By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 06, 2011
The racial inanity that gushed out of Nizam Mohammed’s heart ought not to be seen as an aberration; the unfortunate comments of an ill-informed man. It can and should be seen as a part of what I call the Indian narrative that informs the behavior of many East Indians in our society; the reflection of a view that lay in abeyance while they were out of political power only to reveal itself once they came into power.
So that when, in the flush of victory, the People’s Partnership (PP) celebrated the inter-racial nature of their victory it was only a matter of time before their real way of thinking became known to the public.
What is the essence of this narrative?
First. There is an ingrained belief that Africans have done Indians wrong. They believe that since they arrived in 1845 Africans have been cruel to them. We have made fun of them, taken advantage on them; exploited their physical weakness, made fun of their smaller frames and envy their wondrous physiognomy.
Part of the claim is that in the 166 years they have resided in this land they have had to take all these humiliations with a smile. They have not been able to say or do anything about this ill-treatment because they did not hold the reigns of power. Therefore, they had to stay quiet, bid their time, until they could speak without fear of retaliation.
Now their time has come, they can speak out. It does not matter who they offend.
The second thread of this narrative goes as follows: Africans in this land have always tried to keep them down. The PNM, the representative of this dominant culture, has done everything in its power to keep Indians from realizing their rightful place in the society. The gains they made over the last fifty years have been achieved not because of but in spite of the PNM. It is a position that Sat Maharaj has asserted many times.
Within this construct the schools the government built and opened to the public; the hospital system (including the medical school) it developed to care for our people and train our medical professionals; and the industrial plants it developed to decrease our dependence on sugar and increase our economic viability have been done with the sole purpose of making sure that black people got ahead.
Such enterprises were never meant to facilitate the advancement of Indians. It was part of Dr. Williams’s design to give the African every advantage over the Indians which is why many East Indians are unwilling to concede the greatness of Dr. Williams. This is why when the PNM members in the Legislature called on the PP to honor the centenary of Dr. Williams’s birth, Dr. Roodal Moonilal dismissed such a request with the bland announcement that his government will honor all of our heroes during the 50th anniversary of our nation.
In this narrative no concession must be made to the contributions Dr. Williams made to our society nor, for that matter, should he be accorded a privileged position in the island’s history. He is just another African who wanted to keep Indians down.
The third aspect of this narrative suggests that East Indians are bright academically; Africans are stupid. They may be physically superior but they are mentally backward. This is why Africans are better athletes and better footballers. Such a thesis argues that any position that Africans have achieved in the society is a result of favoritism. They ruled the political roost for such a long time that they merely gave out these benefits and advantages to their own.
Indians, on the other hand, have had to work for what they have achieved. They are naturally brighter and more innovative than Africans as they display constantly by the many places they receive in all of the standardized tests. That is why there are more Indian medical doctors; lawyers, etc. than blacks. Indians are just smarter that blacks. It matters not that during the first half of the twentieth century, for example, blacks led the roost in many of these fields.
The fourth strand of this narrative holds that Indians are more physically attractive than blacks. Black folks remain closer to primates while Indians, with their straight hair, straight noses and narrow hips, are closer to Caucasians which make them automatically more attractive than Africans. They are light-skinned and we are dark-skinned. In a world in which Europeans standards stands atop all others Indians are only too ready to place their culture just below that of the Caucasians always citing their Aryan ancestry as having so much in common as the Caucasians.
The fifth part of this narrative suggests that Africans are racist; Indians are not. This is a more recent assertion that has taken on greater momentum with the PP’s victory. While the PNM (read Africans) ruled they acted in racist ways as the membership of the Police and Army demonstrates. Now that Indians are in power they must rectify this situation by purging the society of all of these racist practices which is why so many of our Indian leaders supported Nizam’s statement.
Indians, on the other hand, do not know what racism is. They are incapable of such practices. It is merely coincidental that when the Indian and Pakistani cricket teams play the West Indies they are more likely to support the Indians and the Pakistani. They believe that such behavior is only natural. They merely identify with the Indians and the Pakistani than they do with the West Indians. Just as East Indians are not inclined to assist the Police Force to solve our crime problems because it is predominantly black; they are willing to support the Indian and Pakistani teams because they are closer to them culturally and racially.
These are only some aspects of an Indian way of looking at our world. No doubt there are notable exceptions to this rule but we cannot be oblivious of the dominant narrative. In the end, Khan, Kamla, Panday, Sat and others are singing from the same prayer book. They reflect similar concerns although their emphasis and effusions may be different. They are both listening to the same drummer. It may be trendy to condemn Khan but he is not alone. It is the hymnal out of which so many of our compatriots sing that ought to concern us.