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A vote against racism

raoul pantinBy Raoul Pantin

“If we as a nation are to truly continue walking forward we are the ones who will hurt ourselves if we remain locked in the past.”

—Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

in Parliament last Friday

In spite of its many errors, some of them naive, others blatantly egregious, the one reason I will be sorely tempted to vote this People’s Partnership Government back into power is to declare a stand against the vicious racist comments that I have been hearing of late, apparently triggered by the expectation of a general election in the offing.

I can just imagine the hounds of war snarling and straining at the leash to get at my throat merely for saying this.  That’s okay. At least I’ve got some attention.

Frankly, I have been both surprised and taken aback not only by the vehemence of these racist sentiments but by the very fact that they can still be invoked because I was under the impression, mistakenly I fear, that by this, our 52nd year of Independence, the old “nigger-coolie” divide would have been hurdled, bringing us closer to the reality of the words expressed in our national anthem, “here every creed and race find an equal place.”

Forty years ago, when I wrote the screenplay for the locally-made movie, BIM, I crafted a scene in which a black politician approached the then on-the-rise newcomer Indian  politician, Bim Singh, and suggested that they begin to co-operate in the interest of the society at large.

And, reflecting what I perceived to be a reality  in the pre-Independence era of Trinidad and Tobago, I put these words in the mouth of the Indian anti-hero Bim (played by Ralph Maraj): “Nigger and coolie doh get together in politics, man!”

Even then, writing that screenplay in 1974, I felt I could point to such an issue in our national life because it was no longer true—or, at the very least, it was something that belonged to the past, not the future.

For even though the People’s National Movement (founded by the venerable Dr Eric Williams in 1956, brought this country to Independence in 1962 and  went on to rule for 30 unbroken years) remained largely a “black people” political party while the traditional opposition remained basically an “Indian party”, I have had good reason to believe that over the ensuing years the racist element in our politics was merely an historical accident and would, with the passage of time, become less and less relevant.

Certainly, no credible leader of any political party in Trinidad and Tobago today would dare use racist slurs against his or her opponents in public without being roundly condemned by all and sundry.

Or so I firmly believe.

And this very fact has added to my optimism about our evolution away from the racist politics of the past. To the point where I have recently applauded the declaration I have come across on the social medium, Facebook: “I am not African. I am not Indian. I am Trinidadian.”...READ MORE

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