. by Dalit Sahitya Akademy, Bangalore, India), the Black Untouchables are part of the prehistoric Black Naga race also known as the Indo-Negroid race or Sudroid race,(see Hari Rao). The Blacks of India are now classified as part of the global Pan-Negro people and includes Black Africans, African-Americans, Melanesians, Indian Ocean Africoids, SE Asian Negritoes, Negro-Australoids such as the Australian Aborigines and Negroids. All these groups are related to small groups of Africans who migrated from Africa between 100,000 years ago to as recently as 2000 BC. In fact, according to I. Raikadroka, the Fijian Representative of Los Angeles, Africans from Tanganyika (Tanzania/Zanzibar) were migrating to the Fiji Islands earlier than 2000 BC. The former foreign Minister of Papua New Guinea, Ben Tangghama pointed out in the paper “Black Books Bulletin,” during the 1974 period in an interview, that “the Blacks of Asia and Africa are related in the past, present and future.”

    It has to be more than a coincidence that in every portion of the world where the culture of “untouchability” lingers on to influence relationships between groups, the subjects are invariably those whose African descendancy is clearly obvious, and those who, regardless of their physical appearance, see themselves as “Indian Hindu” first and everything else last. No correlation do not necessarily amount to causation, but when history and evidence continue to come together across oceans and land masses, the relationship cannot be casually cast aside.

    Quote: The racist caste system was introduced into India its its racist form by foreign invaders from Eurasia who applied the ‘varna’ or ‘color consciousness’ system of class stratification. This was implemented after centuries of warfare against the Indo-Negroid and Negro-Australoid civilizations such as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, (see “A History of Racism and Terrorism, Rebellion and Overcoming,” published by Xlibris, also see “African Presence in Early Asia,” by Ivan Van Sertima and “Susu Economics,” pub. by )

    The caste system is based on physical appearance and ancestry. The Black Untouchables are direct descendents of the ancient Indo-Negroid Blacks who fought the invasions. Gopinath states that the invaders were able to use the ancient religion to implement the brutal caste system and to degrade the Black race of India.

    Still, the vast majority of Indians are said to have Indo-Negroid roots, with those in the South being among the purest Black Negroid people on earth, while those in the north-west being primarily of Eurasian Caucasian origins but still having some Aboriginal blood.

    I do not doubt that at the basic unit of our beginnings we share a common ancestry, that no mutations or temporally influenced variations can alter the fact of that common DNA, and that the shape or manifestation of our original human form is neither factual evidence of superiority or inferiority. But to deny that there was and remains a constructed synthesis of myths and ethnically egocentric notions that support the perception and perspective of culturally inherited human superiority and inferiority is more than a tad deceitful. I absolutely refuse examine these issues within a convenient zone of comfortablity and amnesiac revisionist reality. It is what it is, and emains what it is. And the sooner we get to a point where everything is on the table, in terms of history, in terms of inherited beliefs, customs and religion, the sooner the baggages of history on all sides can be cast asunder, and awakening to our reality will come.

    1. Keith Williams wrote “It is these facetious references that evidences the deceit of the khems and the TMans. “Yeah I knew a black man, and I listen to black music”, and this is the evidence that is suppose to impeach any criticisms of their ethnic bias.”

      The caste system only exist in India. Tribalism exist is African. Both forms have residual effect in the West due to DNA and culture. Never agreed with both ideology.

      When I listen to music I don’t think of it as black man, white man, brown man, yellow man or pink man. I think of it as human. I enjoy music from all areas of humanity and have probably listened to more music from global cultural expressions than you have.. For instance Williams, Bollywood has produced easily over a few thousand songs and dance numbers. If you want to listen to a good melody, listen to Lata Mangaskar, or Mohammed Rafi, no one could touch their voices.
      My current listening forte is country music. At some point in time I will have enough and stop listening to it. But my favourite artistes are Gloria Estefan and Roch Voisin. One is Latino and the other Quebcois. At one point it was Lionel Riche and John Denver.

      Williams this is the world we live in, learn to enjoy it, instead of thinking it should be a certain way.. It is a big bright world out there, stop behaving like the frog in pond. There are streams, rivers and oceans of music and song. Tonight I am going to enjoy some Tamil songs.

    2. What is missing from this lecture is the role of the White man in the Caribbean.
      The writer is so preoccupied with analyzing Indians and the Indian caste system that he fails to focus on the stratification of Trinidad society from earlier times.The Plantation system in the Caribbean placed Africans at the bottom of the ladder, not the Indian caste system.The Plantation system chose to reward the Indians which gave them a head start.

  10. Most of the arguments for and against Multiculturalism as a policy are flawed. This is so for one specific reason: there is no honest attempt to address racism among other social ills. If societies do not address racism and other forms of cultural discrimination and abuse, and hope to manage diversity then unreasoned biases would prop up ideologies that are corrupt, racist and genocidal.

    Cudjoe’s article is on point in many respects, especially as the idea of alienation is bandied about without an attempt to understand what people are talking about. It is mostly used as a means to exact resources from the state.

    When Indians claim alienation, it is largely a way to hold taxpayers to ransom in an attempt to get more resources for their self-imposed reclusion – a condition that is of their own culture.

    The only people who can legitimately claim alienation in Trinidad and Tobago are Africans, especially those who are conscious of their African ‘identity’. Unaddressed racism and colorism have allowed this alienation to continue.

    Societies should respect cultural differences but respect cannot be fostered in ignorance. There are aspects of some cultural practices that are down right racist, sexist and genocidal. Ongoing education about our diverse cultures and fair exchanges on these histories would allow people to discern right from wrong in our cultural diversity. Some cultural ideas, teachings and practices clearly have to change. The state should not be a facilitator of bad culture.

    Also, the idea of giving equal attention and resources to all the different cultures is also flawed for some of the reasons Cudjoe articulated, but also because some of these different cultures were not suppressed. Some people are thriving economically as a result of the colonial history that did not try to eradicate their perception of culture. The state should place more focus on our legitimate cultural differences that were suppressed, e.g. African culture.

    This call for equal distribution of resources is an attempt to keep the imbalance that favours other races and cultural groups. Other people had a head start in terms of retention of whatever they perceived their culture to be which they used to accrue wealth. If a people got wealthy because of unfair advantages over another and both are now given equal resources, then the state is maintaining the same unfair advantages of the privileged group.

  11. Keith Williams

    If you read my comments on this topic, you would not make the following statement:

    “It is these facetious references that evidences the deceit of the khems and the TMans.”

    Also, if you had any experience with living in T&T, you would realize that T&T is no Guyana, Fiji or South Africa.

    1. It can be ,if the stupidity that is fostered by some with a false sense of superiority ,is not discouraged .
      Pinch yourself T-Man, and by the way, ‘beware of a man wit nutten to looze,’ ehh?

  12. I do have experience with Trinidad and Tobago, as much and maybe more than you and some. Who died and conferred you with the right to decide who has such experience and who has not. You need to shed that hubristic baggage, because your post corroborates the very points I made.

    Again, and I hate having to break things down for some people, the analogy related to the tension between similar groups in all three environments. One only need to go back and read some of your posts, the ones that label exposition of anachronistic cultural prejudices as racism, in order to see the shared dysfunctional social interaction. And like I said in my presentation, the ones who are most enamoured with the idea or concept of mythical superiority are the ones who are most stridently reactive to any reference or examination of it.

    When you wish to clean a barrel you need to remove all of its contents and clean it from top to bottom. In the context of a society, if the desire is to cleanse it of the negative operants that promote division and tension, one must be prepared to go to the bottom and clean and dissinfect it from such operants. People are not born with prejudice, they are born into prejudiced environments and enculturated with the traits. For most it is an incidental learning rather than an obsessive inculcation. The catharsis for this is truth, objectivity and honesty in our examinations, rather than hiding from the truth like nicodemus.

  13. They say that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and the same goes for a nation. If in that house, there exist members who for whatever reason feel that they are better than others just “because”, that house will remain divided. Like in such house, the “because” have to be ferreted out, examined and explained away, in order to condition a national sense of parity based on a common national belonging. That is what I am saying.

  14. Multiculturism as practised by thenew regime appears to have been a word that satisfies it’s practictioners than working towards a social outcome. I think both TMan and Khem have articulated views that represent why the idea of multiculturisim is misleading and will NEVER take us forward. We need policies that bring out the best in us and not necessarily only to show our differences. We need serious social scientists who can analyze who we are as a people and where we hope to go (moving forward) without always getting at each other’s throats.

    1. We need serious social scientists who can analyze who we are as a people and where we hope to go (moving forward) without always getting at each other’s throats

      The point Kian is the world has changed there are NO homogenous cultures anymore. Some people are having serious problems with this because they grew up in a world where they could claim a particular cultural brand. All that is gone out the door via globalization. Our children are listening to “Gansta rap, rap, etc” and there is nothing the parents can do about it. There is a good side and bad side to all of this, it all depends on which side of the fence you are… hmmm interesting.

    2. In total agreement, Kian. Read Stephen Kangal’s address to GOPIO published by Trinicenter and count how many times he mentions money and funding. It seems that “multiculturalism” is being used as a program or slogan to justify an argument for increasing funding to selective cultural functions and projects.

  15. It never ceases to amaze me , how a few jokers masquerading on this here information highway as thoughtful thinkers, often tend to think , that every discussion that is brought to the fore ,by our few remaining , pro national , Afrocentric progressives, are all about dem , and the opaque culture, they choose to fervently hold on to , even if evidence would show that it has cause more havoc to ‘their kind,’ and also kept their Continent in an equally backward state, as that of the non European other,dey so despise. Looks like the T-Man ,and the Khem’s of the world are still at it, unfortunately.
    The question to be asked is ,whether they are some paid operatives, as they almost remind one of an tasteless song ,from a old broken record. Give it a rest guys ,as our country needs all hands on deck , in this our most desperate stage of development.

  16. Kris John you need to learn to read and gather context. The whiteman is not in charge of T&T you lug nut. The thread began with an article examining multiculturism in T&T. If you cannot retain a cogent grasp of a subject beyond a few lines, go take a hike.

    Like I said, and you continue to provide evidence of this, the ones who become most stridently antagonistic to any examination of these things are generally the ones who would wither and die if they were forced to give up the inverse proportional “awe superior” crap that runs around in their head. The attempt to divert attention from home unto “the white man” has become the standard subterfuge for these kinds.

    We know what the white man did. We live with it every day of our lives. But the white man has company in his views, and we see it being reflected even in this blog. We see the same language used by the white man to rationalize his prejudice, the same stereotype used by him being flaunted by his brown brethren even here in this blog. Why the hell should people make any separation between the expression of prejudice because it has come from different sources.

    Racial and ethnic Prejudice is a product of cultural and religious belief systems. You have a problem with that then put forth your own analysis, rather than telling me where I should have gone. What a bunch of crap.

  17. The language of Keith Williams:

    “What a bunch of crap”.
    “you lug nut”
    “awe superior” crap that runs around in their head”. “The attempt to divert attention from home unto “the white man”
    “Why the hell”
    I am new to this site, but did not expect the abuse which you heaped on me.You must be one angry Black man!
    Even if you attempt to make good arguments, you display such anger, hostility and arrogance in your writing that your good points are lost.
    Relax, man! You don’t know everything. Adios. I am on my way to play mas in T&T.

  18. Dear Selwyn Cudjoe,
    Thank you for your stimulating commentary on the administration’s policy of multiculturalism. You cite the comments of Attorney General Ramlogan that I reported in my article about Hindu culture in T&T. Your readers may find my complete article here: You – and many European leaders – believe that state mulituculturalism can breed division, strenghtening identity within one’s own ethnic group at the expense of a shared national identity. The natural tendency of most ethnic groups is to look within rather than without. For that reason, it seems reasonable to me to promote at the state level educational programs that foster interest and understanding of groups other than one’s own. I recall that the Prime Minister suggested she would see that school curricula add classes about the history and ethnicity of various components of T&T society. I do not see the harm in this kind of initiative. It’s no panacaea, but it seems to me the kind of initiative that can create greater mutual understanding. However, I agree with you that such programs should be coupled with efforts to underline the commonalities among the various groups. By the way, has this classroom program begun to take place, or was it all just talk?
    As to the administration’s intention to provide more balanced funding to the country’s various ethninc groups, I agree that such a goal is impossible to achieve with any exactitude. Who is to say to what ethnic group a person, program, or organization belongs? And how could the numbers be calculated to determine if distribution were equitable? However, as a general aspiration — one that might redress perceived imbalance in funding in the past — it seems not a bad idea. But the danger is that money would be doled out based not on the quality and excellence of a proposal, but as a kind of entitlement based on ethnicity. The government can devolve into a welfare system rather than a sponsor of projects that strengthen the nation. Which returns to your main point, that the government should be involved in strenghtening collective identity rather than underlining differences among various constituencies. I believe there is a need for both functions. A government that focuses solely on what unifies its people and disdains the reality of ethnic distinctions can lead to nationalist flag waving and enforced conformism. The Prime Minister’s declared policy of helping citizens learn about one another seems to me a good one, and as you point out, it would be enhanced were it integrated with efforts to define and celebrate what it means to be a citizen of T&T.
    I look forward to reading your future posts to learn how these issues develop.
    With best wishes,
    Jason Edward Kaufman

  19. How can the East Indians separate themselves from society Selwyn?
    East Indians make up 40% of the society.

    When you are the largest racial demographic of the society, you cannot separate yourself from ‘the society’. East Indians ARE [at least 1/2] the society, and are as Trinidadian as anyone else. (Whether they are treated that way is another story.) Whatever society they have formed, or separated to, or alienated from, is as equally as “Trinidadian”, if not more so, than any other equal and parallel society.

    For someone who “sought to break down the boundaries within which the various races and cultures had entrenched themselves”, you sure do talk about race a lot.

    As for Eric Williams’ “no mother-Africa, no mother-India, only mother-Trinidad”, I suspect that you won’t be happy if all the young men and women of the USA stopped calling themselves African-American and just simply referred to themselves as “Americans”. This would make Obama the what, 1st African-American president, oh wait no, I can’t use those 2 words together apparently. Yeah, apparently you can’t choose both nationality and race.

    We all have multiple identities. A single man can wear the identities of a father, son, doctor, christian, Man-U fan, husband, guitarist, martial-artist, environmentalist…all without a problem. But you are so appalled at the idea of another man holding the (in your eyes, competing) identities of “East Indian”, “Trinidadian” and God forbid, “Hindu”, that you would rather we hold none.

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