Race consciousness, racial solidarity and racial identity are too important to ignore. All races constitute the human race but this is mainly theoretical, as it is not the yardstick used in making pronouncements and decisions on matters of life. Notwithstanding, the talent and status of individuals or lack-thereof many of us are vilified and crucified based on how we look. Some of us may try to avoid racial issues or debates. However, it is impossible to do so given the world in which we live. Where does the global African community stand on this matter?
This community is most affected in this realm. There is often a crisis of identity which is very serious; if you do not know who you are or are confused about it you are standing on shaky ground. Calypso great the Mighty Duke, in one of his classics, made the poignant point that nationality is not race. My friends, notwithstanding your race where ever you were born, you are a citizen of that country. For eg Trinidadian, Grenadian, Nigerian. This is your nationality. Duke attempted to show that being African by race is different to your nationality.
Indians born in T&T are called East Indians, Chinese, those we call Syrians, many were born right here. These descriptors are all correct in the context of racial identity. It is also correct to call them Trinidadians by virtue of being born in T&T. The country’s first Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams stated that there is no mother India and Africa and that there is only one mother T&T.
As much as many of you believe in Dr Williams you can respectfully disagree with this position. The only group which has disowned their mother is the African community. The other groups quite rightly have affirmed this identity drawing on this perspective to navigate their national space of T&T. Let me highlight some other examples: there are Caucasians by race and nationals of Africa by birth.
There are Africans of the same race but different ethnic groups, for example Ibo, Hausa and Yoruba who are all Nigerian nationals.
Enlightened conversations on these topics are crucial in clearing up the many misconceptions that abound. Race consciousness is important hence the reason the great Marcus Mosiah Garvey and national hero of Jamaica espoused the race first philosophy, a perspective often misunderstood.
Many hide from this truth by saying that they are part of the human race. My friends there is no dichotomy here, looked at another way; if you forsake your family to look after another family you are going against a fundamental law of life. If your race is weak and lacks a sense of identity then, ultimately, the human race is weaker.
This is not about racial superiority since those who have propagated this; have done so dehumanising an entire race in the process and dislodging between 38 to 42 million sons and daughters of Africa from the continent, with millions dying in the process that have made many of these nations rich and mighty. Some of their citizens today, as is evident by the callousness with which they consistently end the lives of Africans is testimony of a plague that will not leave us anytime soon, if ever. Is fair treatment possible in such a polluted world? The conversations must continue and strategic interventions must be worked out on a consistent basis.
The protests sweeping the United States and emotional outpouring whilst understandable, must continue via carefully worked out strategies and protesters and concerned citizens must be prepared to sustain diversified action for many years to come. We need now more than ever well rounded, mature and committed men and women to drive this discourse.
As the Trinidadian revolutionary Kwame Ture once said “we must organise, organise and organise.” This organisation must go beyond mass protests. As the first President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah said “the independence of Ghana does not mean anything if Africa is not united.” The unification of Africa and its economic progress with leaders working in its best interest is certainly part of the equation in the fight against the injustices that continue to be perpetuated against this community.
As the pro vice chancellor of UWI, Sir Hilary Beckles said Floyd’s death is also the Caribbean’s struggle. Race relations cannot be ignored and everyone has a part to play. On the local front we need to avoid the acidic and puerile discussions on race. Most importantly, we must have noble intentions when we engage in such discourse.
When sufficient fuel is added to the racial debate that is often poor within the borders of Trinidad and Tobago, the inevitable disaster is around the corner.