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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents 1
        Table of Contents 2
    Front Matter
        Page i
        Page ii
    Foreword
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    Guest editorial
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    Back Matter
        Back Matter 1
        Back Matter 2
Full Text








































ANCESTRAL IMPULSES
ANITi
; I ( EAN MULTI-ETHNICITY
_~"^-r7


ISSN 0008-6495



Caribbean Quarterly
Volume 40, Nos. 3&4
September December 1994







VOLUME 40, Nos. 3&4 SEPT./DEC. 1994


CARIBBEAN


QUARTERLY

(Copyright reserved and reproduction without pe .jsion.strictly forbidden.)

Foreword ,- iii

Guest Editorial I iv

Caribbean Community: Crossroads to the Futu i ,;
His Excellency Cheddi Jagan 1

At the Crossroad of Identity -The Young East India'_" 15
Vidya Seejattan

Searching for Continuity : The Ancestral Impulse and Community
Identity Formation in Trinidad 22
Ken Parmasad

Gender as Primary Signifier in the Construction of Community and
State Among Indians in Trinidad 32
Patricia Mohammed

Misperception and Stereotyping...Among Young Afro-Trinidadian
Students 44
Carla Mathison and Sharon Carew

Building Cross Cultural Bridges in Multi-Ethnic Societies : The Role
of the Pundit 54
Indira Bolan








Bridging the Racial Divide in Guyana: Problems and Proposals 61
Kampta Karran

Ethnicity and Nation- Building: The Surinamese Experience 72
Lucy Lewis

Framing a Cross-Cultural Dialogue in Trinidad and Tobago 84
Andre- Vincent Henry

Adaptive Responses to Race and Ethnic Conflict 98
Kenneth Tracey

Ethnicity and Attitudes Towards Inter-racial Marriages in
Trindad and Tobago-An Exploration of Preliminary Findings 109
Godfrey St. Bernard

Internationalisation of Ethnic Conflict in the Caribbean :
The Case of Guyana 125
Ralph Premdas

Books Received 139
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS 141
INFORMATION FOR CONTRIBUTORS 142








CARIBBEAN QUARTERLY
UNIVERSITY OF TIE WEST INDIES
Editorial Committee
The lion. R.M.Nettleford, O.M.., Pro Vice-Clhancellor, Professor of
Continuing Studies, Mona.(Editor)
(.M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Professor of History, Mona, Jamaica
Sir Keith Ilunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, Cave Hill.
Neville McNorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Veronica Salter, School of Continuing Studies, Mona (Managing Editor)

All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
The Editor,
Caribbean Quarterly
School of Continuing Studies,
University of dhe West Indies,
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Manuscripts
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which
they would like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles and book reviews of
relevance to the Caribbean will be gratefully received. Authors should refer to the
guidelines at the end of this issue. Articles submitted are not returned. Contributors are
asked not to senl intemational postal coupons for this purpose.
Subscriptions(Annual)
Price
Jamaica J$150.00 (1993) J$200.00 (1994)
Eastern Caribbean J$ 200.00 (1993) J$300.00 (1994)
United Kingdom UK15.00 UK20 (1994)
Canada, U.S.A., and other countries US$30.00 US$40 (1994)
Exchanges
Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section, Library University of the
West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Back Issues and Microfilm
Information for back volumes supplied on request. Caribbean Quarterly
is available on microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms and in book form from
Kraus-Thompson Reprint Ltd.
Abstract and Index
1949-90 Author, Keyword and Subject Index now available.
This journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI
Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or the Resident
Tutor at the University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this Univer-
sity.













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GENERAL EDITORIAL
This volume of Caribbean Quarterly addresses certain issues that are of fundamental
significance to the community of Caribbean nations tenanting a globalised planet that
demands from interstate relations urgent reflection on the nature of each state in terms of
the internal dynamics of the social, cultural, political and economic realities of individual
states within the Caribbean region. The volume comes opportunely, on the occasion of the
150th anniversary of the arrival of East Indians to the region after the abolition of slavery,
during which time migrants from Europe and Africa interacted in hostile encounters while
the indigenous population progressively declined.

The Institute of International Relations wisely chose to mount under the direction of Dr.
Andre-Vincent Henry (guest editor to this volume) an international conference to examine
the challenges facing heterogeneous nation-states, like Trinidad and Tobago, which are in
search of firmer "rooting" in order to respond effectively to the dictates of the new
globalised dispensation.
This could be seen as a conscious response to the tension created by two dominant opposing
forces evident at end of century in the way humankind is expected to function in a situation
of rapid, sometimes turbulent, change. The threat of homogenisation is being actively
countered by the assertive invocation of "ancestral impulses" and "ethnic identities" The
firm rooting of self and society in the specificities of one's own historical and existential
experiences is deemed to offer guarantees for place and purpose in a world that would rob
the less powerful of control over their own destinies. Caribbean experience suggests a
capacity on the part of the region to cope with such tension.
Increasingly, the phenomenon must impact on the way nations and communities across the
globe interact one with another as well as on the nature of the culture of 'interdependence'
which many hope will replace the anguish of dependency and the division of the Planet
since the turn of the century into such combat zones as imperial metropole versus colonial
outpost, centre versus periphery, opulent North versus penurious South, industrial devel-
oped nations versus the primary-producing underdeveloped two-thirds world.
The contributions to this volume by persons drawn from the world of formal scholarship
and the wider community, as well as from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology,
gender studies, political science and international relations, indicates the University of the
West Indies's commitment to developing greater interdisciplinary exploration of Caribbean
social phenomena in (he region's quest for truth and the sort of knowledge that can inform
public policy and serve people in their individual efforts to cope with the contradictions of
a post twentieth century world.
Rex Nettleford


Editor










GUEST EDITORIAL
The state in the Caribbean is a 'historically derived heterogeneous collectivity thrown
together by the processes of colonialism' Consequently one of the continuing challenges
for the Caribbean state is to forge a viable society out of disparate communities which hold
fast to varying markers of identification.
In the context of a global trend of heightened awareness and emboldened expressions of
ethnic identification, it is imperative for Caribbean society to take pause and consider the
direction of inter-ethnic relations and the impact that these have on prospects for creating
viable and lasting state structures.
There is more to this task than the sentimentality of patriotism to a state. There is also an
important instrumentalist dimension which suggests that unless the small state, of which
the Caribbean state is a prime example, can create efficient functioning structures they will
be unable to move with purpose in the international community. The international commu-
nity itself is increasingly marked by the principles of non-reciprocity in which the develop-
ing state cannot expect that its size or underdevelopment will result in special and
preferential treatment.
In this global context, ethnicity with its markers of race, tradition, culture, language,
religion and history presents one of the most potent forces which precludes the creation of
strong socio-political units when disparate groups share the same physical space.
Herein lies one of the ironies of globalisation. The global context facilitates aggressive
expressions of ethnicity as a natural right, which in turn puts pressure and stress on the
domestic socio-political and economic structures of the state. The same process of
globalisation, through other expressions, requires that the state acts more and more with
singleness of purpose in the face of an increasingly hostile environment.
The interplay of these processes is alive and well in the Caribbean. The papers in this
volume represent an attempt to explore some of the dimensions involved in the Caribbean
coming to terms with these forces at work. With the exception of the contributions by
Ralph Premdas and Andr6-Vincent Henry, they were presented at an International Aca-
demic Conference convened by the Institute of International Relations of the University of
the West Indies, St. Augustine, during the period 28 February to 3 March, 1994 under the
title "The Nature of Community and its Impact on Interstate Relations at the End of the
Twentieth Century".
The keynote address was delivered by His Excellency the President of Guyana, perhaps
the Caribbean leader most qualified to outline a view on the creation of a Caribbean
community that is non-racial. Dr. Jagan's address is reproduced with only the most minimal
editorial notations.
The papers cover a range of conceptual, theoretical and practical issues and represent only
the beginnings of an attempt at a dispassionate exploration of the formation of community










in the region. One particular attraction of these contributions is that many of them have
been able to combine the serious, and often quite difficult, task of clarifying concepts with
a very human application of principles to the realities of Caribbean societies. It is sug-
gested that this characteristic makes many of them so much more relevant and readable in
one sense they represent a search for the part of the Caribbean soul.
The contribution by Vidya Seejattan presents a most moving picture of the pilgrimage of
the Caribbean citizen. Although written from the very personal perspective of a young,
female, East Indian, Seejattan's journey and search for anchors in a changing environment
can be applied to Caribbean peoples of varying ethnic groups with equal poignancy.
This matching of the various selves is explored further by both Parmasad and Moham-
med. Parmasad draws on the very interesting concept of the 'ancestral impulse'. It is
useful to note that this is not some reincarnation of 'pop socio-biology'2 but an acknowl-
edgement of the importance of tradition and the positive potential that specific ethnic
traditions can have in contributing to'a multi-ethnic society.
Mohammed molds ethnicity with gender as primary signifier of identity and alerts us to
the importance of not ignoring the role gender plays in preserving ethnic identification and
even enhancing ethnic identification.
Mathison and Carew fly in the face of the comfortable assertions of Africans in the
Caribbean that they are inherently non-racist and that racism is born of the image of
self-superiority held by other communities. Their scientific study which uses a combina-
tion of soft design participant observation buttressed by a sample survey of a rural second-
ary school also portends ill as it demonstrates that there is an inter-generational
transmission of racial stereotypes and prejudices that neither education nor exposure are
lessening.
The papers by Bolan, Karran and Lewis, further explore in broad comparative terms some
of the specifics with which the most cosmopolitan of Caribbean societies have to cope.
Karran in particular seeks to root his analysis of Guyanese society in an understanding of
the mechanisms of racial prejudice.
Both Henry and Tracey lay great emphasis on the issue of cross-cultural communication
and purposeful education as positive forms of adaptive social behaviour and suggest that
energies should be directed at practical problem-solving, including the creation of appropri-
ate institutional frameworks.
Using a statistical analysis St. Bernard examines the widely held assumptions and
stereotypes about Indian-African miscegenation and gives pause to some of these.
Premdas's contribution which brings the volume to a close reminds us how the interna-
tional system penetrates this most intimate of our social concerns and is further testimony
of the openness and vulnerability of Caribbean society. It is to be expected that this
openness will become even more potent as the forces of globalisation intensify.










The Institute of International Relations acknowledges the kindness of Caribbean Quar-
terly and its illustrious Editor in facilitating the dissemination of these views.

I wish to acknowledge the patient support of Mrs. Gloria Lawrence for making the several
manuscripts ready for publication. My research assistants on another project, Mr. Emman-
uel Baah, Miss Dianne McLeod have been exemplary in their dedication and in tracking
elusive references. The kindness of Adrian Farrell, Gavin Ottley, Nicole Rajkumar, Lisa
Steele Pujadas and Sarah Jodhan in assisting with the final proof reading is gratefully
acknowledged.

ANDRE-VINCENT HENRY


REFERENCES


1. Murphree, W. Marshall, (1986). "Ethnicity and Third World Development: Political and Academic Contexts"
in John Rex and David Mason (eds.). Theories of Race and Ethnic Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press.
2. Thompson, H. Richard (1989). Theories of Ethnic: A Critical Approval, Westport, Greenwood Press.














Caribbean Community: Cross-Roads to the Future


by


CHEDDI JAGAN



This international conference on the nature of the community and its impact on inter-
State relations at the end of the twentieth century provides a good opportunity for me to
share with you some of my thoughts on the global community and the future of our
Caribbean Community and, in that context, on the evolution of relations among its mem-
ber-states. This comes at a time when the return to democracy, the rule of law, and honesty
and transparency of Government in Guyana make it possible for us to speak more openly
and to put forward ideas which hopefully will be both innovative and helpful to further our
consideration of how best to advance the integration of our regional Community.

In the international community, the twentieth century has been characterized by monu-
mental changes.

Towards the end of World War I, the 1917 Russian Revolution ushered a qualitatively
new type of state a workers/socialist state. It had a tremendous impact on inter-state
relations. The Western capitalist states established a policy of encirclement, blockage and
intervention "to strangle", in the picturesque words of Winston Churchill, "the Bolshevik
infant in its cradle".

The Depression of the late 1920's and early 1930's, representing the first major
capitalist crisis, witnessed an aggravation of the world situation, with progressive and
retrogressive developments. US President, F.D. Roosevelt, with his "New Deal" pro-
gramme, enacted pro-labour legislation like the Wagner Act, and set up the WoJks Progress
Administration (WPA) to provide jobs. For Latin America and the Caribbean, he formu-
lated a "Good- Neighbour" policy.

The capitalist crisis prepared the way for ultra-nationalism and xenophobia. Liberal
democratic states were replaced by fascist states in Germany and Italy, leading to the
collapse of the League of Nations and collective security. The policy of appeasement led to
aggression by fascist Italy against abyssinia (Ethiopia), intervention by fascist Hitlerite
Germany and Mussolini's Italy against the young Spanish Republic in favour of General










Franco, and in 1939 to a World War.

World War II brought a new alliance of forces: western liberal- democratic capitalist
states and the Soviet socialist state versus the authoritarian/dictatorial capitalist (fascist)
states. At the end of the War, with communist rule established in Eastern Europe, North
Korea and North Vietman, a socialist world system was established alongside the world
capitalist system. Two worlds, West and East, capitalist and socialist, coexisted for a short
while. United East/West mass world organizations the World Federations of Trade Unions
(WFTU), the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), the International Union of
Students (IUS) and the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF) were set
up. And, the United Nations system was created to replace the collapsed League of Nations
for international co- operation, security and peace. There were established the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to stabilise
currencies and to ease and expand trade, and the World Bank to provide guarantees and
investment for reconstruction and development.

The Cold War ended the short-lived peaceful co-existence, broke- up the anti-Hitler
coalition and, with the doctrine of "containment" and "liberation", ushered in a prolonged
period of political, ideological and military confrontation, subversion, destabilisation and
intervention. Security in the East-West axis was seen largely in military terms. Deterrence
to aggression and war was sought through a "balance of fear" and a "balance of terror" with
rapidly and ever-expanding arsenals of nuclear weapons. Nuclear fallout and nuclear
conflagration became the major pre-occupation of mankind, especially in the developed
industrialized countries.

On the economic front, fierce competition ensued between the Organisation of Eco-
nomic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Community in the West
and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) in the East. And rivalry for
the "hearts and minds" of the newly-independent countries through propaganda and devel-
opment assistance was intensified.

Those states, which were not prepared to join the military blocs Rio Pact, North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Baghdad Pact later Central Treaty Organisation
(CENTIO), South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) and the Anzus Pact of the
capitalist world and the Warsaw Pact of the socialist world organised themselves in the
non-Aligned Movement. In the largely bipolar world community, the Third World was
born; and the struggles, North/South and East/West, intensified for national and social
liberation.

The ending of the Cold War has brought about a marked shift in the world balance of
forces. With the collapse of communist governments in the Soviet Union and Eastern
Europe, there is now only one economic/military superpower. Instead of a new world order,










mooted after the gulf War, there is now disorder and disintegration. East/West confronta-
tion, based on ideology, has given way to conflicts rooted in racial/ethnic, religious and
cultural/historical differences within states.

Unparalleled technological developments the post-industrial Technological Revolu-
tion and the Information Revolution (Information Super Highways) have brought about
rapid changes, globalisation and the "global village". However, with the United States,
Europe and Japan, not only dominating the global economy but also competing for a greater
slice of the world market, the political situation and international relations have become
more diffuse and multipolar: the very stable largely bipolar power structure of the Cold
War era has given way to multipolarity a marked shift in the global diffusion of power.

The new production technologies in services, industry and agriculture and the commu-
nication and information technologies are shifting power to the transnational corporations,
without any code of conduct and monitoring of their activities. Through their investments
which, in the 1980's grew by about 30 per cent per year four times as fast as world trade
- they account, through production and sale to other countries, for nearly 50 per cent of
world trade. According to Peter Hansen, former Head of the UN Center on Transnational
Corporations, "80% of this foreign investment was flowing within and among the triad
countries: Japan, Western Europe and North America. The developing countries in the
1980's dropped to about 16% of total global flows." This has led, he pointed out, to "a
relative marginalization of many countries in the world economy." 1

The Carnegie Commission says: "Periods of economic boom draw developing nations
into the world system, only to be followed by busts in which they are bitterly marginalised
again."2

The developing countries are being marginalised also be unequal and unfair interna-
tional trade and the persistent and growing foreign debt, which doubled over the past
decade. Through protectionism, tariff barriers, falling or stagnant prices, buying dear and
selling cheap, they lost US$500 billion annually, equivalent to nearly ten times the aid
received from the North.

The total debt of developing countries was estimated by the World Bank to reach the
staggering sum of US1.77 trillion in 1993, up 6.5 per cent from the end of 1992. Debt
payments have become a crushing burden. In Guyana, they were 105 per cent and 90 per
cent of current budget revenue in 1992 and 1993 respectively. The debt/service ratios (debt
payments as a proportion of foreign commercial earnings) of the CARICOM countries
foreign debt of US$9 billion were 12, 27, 30 and 46 per cent for Barbados, Jamaica,
Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana respectively. Between 1981 and 1990, Latin America
spent US$503 billion on foreign debt payments (US$313 billion in interest). At the same
time, the region's consolidated debt rose from US$297 billion in 1981 to US$428 billion in










1990. This mechanism whereby "the more you pay the more you owe" is perverse and must
be stopped, says UNICEF.4 According to the Carnegie Commission: "The resource drain
from developing to industrialized countries now totals some $60 billion annually, a sum
larger than the annual ODA transfer from donors to the developing world and a complete
reversal from the 1970's. Although some countries have negotiated debt relief, the burden
for many others remains crushing."5

The World Bank, the international financial institution concerned with development, is
now, according to Peter Hansen, "transferring more money in repayments from the devel-
oping countries than providing new loans."6 Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) is imposing severe economic adjustment programmes, based on devaluation, credit
squeeze/high interest rate, and wage freeze/wage restraint.

All of these factors cumulatively have led to a widening gap between the North and the
South, the highly-industrialised capitalised states and the underdeveloped dependent-capi-
talist countries, the rich and the poor.

Increasingly, poverty is taking a new dimension: from the South to the North, from
regional to global.

The modernised production process in the industrialized capitalist system with cyberna-
tion and automation, with computers and robots, is highly capital-intensive. Since this type
of economic development is dependent on finance capital for research and the means of
production, a greater share of the value of the product goes to capital, which leads to social
inequality, a widening gap between the rich and the poor and, at the same time, to
increasing social tensions and unemployment 36 million in the OECD countries and 20
million in Europe alone. This unemployment is not simply cyclical as in the past. But also
structural a phenomenon known as "jobless growth".

The hungry, uneducated, ill-clothed and poorly housed out-number the affluent and are
eking out a bare existence. Nearly a billion people out of a world population of 5.5. million
do not have the basic necessities of life, and with the expectation of a doubling of the
population during the next fifty years, there is the grave threat of increasing poverty and
environmental destruction.

The consequences of inequality, poverty and unemployment in the North are homeless-
ness, cuts in welfare, crime, juvenile deliquency, disorder and violence among children in
schools, suicide and narcotics use.

In the South also, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. The incidence of
poverty has doubled in the last decade ("lost decade") as compared with the 1970's. More
than 30 per cent of the population in the developing countries lives in abject poverty. In
Latin America and the Caribbean, 45% of the total population will be below the poverty










line by the end of the century. This is leading to hunger and misery, illiteracy, crime,
population growth, environmental degradation, disease, emigration and production, use
and export of narcotics.

Growing and relative poverty, due to the prolonged world economic and social crisis,
stagnation and recession, has created a world in the process of disintegration, a world in
conflict: conflicts increasingly within states rather than conflicts between states. It is
leading to growing insecurity, increasing violence and grave threats to peace. Jan Pronk,
the Dutch Minister for Development Co-operation, in his 1994 Budget presentation for
development co-operation, characterized the rapid pace of the "downside of-power shift in
international politics" as "A world in Dispute" in 1994 with far more conflicts as compared
with what he called "A World of Difference" in 1990. Since the end of World War II, 34
million persons were killed in major conflicts, of which 29 million were in 1992 alone. In
the developing countries, twenty-four million persons were displaced in their own countries
and 18 million outside of their countries.

As a result of these conflagrations, the United Nations "has deployed more peace-keep-
ing missions than in the preceding 45 years". Peace-keeping and peace-making expendi-
ture has increased seven-fold between 1991 and 1993, whilst UN aid through technical
assistance from agencies such as UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, etc. has declined by 10% between
1992 and 1993.

As a result of growing alienation, frustration and hopelessness in this period of confu-
sion and convulsion, nationalism, ethno- nationalist, xenophobia, revanchism and neo-fas-
cism, as in the 1930's depression period, are in the ascendancy. The Ultra- rightist forces,
like the national Front parties in France and the United Kingdom and the Republican Party
in Germany, are growing. Neo-fascist elements are becoming brazenly abusive and resort-
ing to racial violence. In Canada, the Klu Klux Klan is talking of a racial holy war, Rahowa,
and is resorting to cross burning. In Italy, the centrist parties have recently lost ground to
the neo-fascists. This has also happened in Russia. The National front won a Country
Council seat in Britain. These are disturbing signals, reminiscent of the pre-World War II
period.

Where does our Community stand? CARICOM and its antecedents were set up at a time
when the world was rather different from what it now is. In those days, both high trade
barriers to the markets of the outside world and the dominance of economies of scale, as
distinct from technology and science, in manufacturing industry dictated a strategy of
integration for development based on common external protection within a liberalised
regional trading area, and promoted by such State instruments as fiscal incentives and
regional agricultural and industrial programming. To this basic thrust was added inter-State
co-operation in a number of functional areas (such as education, health) and foreign policy
co-ordination.










At present however, after more than twenty-five years, our community-building efforts
seem to have come to a halt in a rapidly-changing world situation. We are now at the
cross-roads to the future. It would not be a secret to say that we are rather disappointed with
the economic progress of the Community. The relative importance of regional trade
remains very small (in net value-added terms probably not more than five or six per cent of
total trade) and has hardly increased. Our trade to other parts of the world has increased at
a significantly faster pace. Meanwhile, the trade gap between the More Developed Coun-
tries (MDC) and the Less Developed Countries (LDC) was taking on "massive" propor-
tions, according to Justin Vincent, Executive Director of the East Caribbean Export
Development Agency (EXCEDA). He pointed out: "Although our exports would have
increased by 12 per cent in 1992, it may have declined it may have declined with regards to
the MDC's because their economic situation makes their products much cheaper than ours,
even though our quality may be better."8 Virtually nothing has been achieved in developing
regional industries based on the complementary resources of the member-States. Macro-
economic co- ordination and regional outlook analysis have also not developed to an extent
that could assist governments and influence policy- making.

There has been a fair amount of activity in the functional areas but little depth has been
added to them in terms of collective decision-making. Political and foreign policy co-ordi-
nation remains a dead letter. In the meantime, the community's bureaucracy expands,
spilling over to a widening range of activities without advancing the quality of Community.
However, it must also be said that over this period a solid institutional foundation and
framework of procedures and intergovernmental consultations have been put in place an
achievement rivalled perhaps only by the European Community. We should be able to
build on this substantial achievement. In all this, however, the people of the region have
been very little, if at all, involved. There has not been much to capture their interest,
imagination and enthusiasm. CARICOM and its integration arrangements have been the
affairs of governments, remote from the people who in the final analysis are the Commu-
nity of the Caribbean. Perhaps, more as a matter of default than design, our business
community also has been distant from the endeavour. They have not done much under their
own steam to take advantage of the available opportunities. Foreign firms have shown the
way where our own should have been able to lead.

What lies beyond the cross-roads? Not withstanding the West Indian Commission's
Report, I sense a certain indecisiveness, an uncertainty, a tendency to drift, a proclivity to
run after very new enterprise emanating from the North. We seem to be losing the sense of
who we are, of the purpose of our own enterprise, of the essential unity of our history,
experience and culture, and the togetherness of our peoples.

The West Indian Commission tried to chart a course for us. Among their recommenda-
tions was strengthening the Community's implementation capacity, which resulted in the










institution of the Bureau; enhancing the Community's economic integration arrangements
(such as the common external tariff, the single market and monetary union) in preference to
the pursuit of what they called the 'distant' goal of political unity; and, widening the circle
of Caribbean States into an Association of Caribbean States.

The Government of Guyana is a party to these arrangements but they give rise among
us to reflections that go beyond what appears on the surface. For example, we do not feel
that the problem of effective implementation of CARICOM decisions is simply a matter of
the authoritativeness of instructions and follow-up mechanisms. The explanation also lies
deeper, in the style of governance of CARICOM itself. Too often it seems decisions are
made at the highest levels of the Community, frequently at the information, debate and
substantive contribution by those whose lives are to be directly affected and even by those
at the national and local levels who are to be responsible for the execution and successful
implementation of decisions.

As we stand at the cross-roads, there is apprehension that relying on the traditional
economic integration instruments will not bring the rewards we seek; that spill-over
'busyness', without clear purpose and tangible benefits, will sooner or later result in more
vocal public questioning and force Government to down-size their commitment to the
Community.

At the cross-roads too are the attractions some would say the distractions of the
Association of Caribbean States, bilateral agreements (NAFTA). There is already a ten-
dency to rush headlong into these new relationships, with promises exaggerated to the point
where some individual CARICOM States seem willing to entertain unilateral actions that
are at cross purposes with our Community.

These initiatives are being propelled at such a pace that we are in danger of losing sight
not only of the socio-cultural moorings of Caribbean Community but of the democratic
traditions and openness that we so dearly cherish.

We in Guyana believe that we have to be clear, resolute and reassertive about our
purpose. Grandiose postures are less important to us than modest but meaningful achieve-
ments. We promoted this enterprise of the Antilles not solely as a business, though we are
fully cognizant of our development needs. While not neglecting to seek economic and other
advantages in mutual co-operation with our hemispheric neighbours and others, we are
neither North Americans nor Latin Americans. We are West Indians with all that is
distinctive and meaningful to us in that term. We believe that in asserting the various
options now before us our people must be adequately informed so as themselves to be able
to make well-considered judgements. We believe that in asserting the various options now
before us our people must be adequately informed so as themselves to be able to make well-
considered judgements. We believe too that our Community would be well served by










adopting a consensual approach to those options and we should like to see the CARICOM
Secretariat more active in aiding those processes of democracy and transparency, and
regional consensus-building.

As we stand at the cross-roads, we urge our partners to take the road of mutually
beneficial economic co-operation and to mvoe towards the construction of a Union of West
Indian States. By mutually beneficial economic co-operation we in Guyana would like to
place the emphasis on exploiting those productive, service and infrastructural ventures that
are demonstratively beneficial to the participating States, without involving them in the
cost of protection. For examples, Guyana offers numerous resource-based opportunities, of
which the supply of furniture, construction materials and food products to the tourist
industries of the Island States is merely one of the more obvious examples. These are
potentially superior in terms of cost to international alternatives. More generally, opportu-
nities abound for comparatively cost effective co-operation arrangements in respect of sea
and air transportation, telecommunications, weather and disease control, tourism promo-
tion, regional security, high technology and advanced research like banking insurance and
a variety of other services. Mutually beneficial economic co-operation would bring net
benefits to all participants in such ventures.

By that means, we see a better prospect of overcoming inter-State tensions over the
uneven distribution of the benefits of particular projects or of the instrument of the
CARICOM integration regime in general. It should also help to allay tensions emanating
from projects, as compared with international costs. We would expect the private sector to
take the lead in promoting targeted regional enterprises, with strategic promotional, organ-
izational and research and development assistance from the States, and especially from a
renovated CARICOM whose role, institutional functioning and capability must now match
the requirements and opportunities of the changing time. Guyana is willing to participate in
ad hoc joint commissions with any interested CARICOM States to put this idea into effect.
We anticipate the active involvement of the private sector.

No less important is the task of nurturing West Indian unity, building up to a Union of
West Indian states. The lesson we should draw from the experiences of the Federation is not
that political unity is a lost cause, but that we should be more sensitive with respect to the
nature and character of that concept. Parliamentary and constitutional union is not the
unique conception of, or approach to, a union of States as we are now seeing before our
eyes with the European Union, and with other innovative experiments and proposals. After
all, the basic ingredients of unity affinities of culture and kinship are present among us
all and are strongly felt. We must nurture this real distinctiveness of West Irdian society by
creating meaningful, confidence- and esteem-building markets of unity md citizenship.
They are more needed now than at any other time, as the world shrinks into racial and
cultural fortresses, even as economic liberation spreads, perhaps, one might say, as a









consequence of this development.

As you know, the member-States of the OECS envisage the realization of some form of
political union, and I believe Prime Minister Manning was in tune with the times when he
said in Port of Spain in June 1992 at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of
Government of the Caribbean Community: "Integration is not only about action in the
political and economic spheres. Let us also take those actions which will not only build on
our common heritage and aspirations but strengthen the common identity of our peoples".
He also went on to propose that "maybe the time has come to take the incremental approach
to political union, proceeding on a gradual basis rather than seeking to make an unrealistic
and unwise structural imposition on the situation." As you know, Prime Minister Sandiford
of Barbados together with Prime Minister Manning and myself are charged with coming up
with proposals that could take these ideas further, and we will be doing so before long.

My dear comrades, it would be time well spent if the academic community, during this
conference or subsequently, were able to contribute further to this question: how can the
goals of Caribbean unity be meaningfully advanced without destroying them in the pro-
cess? This is not an easy question, but a real one.

We have to come up with answers, and not only for our Community, but also for the
global community. We need not just a New World order, but a New Global Humanitarian
Order. We need governance with justice and equity. The UN Secretary General's Agenda
for peace must be linked to an Agenda for Development.

We need a wider horizon for development and a deeper international peace. Develop-
ment must not be narrowly construed to mean simply economic growth. It is possible to
have economic growth with little or no human development. We must aim to have both
economic growth and human development: economic growth is necessary for human
development; equally, human development is necessary for economic growth.

We are not adequately taking advantage of science and technology for development.
We need a strategy not only for a sound scientific development plan, but also for human
resource development. Only about 4 per cent of the world expenditure on research and
development and about 14 per cent of the world's supply of scientists and engineers are in
developing countries, which contain about 80 per cent of the world population.9

Our Agenda for Development must embrace the Right to Development. Without such a
right, it will not be possible to realise the human rights codified in the two UN Covenants -
the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights. Human development is incomplete without human freedom.

Some states emphasise civil and political rights but fail to note the centrality of
economic, social and cultural rights. Both sets of rights are essential; they are inter-related









and inter-acting. This symbiotic relationship also exists between the economic base and the
political, ideological, institutional and culture superstructure. We will not succeed unless
we note carefully the inter-relationship and interaction between the base and the superstruc-
ture.

Some have been prone to suggest that the economic and financial collapse under the
previous administration in Guyana and elsewhere have been due mainly to an over-ex-
tended state sector in the economy. This is a simplistic analysis. What is not evaluated is the
nature of the state and whose interests it serves.

Under the PNC administration in Guyana over a period of 28 years, the state had
become an instrument for the enrichment of the ruling elite and the parasitic sections of the
business/capitalist class the compradore bourgeoisie. There was an eclectic ideology and
Machiavellian methods at the political sphere. Staying in power by any and all means was
the modus operandi. The party and the state became indistinguishable under the doctrine of
"party paramountcy". The state was bent and manipulated to serve the interests not of the
nation and people but of the party and the ruling elite.

Maikhail Gorbachev had credited the stagnation of the Soviet economy to bureau-
cratic/command type of government and Guyana, but was masquerading as co-operative
socialism under the PNC regime. Socialism or, for that matter, any progressive social-
economic order cannot be built without an integrated balanced development programme
and democracy in all its aspects political, economic, social, industrial. Similarly nor can
sustainable development cannot take place with extravagance, bribery, corruption, political
patronage, discrimination, nepotism and favouritism, especially in our plural, multi- cul-
tural societies.

Change is the political buzzword today. It is vitally needed. But progressive change will
not come about unless the interests of the nation and the people are put as the first priority.
In this regard, the class and social forces which are in control of the state or important. Big
business generally has shelved its responsibility; it has no patriotism, and generally puts
profits before people, what the Pope calls "unethical capitalism". Bribery and corruption
have become endemic; they are the order of the day. Monopoly finance capital in its quest
for super-profits is concerned more with global management and control than with good
governance. What is needed is a code of conduct for the powerful transnational corpora-
tions. Years ago, the Americans saw the need to control what one writer called the "robber
barons" with the anti-monopoly and anti-sharp practices Sherman Act and other regulatory
mechanisms. There are even more essential today.

In Guyana, we have established a national-democratic state: neither a capitalist state
under the control of Big Business nor a socialist state under the control of the working class.
The major interest of the Guyana State is to protect the interest of the nation and the people,









especially the working people, the unemployed, under-employed, dispossessed and
marginalised, the poor and the hungry. The PPP/CIVIC alliance, by its class, social and
cultural composition, embracing all progressive classes and strata of society and balancing
race/ethnicity and ideology, is eminently qualified to bring about human development.

We intend to set an example of good governance. For the PPP/CIVIC government, this
means representative participatory democracy with a people-centred Development Pro-
gramme and a "basic human needs" strategy for the poorest, which will place emphasis
simultaneously on the high capital-output ratio productive agricultural and industrial sec-
tors and the low capital-output ratio infrastructure sectors of the economy. This is the only
way to achieve growth and at the same time to get out of the debt trap.

As regards the role of the public sector and the private sector in sustainable develop-
ment, we do not take a dogmatic, inflexible position. However, we believe that we must
exercise sovereignty over our land, resources, values and traditions. We do not share the
view of those with an ideological bias for their implicit advocacy of privatisation/divest-
ment over the state sector. We have repeatedly stated that in the context of Guyana with a
wrecked economy and underdeveloped human resource base, the private sector will be the
engine of growth, with the state sector playing a complementary and facilitating role and,
at the same time, ensuring economic growth with social justice and ecological justice. In
this regard, we share the sentiments of Ambassador Luis Fernando Jamarillo of Colombia
who, speaking on behalf of the G-77 Group of 128 developing countries, told a meeting that
the private sector was as fallible as the state sector. "Let us therefore not glorify the private
sector", he said.l0

Our own experience teaches varied results under three different governments in Guyana
- colonial, PPP and PNC. The state-owned Rice Marketing Board and Rice Mills did not
serve the rice industry and the rice producers (private farmers and millers) under the
colonial and PNV government; it did under the PPP government. The privately-owned
Guyana Electricity Company gave unsatisfactory service. The state-owned Guyana Elec-
tricity Corporation performed well under the PPP government, and abysmally under the
PNC Government. The state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) sank to the
lowest depths in production and productivity under the PNC government. Privatisation,
through a Booker/Tate management contract, coupled with improved wages, salaries and
bonuses and proper collective bargaining arrangements with the unions, led to unprece-
dented growth of over 20% per year in 1991-92. Even with the rundown machinery, the
new management achieved in 1992 what it has planned to achieve in 1995! Now, under the
PPP/CIVIC Government, the industry is making great strides.

The State, under pressure from above by international forces and from below with more
and more demands for goods and services and ethnic self-determination, must play a
greater pro-active role. A democratic, lean and clean government and efficient management









are essential pre-requisites for economic growth and human development.

In our Agenda for Development, we need a global strategy for the eradication of
poverty worldwide. To achieve the attainable goal of halving world hunger by the year
2000, it is necessary to shift the emphasis of security from the "security of states" to the
"security of people". Our strategy must be based on new thinking and present-day realities.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, many development models had been handed
down to us the Puerto Rican "industrialization by invitation", "bootstrap" model;
Kennedy's Alliance for Progress; Johnson's regional integration with ideological frontiers
replacing geographical frontiers; ECLA's import substitution; and Nixon's Equal Partner-
ship. However, they all proved inadequate.

Our CARIFTA/CARICOM regional integration model was patterned after the Latin
American Free Trade Area (LAFTA), the Central American Common Market, the Euro-
pean Free Trade Area (EFTA) and the European Community. Now, we are faced, in the
context of the "borderless world" and "global village", with the North American Free Trade
Area (NAFTA) for reciprocal free trade, when we have not been able to take advantage of
the non-reciprocal free trade benefits which the US Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and
the Canadian CARIBCAN afforded us. The NAFTA mega-trade bloc does not offer the
safety net as the other mega-trade bloc, the European Economic Community (EEC). The
latter provides for free movement not only of capital and goods but also of people. And for
the lesser developed countries, like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, a Special develop-
ment Fund has been established to raise per capital income to at least the level of 75 per cent
of the Community's average income. The NAFTA planners need to examine the EEC's
model of regional integration and free trade, especially since the disparities in development
and income levels are far wider in the Western Hemisphere than in Europe.

There are also the realities of financial problems, like budget deficits and inadequate
funding for social programmes, facing many of the developed countries. These are leading
to cuts in foreign aid; "aid fatigue" is setting in. While this is taking place, we in the
developing countries need relief from the colossal external debt burden which stultifies
economic and humanitarian development and prevents the expansion of world trade.

Where is the money to come from? One obvious source is savings from cuts in arms
expenditure. Speaking about the burden of the past and the challenge of change, the
Carnegie Commission states:

Of the greatest point, institutions remain locked into
past conflicts and competitions. Military budgets drain
huge resources not only from donor countries, but also
from developing nations. In 1990, $880 billion was
spent on armaments and training for war throughout










the world, a total fifteen times the annual expenditure
on official development assistance. Although troop
levels in industrialized countries have remained stable
over the last three decades, military budgets have dou-
bled. In developing countries, troop totals have dou-
bled and military spending has quintupled. As a result,
poor countries spend two or three times as much on the
military as they receive in aid from donor nations. In
some countries, despite the persistence of disease, high
mortality, poverty and illiteracy, military budgets are
many times larger than those for social needs."1

Humanity demands that world disarmament be accelerated. Military and non-priority
expenditures like the space programme must be rapidly cut. UNDP Human Development
Report 1991 states: "If industrial countries were to reduce their military spending by 3% a
year, this could provide $25 billion a year. In addition, if developing countries merely
freeze their expenditure at current levels, this would save potential future increases of over
$10 billion a year."l2 Savings, the "peace dividend", can be utilized:

to provide debt relief to the Third World;

to embark on a job-creating programme in the developed countries, like President
Roosevelt's WPA programme;

to reduce the days and hours of the working week without loss of pay and fringe-ben-
efits;

to reduce the pensionable age without loss of benefits;

to provide incentives for job-creating investment.

A "time bomb", according to Professor Paul Kennedy, is ticking away. As zero hour
approaches, let us stop fiddling with symptoms, whilst ignoring the root causes. In view of
past experience and failures, let us in humility stop dictating and imposing a single model
for all climes and situations to the exclusion of other possible options. Let us stop eroding
the fundamental principles which are designed to protect the weak against the domination
of the powerful. Listen to the grassroots and involve them in decision-making and manage-
ment. Our time calls for creativity: concepts, laws and institutions must change.

Let us see things not in compartments: "West" and "East", "North" and "South". Our
approach must be global and humanitarian. Humanitarian concerns must take precedence
over political, economic and military considerations. Let us build a genuine partnership on
truly democratic foundations, national and international, with democracy within nations
and among nations, in our interdependent world for a New Global Humanitarian Order, for











genuine security, freedom and peace.


REFERENCES


1. Peter Hansen, Executive Director of the Commission on Global Governance and former UN As-
sistant Secretary General, "We Cannot Talk Governance Without Also Talking About Justice and
Equality", Just News, p. 2. Geneva, Switzerland, November 1993.
2. Partnershipfor Global Development: The Clearing Horizon, A Report of the Carnegie Commis-
sion on Science, Technology and Government, December 1992, p. 40.
3. Human Development Report 1992, UNDP.
4. CHILDREN OF THE AMERICAS, Child Survival, Protection and Integrated Development in the
1990's UNICEF, 1992, Santafe de Bogota, Colombia, p. 52.
5. Partnershipsfor Global Development, op. cit., p. 38.
6. Peter Hansen, op. cit., p. 3.
7. Jan Pronk, "A World in Dispute and Budget Development Co- operation 1994", Development
Co-operation Information Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague, Netherlands, p. 4.
8. Justin Vincent, Guyana Chronicle, 23 February, 1994.
9. Partnership for Global Development, op. cit., p. 43.
10. Ambassador Luis Fernando Jamarillo, Just News, Geneva, Switzerland, May 1993, p. 7.
11. Partnerships for Global Development, op. cit., p. 41.
12. Human Development Report 1991, UNDP, p. 10.














At the Crossroad of Identity the Young East Indian


by


VIDYA R.L. SEEJATTAN



In the middle of an Indian Cultural Programme, an East Indian young lady stands
behind a tenor steelpan and renders an old, well-loved Indian melody. As the last note
lingers in the air, the applause begins, hesitantly. From within the crowd, an elderly pundit
springs to his feet and denounced quite vehemently such absolute tainting of the culture. He
storms out of the Hall. The young player is perplexed, or perhaps on the contrary, under-
stands quite well all that has just transpired.

At the Oval, the young lady sits among her friends from the Hindu temple. The Indian
cricket team is on tour of the West Indies. The captain of the Indian team is caught out and
she leaps to her feet, cheering and clapping madly, surprised that their friends don't share
her exuberance. They are disgruntled. Her enthusiasm wanes and envy emerges as she
looks down two rows in front where all are on their feet, waving hats and cheering at the top
of their voices. Her eye catches a handsome face, and she wonders to herself "who is that
cute dougla guy in the end seat?"

The young East Indian in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and possibly Surinam is now at
a crossroad and a direction has to be consciously chosen. We cannot simply be human
driftwood, unthinking, uncritical and irresponsible. However, whichever path we end up
following it must, above all, be a chosen path.

A reflection on the history of the East Indian experience in Trinidad on the road already
travelled, will reveal that the Indian has much to be bitter about: "Bamboo Marriages" that
have caused so many to be classified as 'illegitimate'; the derision afforded to Indian dress,
dhotis and kurtas; the attitude towards the frugal diet that drove so many of our Indians
ancestors and even of the current generation, to be ashamed of our brown bagged lunches;
the bare tolerance of Indian religions especially Hinduims and its rituals, the deals offered
to exchange religions for jobs and for acceptance in a society that had little better to offer.
The East Indians had to bargain away their very beliefs just for a chance. There is so much
to be bitter about and if we desire to live a life of retaliation, then it is our choice. But what
sort of choice is that really? Our young East Indians will become a generation of reactors,










rather than actors.

When you look down the road, what can you see? So many scenarios unfold before your
eyes. Sometimes they comfort, sometimes sadden, depending upon your own desires for
tomorrow. I am grateful that, in reality, you cannot see anything because nothing exists as
yet. The future awaits us, especially my generation.

Returning to our driftwood state of being, the tide determines where the wood drifts,
unless some external force deliberately changes the position of the wood. But how about
changing the tide itself? We have the tide of our history which has swept us along for
generations, a tide of, sometimes, sentimentality and emotions, felled by the pain of real as
well as imagined wounds. Our fathers and forefathers have endured inter- and intra-
cultural wounds, some too painful to retell. They have been successful and have failed in
endeavours, have risen and fallen, have lived and died and given and taken and the result
stands here today, representative in terms of the generation of which I am a part, though not
necessarily representative of its mindset.

Is it that we have refused, as a people to belong here? Have we been ostracised or do we
do the ostracising? For generations before us the umbilical cord has continued to stretch
over the 'Kala Pani', back to India. Can we young East Indians ever understand this? Yes,
if we use or minds and hearts we can. The tears that come to our parents' eyes as the
airplane touches down at Delhi Airport are understandable. So is the hunger for Indian
music and latest news about the Indian movie celebrities, for fashions and literature. In
Trinidad we wear the designer clothes of Benetton and follow the lives of Hollywood
actors. It is perhaps a derivative of the colonial mentality that we are obsessed with the
happenings of the world cultural centres. We can indeed understand the desire of so many
to return to the 'Motherland' of our parents. (I often wonder, would that be a one-way or a
return ticket?)

But when does all of this become destructive? To how many cultural worlds can we
truly belong? There is nothing wrong with being immersed in one's culture, and by
definition, it is impossible not to be. However, difficulty is encountered and reason steps
aside when people are forced into a cultural mold. A culture is as fixed in definition as that
culture itself. It emerges out of a people's experience, to return to define them and be once
again defined by them.

Thomas Eriksen concludes in his article the dilemma facing Trinidad and tobago when
he notes:

Nationalism that are directed against the state have
..been largely identified as irredentisms. diaspora na-
tionalism, ethnic movements or secessionisms... If a
regime become illegitimate, then the citizens will seek










to replace it with one that in their view more accurately
represents the national will.. as expressions (of a de-
sire) to fuse the cultural and political units.l


Is there a common political will which we can all express? So we as East Indians continue
to adhere to a separate nationalism, seeing ourselves separate from the larger community?
Are we helping to build this nationalism or do we desire to be simply an 'ethnic
movement'?

A discussion such as this cannot claim objectivity for the subject of finding one's place,
of cultural identity versus national identity and race consciousness is conceived more as a
moral, ethical and subjective one. We all share these thoughts with the human race and the
domestic treatment of race issues and ethnic conflict have implications for all wider
regional and international relationships. How a country resolves its race problems has
implications for its political stability, economic security and general social atmosphere.
When one country has relations with another, it indirectly has relations with all the people
of that country, with all of its ethnic groups.

Racial prejudice is not an inevitable outcome of the meeting of races. It may not even
appear at the encounter, and if it does it may not take root, and if it does it may not grow.
It is not an unwritten law and it is the duty of this generation to decide the laws which we
will follow and the road which we will travel.

Nevertheless, as always factual and objective facets of the issue exist. Man is part of
nature, a physical thing, a chemical thing, like a plant, like an animal. When one refers to a
race, it is necessary to think in terms of the average characteristics of the group, the average
values of given traits which are used to define a race. All the diversities which exist are
variable, and pass into each other by insensible gradations. Indices of racial difference
include stature, hair colour, eye colour, skin colour, nasal index, cephalic index and
alveolar index. To distinguish races a combination of these indices and not one alone must
be used, so easy is it for the identification of the races to overlap one into the other based
upon one index only. But will physical anthropology suffice as justification for the letting
go of unreasonable prejudices in instances where, to these very objective traits and indices,
ethical and moral values are attached and are used to justify racial prejudices? Strict
adherence to the world's religions would perhaps be the solution but history is replete with
examples of the distorting influence of imperfect Man's interpretation of Holy Scriptures.
The Earth knows no worst beast than a man with an evil mission who believes himself
divinely ordained.

So what is the direction forward? The first step has already been taken by many of our
young people, but where are the others? Are they chastising those who are able to see that










the world of the East Indian is not defined only by the past- by India- but rather encom-
passes all that there is to experience? How rich our world would be when we can feel
unhindered to express what we truly feel, when we are no long haunted by the fear of being
branded traitors for enjoying music and food and clothes and religions of those who are not
East Indians.

The English ethnologist George Pitt-Rivers says:

If ...we are able to distinguish the different ethnic
elements in a population, ...subject to the same envi-
ronmental factors, we discover that the unmixed racial
elements that formerly thrived under the old environ-
mental conditions are disappearing as the new or
miscegehated elements are surviving in increasing
numbers. Thus, in the process of an adaptable popula-
tion gradually being substituted for an unadaptable
population a "race" becomes extinct...because out-
breeding has been the means of introducing a new
racial element in the mixed stock more adaptable to
new conditions on environment."2


Let me state here that, if the message seems distasteful to many, at least absorb the message
at a different level. There is an environment awaiting us here, in our own country. Unless
we decide to adapt our thoughts and focus them here in Trinidad, and devote our energies
to making this world habitable to us, we will as East Indians become strangers in our own
home.

Yet, the burden rests not only upon the shoulders of my young Indian friends but my
friends of all the races of Trinidad and Tobago. We must understand that we were, and still
are, all pawns in a game much larger than we are able to perceive unassisted. At the
Nrityanjali Theatre's 15th anniversary celebrations, Professor Kenneth Tracey stated,

Regrettably, however, instead of widespread apprecia-
tion of the emergence of Indo-Trinidadian culture,
there is increased fear mistrust and animosity on the
part of non-Indians, particularly Afro-Trinidadians....
This is unfortunate and counter-productive to the over-
all development of the nation. In pre-independence
times the beneficiaries of African-Indian racial ani-
mosity were the colonial masters. (The) rivalry was
designed and manipulated to facilitate exploitation of










the two major racial groups....The persistence of irra-
tional conflict and rivalry, mistrust and actual race hate
in Trinidad and Tobago is woefully dysfunctional."3


Who gains now from such mindless rivalry? Efforts to do away with this irrational
behaviour must come from all the groups involved. The Indians cannot take the hand of the
other races if none is offered to them.

One of the saddest aspect of East Indian culture as I see it, is the unwillingness to even
condemn the evils which exist within the culture. This is an area where the energies of this
generation of mine should be focused. There is so much work before us but we still swim
with the tide. So entrenched is so many of the East Indian minds is the spirit of retaliation,
of the 'us' and 'them' syndrome, that we apply the bandage we call 'the preservation of
Indian Culture' to the wounds in the culture, keeping the perceived harmful elements out
while the uncleaned wound worsens from the harmful elements within.

We are not ostracised from the life of India and we read of that country's own problems:
corruption at so many levels; dowry killings; female infanticide. We still hold on to India
as an ideal. It is an unhealthy infatuation as all infatuations are. Undoubtedly, there is much
good there, but is that all we ever see? India is changing, its, culture, its traditions. It is
getting along with its own life. Our life is here and we need to build a society for our
children and teach them to want to belong here. If they do not wish to then let them be free
to do so. But, most importantly for those among us who see our lives here, if they want to
belong here, let them also be free to do so.

We must accept that change is often very disquieting and I no longer hope for change to
emanate from the hearts and mind of the older members of our culture. But what is
disconcerting is when the change refuses to come from so many of those of my own
generation. We see each day how harmoniously the races live and work and play together.
It is often genuine, but as often it is not. We need the development of a society with no more
veils of love or acceptance where in fact, bigotry lies in wait. This is the society that must
lie ahead if we are not to self-destruct.

I wish for no more today than the freedom for all to be who they are. Do not think less
of me if I prefer to listen to Maxi Priest and K.D. Lang instead of Anup Jalota, if I bow to
Christ and not Krishna. Though these are normal conflicts in any society and not necessar-
ily one where there are racial conflicts, many of these problems do arise because of racial
prejudices, above and beyond any moral and ethical objections.

I truly have sympathy for those who have given up their traditions and beliefs to gain
acceptability by another culture, who are ashamed of their bhaji and roti, for whom
chappals have become sandals and baigan, eggplant. At no time is self-negotiation desir-










able, though it is understandable.

And let us speak of love now. Yes, our parents love their children dearly and want the
'best' for them. But do we prefer our children to grow up in a society where they die at their
own hands rather than try to make their parents understand that somehow, love for that
significant other forgot to be guided by the shade of the skin or the curl factor of the hair?
Yet we say we love them? Will we love our dougla grandsons and granddaughters or will
we ostracise them from our home and hearts and make them wonder what it is that they did
that was so very wrong?

When speaking of interracial relationships the obvious cultural incompatibilities are
conceded, but true freedom will come when we can explore these incompatibilities and
decide whether we can or cannot live with them. But let the freedom be there to do so. There
is so much before us as young East Indians. We can be professors, nuns, pundits, singers,
choreographers, gardeners, writers. The hardening of our hearts will get us nowhere. A new
center must be found. As the writer Josiah Royce says,

What, then, is our neighbour? you have regarded his
thoughts and feelings as somehow different from
yours. He seem to you a little less living then yourself,
his life is dim, it is cold, it is a pale fire beside your
own burning desire. So, dimly and by instinct you have
lived with your neighbour and have not known him,
blind as you are. You have made of him a thing, with
no self at all. Please end this illusion and try to learn
the truth. Pain is pain, joy is joy, everywhere, as in
you. In all the songs of the forest birds, in all the cries
of the wounded and dying, in the boundless sea where
the myriad of water-creatures strive, in all sickness and
sorrow, in all exultation and hope, everywhere, from
the lowest to the noblest, the same conscious, willful
life is found."4

If there is injustice, let us fight it with all the strength that les within but let us not fight
ghosts. If there are wounds let them heal but do not let us forever contemplate the scars. If
there is bigotry, let us destroy it forever but do not, in the process, become like those we
condemn and finally if there is fear and misunderstanding, let us talk it out but do not let us
love our children to their deaths.






21



NOTES AND REFERENCES


1. Thomas Hylland Eriksen. "Formal and Informal Nationalism": Journal of Ethnic and Racial Stud-
ies. Vol. 16, No. 1, January 1993, p. 20.
2. George Pitt-Rivers. "What is it that Survives": Race Individual and Collective Behaviour.
Edgar Thompson and Everett Hughes, eds., The Free Press, U.S.A., p. 198.
3. Professor Kenneth Tracey spoke at the Fifteenth anniversary celebrations of the Nrityanjali Thea-
tre in Trinidad and Tobago (in 1993).
4. Josiah Royce quoted by William James, "To Miss the Joy is to Mill All." Edgar Thompson and
Everett Hughes, eds. op. cit. p. 374.














Mis-Perception and Stereotyping ... Among Young Afro-Trinidadian
Students


by


CARLA MATHISON AND SHARON CAREW



In Trinidad and Tobago extremes are used in describing the society. Some will say that
the country is on the verge of becoming another Bosnia, while others will say that no where
else in the world can one find a more harmonious society, one so close to the condition of
paradise. Given these two extremes, perhaps it is not so much of an enigma that something
akin to a myth exists in the society. Although most would agree that the education system
and institutions are wrought with problems, we do not normally allude to problems of
racism or race relations in the school system. The education system is viewed as if it
escapes the racial conflict and tension exhibited in the society at large.

In fact, it has been espoused in texts and hailed by intellectuals and non-intellectuals
alike that education or, educational institutions, provide a forum for the eradication of
racism. In heterogenous or plural societies, such educational institutions are supposed to
provide a certain sense of commoness and oneness which causes students of various ethnic
groups to identify with each other, with specific goals and objectives and thus create a sense
of nationhoood and national identity. It is normally assumed that representation of the
dominant racial groups among staffs and student populations enhances this process. In
essence these institutions are supposed to act as a melting pot, where various preconceived
notions of each group for the other are erased. Based on our experience as teachers and the
research we were able to conduct, for [we say "able to" because we actually came across
strong resistance from parents AND teachers] we conclude that this is a fallacy. In fact,
schools are an ideal place to observe racist behaviour and attitudes, both amongst teachers
and amongst students as well as between students and teachers.

The Toco Composite school is located in an area characterized by its high unemploy-
ment rate, its family cohesion, the existence of large extended families and the closeness
and high interactive level of members of the community. In recent years the schools has
widened its intake capacity to an area which is not properly defined as rural that is Sangre
Grande. Also in recent years the population of Indo-Trinidadians in the Toco area has also









widened as more Indo-Trinidadians settle in agricultural holdings in the community.

Toco Composite School is a relatively small one with a total student population of
almost 500. It. is serviced by a teaching staff of only 36 teachers. It has a total Indo-
Trinidadian student population of 29. There is a total of 12 Indo-Trinidadian teachers. The
school has a small mixed population, which it was discovered after interviewing a propor-
tion of them, generally see themselves as more closely affiliated with Afro than Indo
Trinidadians. Mixed teachers are even fewer. It was discovered however that teachers who
are not Afro Trinidadian were seen by students as either Indian or White. The non-teaching
staff is almost totally Afro-Trinidadian.

The general atmosphere at Toco Composite with regards to race relations can be
reflected in the following anecdote. While struggling to teach a rather unruly class one day,
one of us decided to skip the lesson and speak to the students about their conduct and the
fact that some teachers were avoiding their class. The co-author was taken aback to hear
more than half the class say that certain teachers avoided them because the teachers were
racial they did not want to teach black children.2 To them, their conduct had little to do with
the teachers' attitude, race however, surely did. Even after pointing out that some of these
teachers taught other classes quite well, they were still adamant the teachers were racial!

On another occasion reflecting racial prejudice among teachers one of us first took up
my appointment at Toco Composite, an Afro-Trinidadian teacher remarked "Thank the
Lord they ain't send another Indian". Some teachers and many students felt that Indian
teachers were "taking over" the school. It was easy to assume then that the school had a
larger proportion of Indian than African teachers, or at least about an equal proportion. As
it turned out, 12 out of 36 was thought to be excessive. The last mentioned teacher lives and
works in a rather insular and homogenous community in which outsiders, particularly
Indians fear echoed throughout the society "Indian (sic) taking over business," "Indian
taking over scholarships", "Indians taking over UWI", even "Indians taking over Carnival",
this is insidious and sometimes blatant racism.

Our study, which is an attitudinal one, focusing on the perspective of Afro-Trinidadian
students towards Indo-Trinidadian teachers, was therefore compiled in an environment
which does not extend to every other school in Trinidad and Tobago. The attitudes
discovered however are believed to exist in students of the same background or racial
groups in other schools. It is the belief of the two teachers involved that such attitudes are
common and as such are problematic and therefore portend ill for the domestic system.

Methodology

The method for conducting this study involved two stages. Initially questionnaires were
issued to various students from forms one to five. The returned questionnaires represented
10% of the Afro-Trinidadian school population. We also felt the need to issue some









questionnaires to Indo-Trinidadian students. A total of 24% of the Indo-Trinidadian school
population returned answered questionnaires.

The second stage of the study took the form of direct interviews with various students.
This represented a total of about 5% of the school's population. Through the questionnaires
and the interviews we sought to highlight and gain insights into certain pertinent issues
which we felt were pressing and to understand why certain viewpoints which we were privy
to existed. Most of these bordered on certain racial conceptions. The questionnaires had a
more indirect and probably softer slant then the interviews. Students generally responded
more frankly to the direct approach and it is mainly from this source that we were able to
better understand how and why some of their prejudices were formed.

Because of the disparity in the Indo-Afro student population in the school an analysis of
relationships between the two aforementioned groups in the classroom setting may have
been interesting, particularly if compared to other schools with different demographic
profiles. Our survey however while not designed with that particular intention did reveal
some interesting attitudes by both groups towards each other.

The age of the children and the geographic and demographic environment were two
interesting variables in this study. Children tend to give more honest responses although
their point of views may not be as well articulated as adults. The rural and relatively simple
lifestyles of most of the students suggest that race and ethnicity would have relatively low
levels of salience. This however is not true, the fact of which, as mentioned earlier, both
authors were struck when we first started teaching at the school.

Analysis

On the questionnaires students were asked to select any number of teachers whom they
liked. If we look at the responses of the African students, the seven (7) most liked teachers
were all non- Indian teachers and of the fifteen (15) most liked teachers only three were
Indo-Trinidadians. In addition almost seventy (70) percent of the Indian teachers were liked
by less than four students (African) each, some not liked by any at all. Additionally, the
three most liked teachers (who were all Afro- Trinidadians) were preferred by more African
students than all the Indian teachers combined. Is it a matter of the teachers' personality?
Or were their reasoning based on something less substantial but apparently more important
to them? Classroom interaction we felt had little to do with it, for English Language, the
subject done by all students at the school is taught by one Afro and three Indo-Trinidadian
teachers.

The interviews were even more revealing, for here students were asked not only who
were their favourite and least favourite teachers but also who they thought were the best
teachers. The top three were again Afro-Trinidadians, but of the first eight, four were
Indo-Trinidadians. The pattern for favourite teachers basically remained the same. Herein









lies a paradox. While some students saw some Indian teachers as efficient and competent in
the teaching of their subject matter, they did not like them. This may mean that Indian
teachers either do not extend themselves beyond the call of professional duty and therefore
are not perceived as friendly, or that students simply tend to reject overtures of friendliness
from Indian teachers but not African teachers.

Sentiment tends to run high in children attending school. Therefore the perception of
racism seems to be more influential than the existence of racism itself. To them, while all
Indian teachers may not necessarily be racist, in their myopic view and generally perpetu-
ated by the larger Afro-Trinidadian public, Indian are more racial or more inclined to be
racial than Africans. This point was given further impetus when it was discovered that most
of the students who responded to the corresponding question in the questionnaires felt that
the teachers who display racism are Indo-Trinidadian teachers. Additionally, most students
also felt more comfortable with African teachers and felt that African teachers cared more
for their well-being and, displayed more interest in them.

The questionnaires revealed that 29% of the Afro-Trinidadian students felt some teach-
ers were racial. In the interviews however, over 90% of the students felt racism existed in
the school in some form and over 50% felt that one form of this was exhibited by teachers
towards students. Others felt racism was demonstrated more in the relationships that
existed between students of the two groups. Students were asked to define what they
thought racism meant, and they consistently replied that it is the hatred of another race.
Among those who felt that there were teachers who were racist towards students, some said
the teachers treated the races differently. Other reasons given included the way the teachers
looked at you, the fact that teachers called them names, also that some teachers showed
favourtism to Indian students, that they don't encourage African students and because they
involve themselves little in extra- curricular activities. There were also others who felt that
this racism was manifest in discrimination in the granting of grades to African students, in
the manner in which the teachers spoke to them, which they interpreted as derogatory, and
also because these teachers nagged them. Others who probably could not find a more fitting
answer said that these teachers were racial simply because they do not like African
students.

Most of the claims of the students were not properly substantiated. For example a few
students said that Indian teachers picked on the African students in class. In one case in
particular in which this was said, the class in question had only one Indian student.
Similarly, another said the teachers only taught the Indian students in the class. This class
contained only two Indian students and over thirty African students. The implications of
such an occurrence are tremendous. These assertions highlight the sorry truth even further.
The teachers are supposed to be racial, therefore whatever action they take, be it for the
good of the student or otherwise, is defined in racial terms. This may handicap the










educational process particularly in the classroom setting where there is close interaction
and where students may respond negatively to these teachers, and consequently to the
subject taught by these teachers, based primarily on pre-conceived notions of race.

A substantial number of students also felt racism was expressed in the way African and
Indian students treated each other. They said name-calling of Indian students and avoidance
of them by African students as well as the clannish nature of both groups were the chief
characteristics. Perhaps significantly, only two of the Indian students who responded to
questionnaires felt that teachers exhibited racism. Nearly 60% of them said they felt
uncomfortable in class because of their race, while no African student felt this way.

A co-relation was discovered between age of students and whether or not they felt that
teachers were racial, thus introducing the concept of learning prejudice. While 31 (-50%)
of the questionnaires were received from the fourth and fifth former, more than half of
those who thought that teachers were racial are from the upper forms. 67% of the students
who felt that teachers displayed racialism were from forms three, four and five.2 For one
form one student held this view. These results appear to suggest that as students progress in
their school life, these concepts become more entrenched in them. They become more
paranoid and suspicious, as they seek to keep in sync with the larger society. Their
ignorance and fear of the groups are heightened as the original suspicion they felt is
surrendered for a more firm conviction and belief that these stereotypes are really true.

The concept of learning prejudice appears to be one of the most significant findings of
this study. We felt that students in the lower forms generally see teachers as impartial.
Personalities and teaching styles seem to influence them a great deal at this age. As the
students get older and as they encounter more problems inside and outside the classroom,
the term racism is more frequently used. To us it seems to be merely a convenient term that
is used to deal with their problems. It may even be the students do not really see these
teachers as racial, but crying racism probably adds more legitimacy to their inability to cope
with their difficulties. This attitude is portrayed and encouraged in the community and
society at large, as people seek to find an excuse for their inadequacies. Claims of racism
therefore become a scapegoat for various personal and professional failures/-problems.

The results of the findings reveal that there is no significant correlation between race
and the teachers experiencing greatest disciplinary problems in the class room. Also there
was no correlation between race and the teachers who the students felt treated them badly.
Inspite of racial attitudes displayed, there are factors, such as friendship and exposure to
Indian culture which mitigate against this tendency. The acquisition of racial stereotypes
and attitudes is a complex one which is tempered by the desire to interact and know. This is
important because it demonstrates that it is possible to actively counteract the process by
exposing African students to the Indian "other", possibly through curricular modification
and extra- curricular activities.










Nearly all respondents claimed they had friends from other racial groups, and that their
parents would not object if they had a boyfriend or girlfriend who was Indo-Trinidadian.
Similarly nearly all of them said they watched Indian shows on Television.

In their responses to the questions about their perception of a Divali programme held
recently in the school a significant number of students found the show strange and almost
all of them felt it was informative. Only a few said it was funny. It must be pointed out
however, that quite a few of them laughed while the show was in progress. Two students
who were practically forced to attend the show, were heard commenting that they were not
Indians and felt they should not have to attend Indian things.

It is not surprising that some students found the event strange, since affhough there
might be Indian people in their communities, Africans represent the great majority of the
populations. There is therefore limited exposure to Indian cultural festivities and expres-
sions.

Students were asked how they felt about outsiders moving into their community. The
majority (or nearly 70%) of them said they had no problem with outsiders and would
probably welcome them. Almost 40% however, said they would probably be less welcom-
ing or feel more uncomfortable if the outsiders were Indo-Trinidadians.

The study also sought to ascertain where these perceptions began. In our attempt to do
this another contradiction was discovered. Whereas students said Indians in their commu-
nity were treated equally; the number and nature of the negative comments that were passed
on to students by relatives and other members of the community somewhat refutes their
earlier claims. The comments made seem to generally perpetuate ignorance and fear.
According to these students, most of these comments were made by residents in the specific
communities. One of the most familiar claims is that Indians want to take over. One girl
even pointed out that there are so many Indians in her village now it is referred to as "Coolie
Town". Some say they hear negative comments being made about Indian music and Indian
festivals. Other comments include such things "Indians are wicked", they are "smelly",
"pushy", "greedy", "like money", "have lice" and "pray to a strange God". It was pointed
out that elders in the community tend to have racial attitudes and because of the consider-
able influence these elders have, these attitudes are passed on to the younger ones. Given
the prevalence and influence of strong family and communities in the Toco area, this is
particularly important and adds yet another factor to the development of racial stereotypes.

Some students said they heard negative comments about Indians being made in the
family circle. One lower form girl said her parents do not allow her to associated with
Indian children or even to buy from the Indians shops. Another boy said his father told him
that in his younger days Indians were beaten by Africans. When children are exposed to
such comments, it is more likely that they would grow up with similar views. Eventually










they then feel confident in using the term racism to define any relationship they have with
Indian teachers and students in the school community.

Some students also claim that they hear mostly negative comments about Indians in
school, no doubt statements simply regurgitated from relatives and villagers.

Although some students felt people were justified in making these comments because
they were true, the majority said these comments were made because the Africans were
racial. In any event it is to be noted that Afro-Trinidadians feel justified in making these
comments because they perceive the Indians as racial. Yet still making these comments (as
some students accurately pointed out), clearly highlights the degree of their own racism.

Amazingly, even when students held firmly to their stereotypes and even when they
gave negative comments about Indo- Trinidadians, they did not see themselves as racist.
Every one of the students interviewed said quite adamantly that they were not racial.

The ultimate test in the study proved to be the questions in the questionnaires and in the
interviews about (1) whether students thought the UNC could win the next general election,
(2) whether they thought an Indian candidate from any political party could win elections
in their area and (3) if they knew about the Hulsie Bhaggan issue.3 Since these three
questions dealt with issues which were assumed to be frequently talked about in the home
and community but not among students, we felt that the responses would reflect the extent
to which students accept or internalize the views of adults around them and the extent to
which these responses contrast to some of their earlier assertions of racial harmony at
school and in their community. This contrast was much more prevalent amongst the
younger students who tended to deny that teachers exhibited racial attitudes towards them.

Most students were convinced that the UNC could not win the election because the
party and its representatives were racial. They felt that if the UNC did win the election,
more jobs and other benefits would be given to Indians. They also felt that more Indian
holidays would be granted. We would be over-stepping our bounds to investigate the
genesis of these ideas. But surely they bear some historical and political significance.
however three basic assumptions permeate:

1. Indians tend to be racial;

2. Indians want to dominate and

3. The race of a candidate is more important than the issues he/she deals with.

These ideas are believed to coincide with the ideas generally held throughout the
Afro-Trinidadian public. Many students felt that an Indian candidate could not win election
in their area despite his/her party. The rationale for their saying so seemed to offer another
contradiction. For whereas they claimed earlier that Indians were treated normally and










equally in their community, they felt an Indian candidate could not win elections because
there were too few Indians in the community.

While it was discovered that students do not generally read the newspapers or listen
much to television or radio news, many parents do. Some of the issues are discussed at
home. In these communities the media plays a role in the forming of perceptions, we cannot
however, say that it plays either the major or most significant role. The issue of Hulsie
Bhaggan, which was looked at in the interviews illustrated this. About half of the students
knew who Hulsie Bhaggan was. When asked how and what they had heard about her some
said they had heard about her via the media and others quoted different sources including
relatives and other members of the community. Most of them said they heard she did not
like African people and as such was racial. However those who remember hearing only
vaguely about her and those who had never heard about her at all, still formed an opinion.
The case of one girl stands out. After saying she did not know who Hulsie Bhaggan was,
she asked "Is she Indian?" then with firm conviction she replied, "If she is an Indian, then
she racial [sic]!" For some of these opinions are firmly entrenched in their minds. While a
few students sought to analyse the issues deeper, for many of them the issue of race seemed
more important.

The paranoia and fear expressed by some of these students is most disturbing; more so
as most of them do not yet comprehend what their perceptions mean. The older ones in
particular mimic what is said and done by others in the society and think this to be normal
and the way it is supposed to be. A few of them will probably relinquish the ideas they now
have. The others will continue to use racism as a convenient and easy solution and excuse
for their problems, and they like their parents and grandparents before them will pass these
perceptions to their children.

Although we did not investigate the attitude of teachers, we are of the view that this is
an area in which investigation is of primary importance. Preliminary investigations reveal
that they too hold similar perceptions. These perceptions are no doubt passed on to the
students. We are quite aware of the extent of these feelings. For the suspicion and annoy-
ance expressed by teachers during our study adds credence to the fact that fear plays a
major role in the maintaining of these perceptions. When in a staff meeting teachers openly
displayed their hostility in the light of what we were doing we realized the extent of this
fear, when a parent tore up a questionnaire given to her daughter and attempted to bring up
the issue at a PTA meeting, the extent of their paranoia was visible.

The salience of race was demonstrated in yet another way. Apart from the attitude of
this and some teachers, the students it appeared to be more open in speaking with the author
who was phenotypical pure African.

Another issue that took on explanatory relevance was student's self perception of their










race. Some students who we identified as Afro-Trinidadian, identified themselves as
mixed. The self-images these students have warrant some investigation. Individuals in
Trinidad and Tobago society are apt to make certain assumptions about the race of others
based on phenotype. Is it based on face value or appearance? Or is it the genes of parents
and other ancestors? Additionally what percentage of African blood qualifies an individual
to be termed Afro-Trinidadian? Maybe this is an error that is frequently made in the
compilation of data and therefore warrants further investigation. The student who thought
of themselves as mixed, particularly the lower form students, were generally more tolerant
of Indo-Trinidadian, had a more positive view of race relations and generally tended to give
race less salience as a social factor defining their existence.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Three points stand out from our analysis. The first is that Afro- Trinidadian students do
not generally see themselves as racist. They see Indians as more racial than themselves and
more likely to give in to racial tendencies. These views are therefore commonly used to
rationalize what could normally be termed racial statements made by them. The second is
that some of the misperceptions they have about Indo-Trinidadians are so pervasive that
tangible evidence is not normally presented when racist claims are made. Indian teachers
are sometimes accused of such with no significant grounds. Race or racism, therefore is
often a scapegoat, a convenient term used to describe problems or situations which may
have nothing to do with these issues. The third is that racial prejudice and stereotypes are
learnt. The mis-perceptions accelerate as they progress in forms. Clearly interaction with
students who hold these notions plays a role in accounting for this tendency. These students
however are not only socialized in the school system. Family members, community dwell-
ers and the public in general also expose these views.

We believe that some sort of intervention in schools will remove some of these
stereotypes. The intervention must however be done in the students early school life before
such views are allowed to penetrate deeply into their psyche. It must also become a much
more intrinsic part of the education system, that is, the school curricula must more aggres-
sively and fundamentally address the reality of the racial heterogeneity of Trinidad and
Tobago, but perhaps more important, they must deal with the experience of those who live
in pockets of isolated, insular and fairly homogeneous communities throughout the nation.
In other words, Trinidad and Tobago needs to develop a pedagogy suited for the social and
political conditions and reality which our demographic structure creates. We should add
that the same has to be done for the gender analysis in our curricula. All this demands a lot
of work in terms of research and implementation, but of course, the commitment to honest
assessment and change are important pre- requisites.

We also feel that there is the need to educate the population to the fact that one racial
group has no more claims to our nation than another. Then surely the term "taking over"










would be used less.

The reported findings must also be interpreted with caution, since generalization may
not be accurate in every other school. In retrospect however, the perceptions seem to exist
on a large scale. Our society is entrapped in insular and petty racial difference which hinder
our future development. In this specific case under analysis, cries of racialism of teachers
seem sometimes to be a mere echo of these students' urban peers. A reflection of our
society's inability to cope with multi-ethnicity and increasing ethnic polarity. Our society
is being despoiled by such stereotypes. It is time we eschew such superficiality. The
misperceptions, ignorance, and stereotyping should be addressed. We concede that this will
be difficult since the historical dynamics of both groups cannot be ignored. Old perspec-
tives are hard to change. More so when our politicians, intellectuals, calypsonians and the
media espouse them. We refuse however to surrender to the pessimism of some, and we
hope desperately, and we hope not ideologically for our society to change.


NOTES AND REFERENCES


1. This notwithstanding that one of us, who is black, normally found it difficult to complete a les-
son with the class.
2. Toco Composite has five stages: Forms 1 through 5. [Editor's Note].
3. In the "Hulsie Bhaggan Issue" refers to the assertion by the opposition Member of parliament,
Miss Hulsie Bhaggan, that African men were targeting Indian females for rape and were targeting
Indian residential areas for violent crime. [Editor's Note].















Gender as a Primary Signifier in the Construction of Community and
State among Indians in Trinidad


by


PATRICIA MOHAMMED
Introduction

The construction of masculinity and feminity as it was recalled from the context of
India was integral to the definition of an ethnic identity and to the reconstitution of
community in Trinidad in the period after 1917 when the system of indentureship had
drawn to a close. The classic patriarchal system from which Indians were drawn had
suffered severe disruptions and Indian men who were now the spokesperson, pundits and
priests of the Indian community were contesting with the other competing patriarchies
existing in the new society predominantly those of the elite white and dominant African
groups. Indian males fitted into the lowest rung of this patriarchal ladder and it was
important and perhaps 'natural' to them to reconstitute the internal boundaries of their
community, ensuring that patriarchal power was regained.

To redeem patriarchal power both within and without the Indian community, it was
necessary to ensure that both masculinity and feminity as it was defined in India during the
time which the migrants travelled, was reintroduced and reinforced in the new setting.
Indian women had had an inordinate amount of freedom during the indentureship period,
brought about by the extreme scarcity of their sex as a result of a sex-selective migration
which favoured men. Thus women could immediately tamper with the earlier unequal
balance of power between the sexes. But it was also important to them to reconstitute
community along the traditional lines, for they, like their men folk, had also experienced
the condition of exile in the unfamiliar terrain. During the period 1917 to 1947 there was a
continuing collusion and accommodation between Indian men and women in reconstituting
institutions and practices of a gender system familiar to both.

The dynamics of gender systems operate not through massive revolutionary upheavals
but through the ongoing negotiations between men and women both at the individual and
collective institutional levels. The concept of negotiation of gender relations is premised on
the notion that masculinity and feminity exist not only as oppositional categories but also ir
relation to each other. Negotiations between the sexes are articulated at two levels, both of










which are interconnected. While institutions which uphold and support norms related to
gender are built overtime by the cumulated decisions of individual men and women, by
history, by other metaphysical and material demands, there is a continuous dialectical
relationship between individual action and group or community concerns. What is being
negotiated and by whom emerges from the specifics of any historical period.

In the case of Indians in Trinidad during the period 1917 to 1947, I argue that what was
being negotiated between Indian men and women was a rewriting of the patriarchal
contract brought from India in which women suffered greater disabilities as sex. The
shifting ideological lens which this brings to a study of gender is that it removes the burden
of invisibility and victimization from the female sex. Relegated by and large to the private
sphere in most periods of history women are by no means hapless victims in the construc-
tion of gender identity. Their bargains with patriarchy are based on values they also
consider important to community and the survival of institutions.

The Internal Boundaries of Community

In 1890 a young man by the name of Edoo was recruited along with his two brothers Dil
and Manbodh to work on the sugar estates in Trinidad. On their arrival in Trinidad they
were sent to the Petit Morne estate in the south. They were given the surname of Moham-
med as they were followers of Islam. Edoo and his brothers worked on the Petit Morne
estate for the five compulsory years of their first contract, then moved to the Bronte estate
in the same district to continue working for the second five years also required of their stay
in the colony. After this they would have been entitled to a return passage to India, or to
receive a parcel of Crown lands, a gun, and 5 pounds in lieu of return passage and
repatriation. By 1990 Edoo ended his indentureship contract and was given a lot of land
near Ress Trace, an abandoned cocoa estate which was parcelled into lots and sold and
which later developed as the village of Lengua. By saving from his meager wages during
indentureship he also purchased a larger parcel of land in the same district. He was by this
time married to another migrant, Seriphan whom he met on the Petit Morne estate. His
marriage could not be arranged by parents as both were fellow migrants who had come
without parents. Together they built a small wooden house on one of the lots of land,
continued to work as seasonal labourers on the sugar estate of bronte during the 'crop' or
harvest season, but steadily began to cultivate their own larger parcel with rice, corn, and
vegetables.

They had one son, Sookhoor who inherited the family house after his parents died, and
like his parents before him he also worked on the Bronte estate, first as a child labourer,
then as an adult, with his wife, Waheeda, who was chosen for him by his parents. Together
they continued the pattern almost similar to that of their parents, working on the estate part
time and cultivating their own land as an ongoing means of survival. The wages offered on
the plantations needed to be supplemented by the food which they could grow on their land,










the latter which in their case also allowed for surplus accumulation as they possessed a
reasonably large quantity of land, unlike many of their fellow villagers. By 1917 therefore
a pattern of seasonal dependence on estate wages, together with initiatives of cultivation on
their own, allowed Sookhoor and many others who had come through the system of
indentureship, or were children of the first migrants, to establish a home base in the new
society.

By the 1920s for instance we see in the evidence of the Wages Committee appointed in
1991 that Kalapdaye is employed as a daily labourer on the Henry Estate. She is married
and has one young child, and does both task and day work which comprises the gathering
and breaking of cocoa. For this she earns 30 cents either for task for day work, while her
husband earns 60 cents a day. She works 10 to 12 days a fortnight depending on the works
she gets. In addition she and her husband and a third person have two cocoa contracts in
partnership (CP No. 125 of 1920, Appendix 2).

Others more entrepreneuring had become landowners or commercial property owners
themselves and in each case women in these households were equally part of a labour force
which kept these businesses thriving. As shown in the work of other historians in Trinidad
such as Gerad Tikasingh, Marianne Ramesar and Bridget Brereton, these initiatives cou-
pled with the availability of Crown Lands for sale, led to the physical emergence of an
Indian major estates at the time. But community also involved other external and internal
boundaries for demarcation of an Indian community especially that of the reconstitution of
familiar institutions and roles. One of the main problems which the migrants had faced was
a breakdown of the family and kinship system which had provided them with the rules and
regulations regarding marriage, kinship practices, and the various rites of passage in the life
cycle. In the earlier days there were few blood related families, as the migrants came largely
as individuals. The emergence of the family as an institution in Trinidad first took the form
of a fictive kinship system, the 'jehaji bhai' or boat brothers coming together to reconstitute
the first elements of kinship support. By the second decade of the twentieth century there
was the parallel emergence of blood related families from those who had arrived in
Trinidad several decades ago, and thus the 'pariwaar' or agnate kinship system could be
reborn.

The consolidation of village life and the growth of the agnate kinship system however
had other consequences for the relations between Indian men and women. During the
system of indentureship the rules regarding marriage, especially that of monogamy for
women, and arranged marriages of young children by their parents has disintegrated as
there was neither a critical mass from which spouses could be chosen, matched adequately
by caste or religion, nor were there the other institutions such as organized religion and the
panchayat (the legal council of elders) to ensure that such rules were followed. This
together with the scarcity of women allowed them the choice, of moving from one partner










to the next, or if their spouses died, of remarrying, tampering with the rule of monogamy
for women from the gender system from which they had come.

It also allowed the male a similar flexibility of not being restricted to one partner if he
felt the need to move on. The constraints reimposed by tradition and authority of the family,
kinship system, religion and the panchayat and the intervention of civil law of the colony
meant that the direct challenges to the gender system decreased considerably during the
period 1917 to 1947, but they were never to be completely resolved. The sexual freedoms
allowed to women during the period of indentureship had sufficiently disarranged the
original framework to allow other emergent forms.

The External Boundaries of Community and Conflict with the State

Within the context of a colonial state which was consolidating its dispersed migrant
population, several interventions in the gender system of the migrants became evident. One
of these revolved around the Hindu and Muslim Divorce and marriage Bill which was hotly
debated between the colonial state and the Indian community during the period 1917 to
1946. Indian marriages were performed under religious rites by Hindu pundits and Muslim
Imams within the institution of these religions which had become more organized by this
time. The state as it existed then did not recognize marriages which were not registered
according to the law of the colony, but both Hindus and Muslims resented this interference
in a rite which they considered beyond the purview of the state. Much of this concern was
related to the inheritance of property as dictated by civil law. Since many Indians were not
considered as having legal marriages, then their properties did not automatically revert to
their children on their deaths.

A committee was appointed by the State with the following terms of reference:

To enquire and report to the Governor whether any
acceptable system can be devised to bring about the
more effectual registration of marriages celebrated
under Hindu and Muslim rites so as to ensure the status
of children of such marriages with particular reference
to inheritance of property under the local law (Corresp.
Government House August 1934. S.M. Grier Acting
Governor to Sir Phillip Gatcliffe-Lister, Colonial Of-
fice, Despatch No. 352 of 11 August 1934).


The Immigration ordinance of 1881 had made primary provisions for the recognition of
Indian marriages, but this was in a context where the 'moral status' of indentured Indians
was being called into question. As soon as Mr. O'Reilly of the Legislative council an-
nounced his intention to introduce the resolution regarding the Indian Marriages and










Divorce Act, strong opposition which was not only confined to the Roman Catholics
manifested itself. At one of the largest meetings held to discuss the issue, several pundits
signed the document against such a move. Among these were Pundits Ramadhar,
Ramphaldas, Kelly, Persadie and Ramcharan Parsad. (EO 1670/25).

In the ensuing decades, the debate of Hindu an Muslim Marriage, apart from one or two
instances, was a debate carried out entirely between men. By this time it include a large
number of religious leaders, or in some cases educated men or other men of high standing
in the community. The introduction of legislation for divorce was quite offensive for the
majority of these men on the grounds that the concept of divorce did not exist, especially
for Hindus. For instance, the Port of Span Gazette in 1931 carried a feature story entitled
"Trinidad abhors Divorce: Thousands protest in Mass meeting". In this meeting Pundit
Sahadeo Tiwary asserted.

The Hindu community had a great regard for their
wives and all women folk and they considered it
highly absurd to have a law introduced that would
have them considered as merchandise.


Pundit Ramnarine stated from his personal knowledge and experience as Pundit "that
among Hindus, divorce was not practiced. During the lifetime of his father, Permanan
Pundit, he never married a Hindu woman twice as it was not permitted by the Vedas. he
himself had never during the past ten years married a single woman twice" (Port of Spain
Gazette, March 24, 1931).

Dr. Parashu Ram Sharma, a missionary from India was deputised by the newly formed
Sanatan Dharma Board of Control to look into the religious requirements of the Hindus in
Trinidad and the neighboring colonies. His views were clearly contradictory.

The necessity of registering of marriages under the
common law of the colonies is practically a negotia-
tion of the Hindu religious ceremonies and non-regis-
tration entails enormous social and economic
hardships. Moreover it creates a most ugly and degrad-
ing condition of illegitimacy among the Indians quite
arbitrarily and for no fault of their. The whole commu-
nity has been stigmatized merely by a stroke of pen
which we in India could never tolerate. ...Moreover,
instead of recording the name of the mother, that of the
father be recorded in all cases which could improve the
situation to a great extent (L/P & J/88338 No. 451/FP,










November 19, 1939).

It appears to me that the concern of Indian men in particular, and men in the society at
large, was also that of paternity rights and the question of responsibility for paternity. For
instance the following report captioned 'An Unregistered Marriage' in the East Indian
Weekly in 1928 is instructive:

There is a case in point which should urge the Indian
members of the Leg. Co. to press home to the Govern-
ment the unsatisfactory position regarding the registra-
tion of Indian marriages. The case happens to be one
which Mr. Hugh Wooding argued in the Full Court of
Appeal on Tuesday last week. The woman Basoo,
gave birth to a child, not for the man to whom she was
married according to Indian rites, but for another man.
If the marriage had been registered and thus legally
sanctioned by the Government, the woman would
have known, since in the lower court before Mr. An-
drew the Magistrate, that she had not the ghost of a
chance of succeeding in her claim against the man
(East Indian Weekly, October 27, 1928).


While woman were, in most cases I have uncovered, equal partners in the processes by
which the Indian family and community consolidated its surpluses in order to build houses,
to have families, to educate its children and to survive. In public they were glorified for
these roles. Still, when it came to the business of their private lives they were in fact treated
much the same way as children the protective voice of the patriarch was felt to represent
their interests, and to a large extent their silence appears to be collusion. But we must
examine what were the objective and structural factors which prevented women from being
part of this dialogue at the time.

An interesting incident I discovered through oral history research is useful here. Stella
Abidh, the daughter of C.C. Ahidh, Schoolmaster of Couva and County Councillor of the
village, was determined to go into a profession rather than concede to an arranged marriage.
She requested that her father send her to do nursing; the first Indian woman to do nursing
Rosalie Sanowar had just been highlighted in the newspaper. Stella's father was encourag-
ing in this matter and suggested if she wanted to become a medical doctor instead then he
was quite willing to support her. The strongest objection came not from the family, but
from the Presbyterian church which had then offered Indian women the possibilities of
primary education. But this was largely to become good wives to the growing body of
educated Indian men. Reverend Scrigmeour felt it his duty to approach C.C. Abidh and tell









him that he was against Stella being sent abroad to do medicine as Indian girls were orally
weak and unprincipled and furthermore could not withstand the rigours of intellectual
work.1

Though no doubt well meaning in his statement, Rev. Scrigmeour was not the only one
who felt like this about women, although in this case one has to read into his reaction not
only a gender but ethnic concern. Indians should not dare to rise above those who were
educating and converting them. The general status of Indian women in Trinidad in the
decades of the twenties and thirties was that of an almost complete relegation to the
domestic sphere. But already there were many dissenting male and female voices about this
separation and negation. F.R. Hosein, Indian barrister suggested:

The root of the matter seems to be in the unsuitable-
ness of Indian ladies to answer to the higher social and
intellectual demands of their opposite sex, and the
fault must be apportioned both to the leaders of local
Indian though and to those who having encouraged
Indian families to migrate to the west concentrated
their attention in the past on the education of the male
element and neglected the education, refinement and
culture of the female (East Indian Weekly, November
10, 1928).


And on a visit to Trinidad, Mrs. Beatrice Greig, a journalist who had worked in India,
became one of the champions of Indian womanhood in the early decades of the twentieth
century. Limited by the thought of her time, as well as no doubt her own view of the
potentials which Indian women had, compared to other experienced women like herself,
she also stressed the qualities of women which linked them consistently to notions of
community. In a 'challenge to East Indian ladies', Mrs. Greig' call to action was that Indian
women should launch out into higher social work. The newspaper reported her calling as
follows:

In this connection, we desire to commend Mrs. Greig
for her zeal in such deserving matters, and we deplore
the fact that there are East Indian ladies well fitted for
the task in this colony who do nothing whatever for the
betterment of their children or their less unfortunate
brethren (East Indian Weekly, September 8, 1928).


By 1929 therefore, even while the Marriage Bill was still being debated and in which










women had little say, the question of what Indian women were doing in the wider
community was already a question which concerned women both in the Indian community
and others outside of it. The East Indian Weekly again highlighted one of these calls under
a caption "The Upliftment of Indian Womanhood":

We see on the agenda of the E.I.N.C. which met on
Tuesday of this week, that one of the items for discus-
sion is the steps to be taken for the reception of the
Reverend C.F. Andrews and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu (a
stateswoman from India). At once the question arises
in our minds: What part will the East Indian women
play in this reception? Are there a sufficient number of
educated and emancipated women who could call to-
gether a suitable committee and make plans for them-
selves and their less advanced sisters? (East Indian
Weekly, February 9, 1929).


This focus on the separation of women from community affairs no doubt influenced the
growth of several organizations for women which were established out of religious group-
ings. Others were also formed which were devoted to carrying out the extended role of
women out of the household, that of community involvement. For instance the East Indian
Weekly again reported that on Sunday April 7th, a fairly large number of east Indian ladies
"fore gathered with the purpose of forming a Union" at the East Indian Welfare hall in Debe
(East Indian Weekly, April 13, 1929).

The fact is that the construction masculinity and feminity as it is perceived through the
eyes of community and the state holds much firmer to this separation of the sexes, than the
practices of real men and women in society. And it is not clear cut trajectory of a movement
from non-involvement at one historical period to public involvement at another. Both male
and female roles are constantly circumscribed by the collectivities around which commu-
nity groupings are formed, as for instance the panchayat which was made up of men only,
or the priesthood which was confined to primarily to end and son on. In this division, the
social welfare needs of a community are naturally assigned to women, while those of
authority or moral and intellectual guidance were demarcated as male. Within the construc-
tion of the state, women comprise a quiet majority by virtue of these silence on certain
fronts. Yet, as I have indicated, this silence has both historical and structurally rooted
reasons.

From the early twentieth century to the last and present decade there have been many
shifts in the construction of masculinity and feminity among Indians in Trinidad, one of
these being the almost equal education of girls and the notion of careers outside of the home









as opposed to that of primarily a domestic role. Among many other charges which this has
created in the gender system among Indians is that of the deferral of age of marriage, as
well as a movement to marriages by choice of individuals rather than those arranged by
parents.

The language of gender remains however deeply inscribed, and, despite the gradual
shift away from the rigid and restricted roles of the early decades, to ones which education
and employment began to offer women in the later decades of the twentieth century, that
contradiction of ideology and practice, and separation of masculine from feminine, holds
fast for both men, and for women themselves. If we take a leap from the past investigations
in history and look at the coverage of Hindu women in the newspapers at present, the
messages are equally instructive of how gendered roles are constantly being reinforced, and
how the internal boundaries of community are being demarcated still around collectivities
which assume a relatively statistic and unchanging role for women and men.

Boldly captioned "Keepers of the Culture" the Guardian featured in October 1987, a
commentary of an interview on the national television regarding the role and status of
Hindu women.2 The moderator was Senator Sahadeo Basdeo, and the panelists were
Senator Amrika Tiwary, attorney, Indrani Rampersad, President of the new Hindu Women
Organization of Trinidad and Tobago, also editor of the magazine of this organization and
a graduate in Indian studies from Benaries Hindu University; and Ravina Sarran Persad,
Public Relations Officer of the Hindu Women Organization, manager of Shanti Travel and
a management student of the University of the West Indies.

Senator Tiwary said the principal bulwark of the
Hindu tradition was the family and women had been
most successful in this area. In fact she said that in
addition to the maintenance of the family and the pro-
motion of family life as an institution which was the
strength of any society, Hindu women had become
famous for the sacrifices they had made. Many, she
said, had endured not very happy alliances or mar-
riages, for the principal reason of seeing their children
grow up in a stable home, and ensuring that they ob-
taining a proper education. ...although Hindu women
came from a so-called repressive society, they were
wage earners when they first came to Trinidad. ...After
they were taken out of the wage market as a result of
the sugar crisis, women set up small businesses to
assist their families. ...They were able to stay at home,
could look after the children and their needs, could be









traditional housewives, but still contributing to the ad-
vancement of the family's development and the na-
tional development.

In terms of their contribution to national development,
Indrani Rampersad referred to the sugar crisis in the
19th century, which called for subsistence farming and
peasant farming, and which saw Hindu women being
withdrawn from wage earning jobs and becoming
peasant farmers. Women, she said, subsidized the in-
come of the home, sacrificed and saved and reinvested
the savings into small industry.

S. Persad suggested that the Hindu woman had been
more fortunate than her counterpart in that generally
she had a male partner to provide for herself and her
family, and so had much more time to concentrate on
her religion and culture, and in fact Hindu women had
played a vital role in keeping up Hinduism in this
society.

Senator Basdeo suggested that in his view, Indian
women had contributed to the stability of the home as
well as the economic development of the family unit,
and by extension the family, but it still was a popularly
held notion that Hindu women were docile, even
though there might be evidence to the contrary.


The ambivalent role of the Hindu woman in society seemed to be informed by two main
precepts. The Brahminic Sanskritic tradition saw a secluded women in the home as a sign
of higher caste, one of the factors which had contributed to women being kept back. Within
this tradition, the role model of Sita as being docile and submissive was a very dominant
one, a role which seemed to be continuously played out by Hindu women themselves, in
theory, if not in practice. the Guardian report continued:

Traditionally Hindu men like their women to follow
certain roles, to stay in the background. The men fell
threatened by assertive and outspoken women. They
also think as far as their interpretation of Hindu tradi-
tion goes, the wife should be at home. ..I say that
Hindu women have been more astute. She has let him









believe that she has stayed in the background, yet she
has wielded very strong influence in the home, if only
because many men bring their income to their wives
and they must use elastic and stretch the money. ..We
have been told in the Ramayan of the role of Sita as
being docile and submissive and that is how you ought
to be. But when the need arises, and there is no food in
the pot, the children have no clothes and necessity
takes over, the women have to rush out and earn a
dollar as well (Senator Tiwary).

Ms. Rampersad said that it was true in the sense that
Sita was on the lips of every Hindu woman. We all
know the image of Sita, the personality. Our ancestors
saw Sita as a role model. In modern times we want to
look at that aspect of her personality that brings out the
strength in womanhood to help today woman in
adapting to this society. In Sita's personality there are
abundant examples upon which we can draw.

Severally, the panellists all admitted the need for Hindu women to be more publicly
assertive, but pointed to the lack of support from women themselves who regarded the more
assertive among them as "pushy" and "forward". They felt that while men were loyal to
men, women were not loyal to other women, and this attitude had kept back not just Hindu
women but all women, and meant that the society at large did not value the woman's voice.
They all agreed that the time had come for revision of the Hindu Marriage Act. Over five
decades since this act was first being discussed in Trinidad, Hindu women had begun to
comment on the content of this act as it disfavoured women. Unfortunately this point was
not developed in the newspaper report (Sunday Guardian October 25, 1987).

Conclusions and Trajectories

The configurations of gender and ethnic identity which emerge in this confrontation as
we come to the close of the twentieth century, brings us back to a consideration of processes
by which communities are formed and are represented to external groups are sometimes
mystifying for others but have a coherence which may itself have internal contradictions. In
addition, it is clear that the construction of the community and state derive from material
bases, but rest on symbolic boundaries and revolve around institutional frameworks which
have never been confined to the 'work' of men. Women have been part of these processes,
even if their particular contributions at various historical periods differ from that of men.

The contradictions and nuances are made more evident if we begin, with the language










of gender, to unwrap these processes, not only as they affect the group at large, but as they
are differentiated by gender, and the continuous construction of gender identities both
within and outside the group. The concepts of community and nation state itself must be
overhauled as constructs which have marginalised and restricted some groups at the
expense of others, thus creating voiceless categories as society unfolds with each decade.
The perspective of gender allows more indepth and nuanced entry into an understanding of
these processes at work. for if sexual difference is historically a primary one in the
processes of discrimination at work in a society, when we can accede to, and recognize this
fundamental division, and the premises and misinterpretations on which it is built, only
then will others such as race, class and ethnicity, which revolve on secondary axes, be fully
appreciated.


NOTES


1. Taken from an oral history interview with Stella Abidh carried out by Rosabelle Seesaran.
2. While I have focused on Hindu women in this section, and in general dealt with Indian women,
more research and analysis does reveal differences between the different groups of Indian women -
those belonging to the Muslim and Christian faiths, those differentiated by class and place of resi-
dence. This paper does not attempt to handle these differences, but premises its findings on the fact
that Hindu women still comprise the majority of Indian women in Trinidad and that secondly that
there is a concept of Indian culture which goes beyond religion and Hinduism itself which most In-
dian tend to subscribe to.


REFERENCES


ANTHIAS, FLOYA and NIRA YUVAL-DAVIS, (eds.) (1989) Woman- Nation-State, Macmillan
Press Ltd. London.
COHEN, A.P. (1985). The Symbolic Construction of Community, Tavistock Publications, London
and New York.
FOX-GENOVESE, ELIZABETH, (1991). "Women and Community" Chapter 2 in Feminism with-
out Illusions: A Critique of Individualism, The University of North Corolina Press, Chapel Hill &
London.
Newspapers Published in Trinidad: The East Indian Weekly (1928-1931), the Port of Spain Gazette,
The Daily and Sunday Express, The Trinidad and Sunday Guardian.
MOHAMMED, PATRICIA, (1993). "A Social History of Indians in Trinidad 1917-1947: A
Gleaner Perspective." Phd. Thesis, The Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands.














Mis-Perception and Stereotyping ... Among Young Afro-Trinidadian
Students


by


CARLA MATHISON AND SHARON CAREW



In Trinidad and Tobago extremes are used in describing the society. Some will say that
the country is on the verge of becoming another Bosnia, while others will say that no where
else in the world can one find a more harmonious society, one so close to the condition of
paradise. Given these two extremes, perhaps it is not so much of an enigma that something
akin to a myth exists in the society. Although most would agree that the education system
and institutions are wrought with problems, we do not normally allude to problems of
racism or race relations in the school system. The education system is viewed as if it
escapes the racial conflict and tension exhibited in the society at large.

In fact, it has been espoused in texts and hailed by intellectuals and non-intellectuals
alike that education or, educational institutions, provide a forum for the eradication of
racism. In heterogenous or plural societies, such educational institutions are supposed to
provide a certain sense of commoness and oneness which causes students of various ethnic
groups to identify with each other, with specific goals and objectives and thus create a sense
of nationhoood and national identity. It is normally assumed that representation of the
dominant racial groups among staffs and student populations enhances this process. In
essence these institutions are supposed to act as a melting pot, where various preconceived
notions of each group for the other are erased. Based on our experience as teachers and the
research we were able to conduct, for [we say "able to" because we actually came across
strong resistance from parents AND teachers] we conclude that this is a fallacy. In fact,
schools are an ideal place to observe racist behaviour and attitudes, both amongst teachers
and amongst students as well as between students and teachers.

The Toco Composite school is located in an area characterized by its high unemploy-
ment rate, its family cohesion, the existence of large extended families and the closeness
and high interactive level of members of the community. In recent years the schools has
widened its intake capacity to an area which is not properly defined as rural that is Sangre
Grande. Also in recent years the population of Indo-Trinidadians in the Toco area has also










widened as more Indo-Trinidadians settle in agricultural holdings in the community.

Toco Composite School is a relatively small one with a total student population of
almost 500. It is serviced by a teaching staff of only 36 teachers. It has a total Indo-
Trinidadian student population of 29. There is a total of 12 Indo-Trinidadian teachers. The
school has a small mixed population, which it was discovered after interviewing a propor-
tion of them, generally see themselves as more closely affiliated with Afro than Indo
Trinidadians. Mixed teachers are even fewer. It was discovered however that teachers who
are not Afro Trinidadian were seen by students as either Indian or White. The non-teaching
staff is almost totally Afro-Trinidadian.

The general atmosphere at Toco Composite with regards to race relations can be
reflected in the following anecdote. While struggling to teach a rather unruly class one day,
one of us decided to skip the lesson and speak to the students about their conduct and the
fact that some teachers were avoiding their class. The co-author was taken aback to hear
more than half the class say that certain teachers avoided them because the teachers were
racial they did not want to teach black children.2 To them, their conduct had little to do with
the teachers' attitude, race however, surely did. Even after pointing out that some of these
teachers taught other classes quite well, they were still adamant the teachers were racial!

On another occasion reflecting racial prejudice among teachers one of us first took up
my appointment at Toco Composite, an Afro-Trinidadian teacher remarked "Thank the
Lord they ain't send another Indian". Some teachers and many students felt that Indian
teachers were "taking over" the school. It was easy to assume then that the school had a
larger proportion of Indian than African teachers, or at least about an equal proportion. As
it turned out, 12 out of 36 was thought to be excessive. The last mentioned teacher lives and
works in a rather insular and homogenous community in which outsiders, particularly
Indians fear echoed throughout the society "Indian (sic) taking over business," "Indian
taking over scholarships", "Indians taking over UWI", even "Indians taking over Carnival",
this is insidious and sometimes blatant racism.

Our study, which is an attitudinal one, focusing on the perspective of Afro-Trinidadian
students towards Indo-Trinidadian teachers, was therefore compiled in an environment
which does not extend to every other school in Trinidad and Tobago. The attitudes
discovered however are believed to exist in students of the same background or racial
groups in other schools. It is the belief of the two teachers involved that such attitudes are
common and as such are problematic and therefore portend ill for the domestic system.

Methodology

The method for conducting this study involved two stages. Initially questionnaires were
issued to various students from forms one to five. The returned questionnaires represented
10% of the Afro-Trinidadian school population. We also felt the need to issue some










questionnaires to Indo-Trinidadian students. A total of 24% of the Indo-Trinidadian school
population returned answered questionnaires.

The second stage of the study took the form of direct interviews with various students.
This represented a total of about 5% of the school's population. Through the questionnaires
and the interviews we sought to highlight and gain insights into certain pertinent issues
which we felt were pressing and to understand why certain viewpoints which we were privy
to existed. Most of these bordered on certain racial conceptions. The questionnaires had a
more indirect and probably softer slant then the interviews. Students generally responded
more frankly to the direct approach and it is mainly from this source that we were able to
better understand how and why some of their prejudices were formed.

Because of the disparity in the Indo-Afro student population in the school an analysis of
relationships between the two aforementioned groups in the classroom setting may have
been interesting, particularly if compared to other schools with different demographic
profiles. Our survey however while not designed with that particular intention did reveal
some interesting attitudes by both groups towards each other.

The age of the children and the geographic and demographic environment were two
interesting variables in this study. Children tend to give more honest responses although
their point of views may not be as well articulated as adults. The rural and relatively simple
lifestyles of most of the students suggest that race and ethnicity would have relatively low
levels of salience. This however is not true, the fact of which, as mentioned earlier, both
authors were struck when we first started teaching at the school.

Analysis

On the questionnaires students were asked to select any number of teachers whom they
liked. If we look at the responses of the African students, the seven (7) most liked teachers
were all non- Indian teachers and of the fifteen (15) most liked teachers only three were
Indo-Trinidadians. In addition almost seventy (70) percent of the Indian teachers were liked
by less than four students (African) each, some not liked by any at all. Additionally, the
three most liked teachers (who were all Afro- Trinidadians) were preferred by more African
students than all the Indian teachers combined. Is it a matter of the teachers' personality?
Or were their reasoning based on something less substantial but apparently more important
to them? Classroom interaction we felt had little to do with it, for English Language, the
subject done by all students at the school is taught by one Afro and three Indo-Trinidadian
teachers.

The interviews were even more revealing, for here students were asked not only who
were their favourite and least favourite teachers but also who they thought were the best
teachers. The top three were again Afro-Trinidadians, but of the first eight, four were
Indo-Trinidadians. The pattern for favourite teachers basically remained the same. Herein










lies a paradox. While some students saw some Indian teachers as efficient and competent in
the teaching of their subject matter, they did not like them. This may mean that Indian
teachers either do not extend themselves beyond the call of professional duty and therefore
are not perceived as friendly, or that students simply tend to reject overtures of friendliness
from Indian teachers but not African teachers.

Sentiment tends to run high in children attending school. Therefore the perception of
racism seems to be more influential than the existence of racism itself. To them, while all
Indian teachers may not necessarily be racist, in their myopic view and generally perpetu-
ated by the larger Afro-Trinidadian public, Indian are more racial or more inclined to be
racial than Africans. This point was given further impetus when it was discovered that most
of the students who responded to the corresponding question in the questionnaires felt that
the teachers who display racism are Indo-Trinidadian teachers. Additionally, most students
also felt more comfortable with African teachers and felt that African teachers cared more
for their well-being and, displayed more interest in them.

The questionnaires revealed that 29% of the Afro-Trinidadian students felt some teach-
ers were racial. In the interviews however, over 90% of the students felt racism existed in
the school in some form and over 50% felt that one form of this was exhibited by teachers
towards students. Others felt racism was demonstrated more in the relationships that
existed between students of the two groups. Students were asked to define what they
thought racism meant, and they consistently replied that it is the hatred of another race.
Among those who felt that there were teachers who were racist towards students, some said
the teachers treated the races differently. Other reasons given included the way the teachers
looked at you, the fact that teachers called them names, also that some teachers showed
favourtism to Indian students, that they don't encourage African students and because they
involve themselves little in extra- curricular activities. There were also others who felt that
this racism was manifest in discrimination in the granting of grades to African students, in
the manner in which the teachers spoke to them, which they interpreted as derogatory, and
also because these teachers nagged them. Others who probably could not find a more fitting
answer said that these teachers were racial simply because they do not like African
students.

Most of the claims of the students were not properly substantiated. For example a few
students said that Indian teachers picked on the African students in class. In one case in
particular in which this was said, the class in question had only one Indian student.
Similarly, another said the teachers only taught the Indian students in the class. This class
contained only two Indian students and over thirty African students. The implications of
such an occurrence are tremendous. These assertions highlight the sorry truth even further.
The teachers are supposed to be racial, therefore whatever action they take, be it for the
good of the student or otherwise, is defined in racial terms. This may handicap the










educational process particularly in the classroom setting where there is close interaction
and where students may respond negatively to these teachers, and consequently to the
subject taught by these teachers, based primarily on pre-conceived notions of race.

A substantial number of students also felt racism was expressed in the way African and
Indian students treated each other. They said name-calling of Indian students and avoidance
of them by African students as well as the clannish nature of both groups were the chief
characteristics. Perhaps significantly, only two of the Indian students who responded to
questionnaires felt that teachers exhibited racism. Nearly 60% of them said they felt
uncomfortable in class because of their race, while no African student felt this way.

A co-relation was discovered between age of students and whether or not they felt that
teachers were racial, thus introducing the concept of learning prejudice. While 31 (-50%)
of the questionnaires were received from the fourth and fifth former, more than half of
those who thought that teachers were racial are from the upper forms. 67% of the students
who felt that teachers displayed racialism were from forms three, four and five.2 For one
form one student held this view. These results appear to suggest that as students progress in
their school life, these concepts become more entrenched in them. They become more
paranoid and suspicious, as they seek to keep in sync with the larger society. Their
ignorance and fear of the groups are heightened as the original suspicion they felt is
surrendered for a more firm conviction and belief that these stereotypes are really true.

The concept of learning prejudice appears to be one of the most significant findings of
this study. We felt that students in the lower forms generally see teachers as impartial.
Personalities and teaching styles seem to influence them a great deal at this age. As the
students get older and as they encounter more problems inside and outside the classroom,
the term racism is more frequently used. To us it seems to be merely a convenient term that
is used to deal with their problems. It may even be the students do not really see these
teachers as racial, but crying racism probably adds more legitimacy to their inability to cope
with their difficulties. This attitude is portrayed and encouraged in the community and
society at large, as people seek to find an excuse for their inadequacies. Claims of racism
therefore become a scapegoat for various personal and professional failures/-problems.

The results of the findings reveal that there is no significant correlation between race
and the teachers experiencing greatest disciplinary problems in the class room. Also there
was no correlation between race and the teachers who the students felt treated them badly.
Inspite of racial attitudes displayed, there are factors, such as friendship and exposure to
Indian culture which mitigate against this tendency. The acquisition of racial stereotypes
and attitudes is a complex one which is tempered by the desire to interact and know. This is
important because it demonstrates that it is possible to actively counteract the process by
exposing African students to the Indian "other", possibly through curricular modification
and extra- curricular activities.










Nearly all respondents claimed they had friends from other racial groups, and that their
parents would not object if they had a boyfriend or girlfriend who was Indo-Trinidadian.
Similarly nearly all of them said they watched Indian shows on Television.

In their responses to the questions about their perception of a Divali programme held
recently in the school a significant number of students found the show strange and almost
all of them felt it was informative. Only a few said it was funny. It must be pointed out
however, that quite a few of them laughed while the show was in progress. Two students
who were practically forced to attend the show, were heard commenting that they were not
Indians and felt they should not have to attend Indian things.

It is not surprising that some students found the event strange, since although there
might be Indian people in their communities, Africans represent the great majority of the
populations. There is therefore limited exposure to Indian cultural festivities and expres-
sions.

Students were asked how they felt about outsiders moving into their community. The
majority (or nearly 70%) of them said they had no problem with outsiders and would
probably welcome them. Almost 40% however, said they would probably be less welcom-
ing or feel more uncomfortable if the outsiders were Indo-Trinidadians.

The study also sought to ascertain where these perceptions began. In our attempt to do
this another contradiction was discovered. Whereas students said Indians in their commu-
nity were treated equally; the number and nature of the negative comments that were passed
on to students by relatives and other members of the community somewhat refutes their
earlier claims. The comments made seem to generally perpetuate ignorance and fear.
According to these students, most of these comments were made by residents in the specific
communities. One of the most familiar claims is that Indians want to take over. One girl
even pointed out that there are so many Indians in her village now it is referred to as "Coolie
Town". Some say they hear negative comments being made about Indian music and Indian
festivals. Other comments include such things "Indians are wicked", they are "smelly",
"pushy", "greedy", "like money", "have lice" and "pray to a strange God". It was pointed
out that elders in the community tend to have racial attitudes and because of the consider-
able influence these elders have, these attitudes are passed on to the younger ones. Given
the prevalence and influence of strong family and communities in the Toco area, this is
particularly important and adds yet another factor to the development of racial stereotypes.

Some students said they heard negative comments about Indians being made in the
family circle. One lower form girl said her parents do not allow her to associated with
Indian children or even to buy from the Indians shops. Another boy said his father told him
that in his younger days Indians were beaten by Africans. When children are exposed to
such comments, it is more likely that they would grow up with similar views. Eventually










they then feel confident in using the term racism to define any relationship they have with
Indian teachers and students in the school community.

Some students also claim that they hear mostly negative comments about Indians in
school, no doubt statements simply regurgitated from relatives and villagers.

Although some students felt people were justified in making these comments because
they were true, the majority said these comments were made because the Africans were
racial. In any event it is to be noted that Afro-Trinidadians feel justified in making these
comments because they perceive the Indians as racial. Yet still making these comments (as
some students accurately pointed out), clearly highlights the degree of their own racism.

Amazingly, even when students held firmly to their stereotypes and even when they
gave negative comments about Indo- Trinidadians, they did not see themselves as racist.
Every one of the students interviewed said quite adamantly that they were not racial.

The ultimate test in the study proved to be the questions in the questionnaires and in the
interviews about (1) whether students thought the UNC could win the next general election,
(2) whether they thought an Indian candidate from any political party could win elections
in their area and (3) if they knew about the Hulsie Bhaggan issue.3 Since these three
questions dealt with issues which were assumed to be frequently talked about in the home
and community but not among students, we felt that the responses would reflect the extent
to which students accept or internalize the views of adults around them and the extent to
which these responses contrast to some of their earlier assertions of racial harmony at
school and in their community. This contrast was much more prevalent amongst the
younger students who tended to deny that teachers exhibited racial attitudes towards them.

Most students were convinced that the UNC could not win the election because the
party and its representatives were racial. They felt that if the UNC did win the election,
more jobs and other benefits would be given to Indians. They also felt that more Indian
holidays would be granted. We would be over-stepping our bounds to investigate the
genesis of these ideas. But surely they bear some historical and political significance.
however three basic assumptions permeate:

1. Indians tend to be racial;

2. Indians want to dominate and

3. The race of a candidate is more important than the issues he/she deals with.

These ideas are believed to coincide with the ideas generally held throughout the
Afro-Trinidadian public. Many students felt that an Indian candidate could not win election
in their area despite his/her party. The rationale for their saying so seemed to offer another
contradiction. For whereas they claimed earlier that Indians were treated normally and









equally in their community, they felt an Indian candidate could not win elections because
there were too few Indians in the community.

While it was discovered that students do not generally read the newspapers or listen
much to television or radio news, many parents do. Some of the issues are discussed at
home. In these communities the media plays a role in the forming of perceptions, we cannot
however, say that it plays either the major or most significant role. The issue of Hulsie
Bhaggan, which was looked at in the interviews illustrated this. About half of the students
knew who Hulsie Bhaggan was. When asked how and what they had heard about her some
said they had heard about her via the media and others quoted different sources including
relatives and other members of the community. Most of them said they heard she did not
like African people and as such was racial. However those who remember hearing only
vaguely about her and those who had never heard about her at all, still formed an opinion.
The case of one girl stands out. After saying she did not know who Hulsie Bhaggan was,
she asked "Is she Indian?" then with firm conviction she replied, "If she is an Indian, then
she racial [sic]!" For some of these opinions are firmly entrenched in their minds. While a
few students sought to analyse the issues deeper, for many of them the issue of race seemed
more important.

The paranoia and fear expressed by some of these students is most disturbing; more so
as most of them do not yet comprehend what their perceptions mean. The older ones in
particular mimic what is said and done by others in the society and think this to be normal
and the way it is supposed to be. A few of them will probably relinquish the ideas they now
have. The others will continue to use racism as a convenient and easy solution and excuse
for their problems, and they like their parents and grandparents before them will pass these
perceptions to their children.

Although we did not investigate the attitude of teachers, we are of the view that this is
an area in which investigation is of primary importance. Preliminary investigations reveal
that they too hold similar perceptions. These perceptions are no doubt passed on to the
students. We are quite aware of the extent of these feelings. For the suspicion and annoy-
ance expressed by teachers during our study adds credence to the fact that fear plays a
major role in the maintaining of these perceptions. When in a staff meeting teachers openly
displayed their hostility in the light of what we were doing we realized the extent of this
fear, when a parent tore up a questionnaire given to her daughter and attempted to bring up
the issue at a PTA meeting, the extent of their paranoia was visible.

The salience of race was demonstrated in yet another way. Apart from the attitude of
this and some teachers, the students it appeared to be more open in speaking with the author
who was phenotypical pure African.

Another issue that took on explanatory relevance was student's self perception of their









race. Some students who we identified as Afro-Trinidadian, identified themselves as
mixed. The self-images these students have warrant some investigation. Individuals in
Trinidad and Tobago society are apt to make certain assumptions about the race of others
based on phenotype. Is it based on face value or appearance? Or is it the genes of parents
and other ancestors? Additionally what percentage of African blood qualifies an individual
to be termed Afro-Trinidadian? Maybe this is an error that is frequently made in the
compilation of data and therefore warrants further investigation. The student who thought
of themselves as mixed, particularly the lower form students, were generally more tolerant
of Indo-Trinidadian, had a more positive view of race relations and generally tended to give
race less salience as a social factor defining their existence.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Three points stand out from our analysis. The first is that Afro- Trinidadian students do
not generally see themselves as racist. They see Indians as more racial than themselves and
more likely to give in to racial tendencies. These views are therefore commonly used to
rationalize what could normally be termed racial statements made by them. The second is
that some of the misperceptions they have about Indo-Trinidadians are so pervasive that
tangible evidence is not normally presented when racist claims are made. Indian teachers
are sometimes accused of such with no significant grounds. Race or racism, therefore is
often a scapegoat, a convenient term used to describe problems or situations which may
have nothing to do with these issues. The third is that racial prejudice and stereotypes are
learnt.' The mis-perceptions accelerate as they progress in forms. Clearly interaction with
students who hold these notions plays a role in accounting for this tendency. These students
however are not only socialized in the school system. Family members, community dwell-
ers and the public in general also expose these views.

We believe that some sort of intervention in schools will remove some of these
stereotypes. The intervention must however be done in the students early school life before
such views are allowed to penetrate deeply into their psyche. It must also become a much
more intrinsic part of the education system, that is, the school curricula must more aggres-
sively and fundamentally address the reality of the racial heterogeneity of Trinidad and
Tobago, but perhaps more important, they must deal with the experience of those who live
in pockets of isolated, insular and fairly homogeneous communities throughout the nation.
In other words, Trinidad and Tobago needs to develop a pedagogy suited for the social and
political conditions and reality which our demographic structure creates. We should add
that the same has to be done for the gender analysis in our curricula. All this demands a lot
of work in terms of research and implementation, but of course, the commitment to honest
assessment and change are important pre- requisites.

We also feel that there is the need to educate the population to the fact that one racial
group has no more claims to our nation than another. Then surely the term "taking over"









would be used less.

The reported findings must also be interpreted with caution, since generalization may
not be accurate in every other school. In retrospect however, the perceptions seem to exist
on a large scale. Our society is entrapped in insular and petty racial difference which hinder
our future development. In this specific case under analysis, cries of racialism of teachers
seem sometimes to be a mere echo of these students' urban peers. A reflection of our
society's inability to cope with multi-ethnicity and increasing ethnic polarity. Our society
is being despoiled by such stereotypes. It is time we eschew such superficiality. The
misperceptions, ignorance, and stereotyping should be addressed. We concede that this will
be difficult since the historical dynamics of both groups cannot be ignored. Old perspec-
tives are hard to change. More so when our politicians, intellectuals, calypsonians and the
media espouse them. We refuse however to surrender to the pessimism of some, and we
hope desperately, and we hope not ideologically for our society to change.


NOTES AND REFERENCES

1. This notwithstanding that one of us, who is black, normally found it difficult to complete a les-
son with the class.
2. Toco Composite has five stages: Forms 1 through 5. [Editor's Note].
3. In the "Hulsie Bhaggan Issue" refers to the assertion by the opposition Member of parliament,
Miss Hulsie Bhaggan, that African men were targeting Indian females for rape and were targeting
Indian residential areas for violent crime. [Editor's Note].










Building Cross Cultural Bridges in Multi-Ethnic Societies : The Role
of the Pundit


By
INDIRA BOLAN


When one considers building cross-cultural bridges in a multi-ethnic society such as
Trinidad and Tobago, the process in view is one that will facilitate an understanding of the
different cultures of the various groups, allowing diversities to flourish while enriching the
human experience and at the same time promoting the holistic development of all sectors of
the society. This is a view of development that must be based in the inherent value of each
group and an acceptance of the difference in which peoples of different backgrounds can
live in harmony, find unity in their diversity.

One anthropological approach suggests that each community has a variety of its cultural
specialists, such as priests, teachers, writers and actors whose tasks include systemising and
refining knowledge of the community [Misra, 1991]. By studying the role of these
specialists one might be able to understand the instruments available to a culture for both
cultural continuity as well as for building bridges of understanding between communities.

It is important, in this regard, to bear in mind that religion is one of the most powerful
forces in history. People have died for their religion; nations have gone to war to spread or
defend their faith; and states have been united or divided because of religious beliefs. In the
Caribbean, religion has served as a force in uniting Hindus, not only socially and culturally,
but also economically and politically.

Hinduism is viewed as an ethnic religion in the Caribbean, since the religion is practiced
primarily by persons of East Indian descent; it serves the purpose of marking off significant
proportions of the population in several countries as a distinct ethnic group. It is therefore
imperative to understand how Hinduism has survived and how, if at all, it has mutated. In
order to do so one has to understand the crucial role that the pundit has played in the
survival of Hinduism in an alien environment and what have been the implications for
consolidating nationhood of this role.

The Functions of the Pundit

The most important question that needs to be answered at this point therefore is: who is
the pundit? A pundit is often simply defined as 'a Hindu priest'. His role, however, moves
beyond that of a priest as conceived by the Western world. The pundit represents the most
consistent presence in the life of a Hindu.

He functions as an astrologer. When a child is born the parent or grandparent visits the
pundit who determines the child's horoscope and gives the child his 'raasi' or hidden name.









A name to be used throughout life.

The pundit functions as an advisor. As a Hindu, in times of uncertainty or trial the
advice of the pundit is sought and he, using the raasi, is guided by the devotee's horoscope.

The pundit also functions as a performer of rituals, since he conducts pujas.l He is also
a military guide, although for obvious reasons this function has fallen into disuse in the
western world and even in India.

Most importantly, the pundit functions as a spiritual guide or 'guru'. The guru is the
Hindu's instrument of enlightenment, the link to the Godhead. In the Caribbean, espe-
cially, the pundit has a role as translator. He is required to expound philosophy and
perform rituals that have been translated from Hindi and Sanskrit into the vernacular. To
the Hindu then, the pundit is the very reflection of what is Hinduism.

The pundit is therefore a constant in the Hindu's life, present at birth, at marriage, in
trials and uncertainty and at death.

The Pundit and Cultural Continuity in the Caribbean

When one examines the role of pundits in Trinidad and Tobago over the past 150 years,
one can conclude that they have been singular in ensuring the survival of Hinduism in this
Region. Indentured immigrants came from disparate parts of India into a different environ-
ment. In Trinidad and Tobago they were place on plantations in various parts of the island.
Kelvin Singh has noted that during the adjustment period.

The role of the Indian priest, Hindu or Muslim, was
extremely important in giving the mass of Indians
psychological protection in a society basically hostile
to them racially, culturally and economically. [Singh
41].

The many indentured servants choosing to remain in Trinidad after their indentureship
was over resulted in the emergence of Indian settlements in the island, with Indian
populations attempting to recreate their social institutions in the new environment.

The local environment, however, put its special stamp on all forms of Indian culture,
including religion. The process of hybridisation (or better still, Trinidadianisation) has
resulted in a unique manifestation of Hindu culture. While this process was taking place,
the role of the pundit was growing to the needs of the Hindu community; for as P.K. Misra
[1991] observed, the life cycle processes go on.
The Pundit in Practice

Unfortunately, Hinduism, and its servants, the pundits have been largely misunderstood
in the Caribbean. There still exists a certain amount of ignorance and hostility toward this
religion which is practiced by the majority of Trinidadians of Indian descent. It is only










taken in this context, of the importance of the pundit to the Hindu community and of the
widespread misunderstanding by the non-Hindu community that the roleof the pundit in
building cross-cultural bridges can be understood.

In order to determine the extent of the role of the pundit in building cross-cultural
bridges, there is one task of an antecedental nature. This relates to the pundits' own
self-perception. Do they take a narrow view which sees them only ministering to the Hindu
flock, or is there a wider view in which the pundit sees himself enlightening the wider
community of the tennets of Hinduism and of the importance of the Hindu community in
creating civil society?

Most pundits have placed much emphasis on the universality of Hinduism as a way of
life rather than as a religion, stressing the importance of building community. The logic
suggests that in building strong community the state is built. Nation-building is therefore
seen as a natural extension of community building.

One of the mechanisms that is used to build community is through the mandir (the
Hindu temple) where the pundit can provide religious as well as other social and economic
services to his community regardless of race or religion.

Notwithstanding the broad vision, however, there appears to be an inability on the part
of Hindus to move beyond community building into nation building. Thus one finds that
while a Hindu might be active in his immediate community socially, economically,
culturally and politically he is often unable to cross the divide between community and
nation. It has been argued that many Hindus do not see the need to attempt to bridge that
gap.

Race and Politics

One of the reasons which may be cited for the reluctance of the Hindu in bridging the
cross-cultural gap is reflected in the history of race politics in the country. The history of
politics, with the possible exception of the short-lived cross-racial alliance of 1986-87, has
been one of a sharp divide along racial lines.

In Trinidad and Tobago there has always been an African-based political party and an
Indian-based political party. Since the introduction of party politics, successive govern-
ments have been dominated by the African element in the population. A sense of alienation
from the political system has therefore developed amongst Indians.

It is further argued that this African-domination in politics has been accompanied by the
marginalisation of the cultural and symbolic interest of Indians in Trinidad and Tobago.
One such area is the on-going debate over the declaration of a national holiday in obser-
vance of the arrival of Indians in Trinidad and Tobago Indian Arrival Day. It has been
argued that while Africans have declared Emancipation Day a national holiday in celebra-
tion of the end of slavery there has not been commensurate acknowledgement of the
presence of Indians in the country.










Another reason which can account for the Hindus lack of interest in cross-cultural
integration is the fear of creolisation among Indians. This apprehension has been fueled by
the predictions of the assimilation of Indians as a result of economic development and
westernisation into a single national and social system. [Vertovec 19921. This fear of
losing cultural identity is a deeply held primordial attachment which is seen to be at least as
important as nation-building.

The challenge then exists to bridge the cross cultural gap between Hindus and the larger
society and more importantly there exists a need for a multi-ethnic society to find a
mechanism to ensure that every citizen, including the Hindu, is assured of acceptance in the
social fabric by right, while allowing him to keep his primary identifications. This model
of cross cultural co-equality does not necessarily have to follow other models of develop-
ment and multiculturalism (Gunatilleke: 1983].

The mechanisms and their operationalisation must reflect the country's unique histori-
cal sociology. The pundit, a cultural specialist, has a pivotal role to play for the Hindu
community. However, this role cannot be limited to the marginal role now perceived for
the pundit by himself, by the Hindu community or by the wider population.

At the very minimum, pundits, as the custodians of Hindu philosophy must begin to
articulate clearly a Hindu perspective on social, economic and political issues, enlightening
the national community on interests of Hindus. As important as the substance of the
communication, must be the form of the communication. It must at all cost be non-threat-
ening.

Preparation for Cross Cultural Communications

While the focus of this paper is certainly on the role of the pundit, much of the
discussion that follows is of a practical nature and can be usefully applied to the role of
leaders of other communities in the multi-cultural society as a forerunner to effective
society-wide communication systems.

Cross cultural communication need not be seen as an additional responsibility to the
community leader. In fact, it should he seen as part of a single package. There are,
however, some essential, though practical and relatively simple issues that should be taken
in view by the cross-cultural communicator. This, it is suggested, is important because the
pundit having operated in a relatively restricted circle must now widen his horizons.

First, what is the nature of his programme of study? Does it include adequate training
to fulfill the expanded role or is he simply required to chant verses and perform rituals
with no emphasis on philosophy?

According to Hindu teachings, one can become a pundit providing he fulfills the
particular requirement of caste. Once this is satisfied, the trainee has to undergo a period of
training, penance and austerity, adhering to a proper code of conduct. In Trinidad and
Tobago a person wishing to become a pundit usually attached himself to a senior pundit for
the period of training. Only recently have Hindu theological schools been established.










Hindus themselves are no longer content to have their pundit only perform puja for
them once a year. They are increasingly demanding that the pundit fulfill his several roles.
This is in keeping with the ways Hindus now perceive themselves in the wider society,
since Hindus are no longer restricted to the canefields but have begun to establish them-
selves in the wider society, socially, economically and politically. Coupled with this is the
need to learn more about their religion and they are looking towards their pundits to satisfy
this need. By educating themselves about Hinduism, Hindus will also be able to answer the
questions about the wider society. The pundit then, must demonstrate a sense of knowledge,
he must be educated to be able to cope with the probings of the Hindu as well as the wider
society which is becoming more aware of Hinduism due to its growing presence.

Unfortunately, the training of pundits has proven to be deficient, since on many
occasions the trainee having mastered the art of performing rituals goes off on his own
hoping to pick up philosophy at a later stage. This undermines the authority from which the
pundit can speak, since he will lack knowledge to fulfill all aspects of his role. This
ignorance will prevent the pundit from being able to help the society build cross cultural
bridges. Knowledge of Hindu philosophy is important, considering the wealth of philoso-
phy that exists in Hindu literature concerning nation building as amply demonstrated in the
Ramayana and the Mahabharat, which are the two most popular sources of Hindu philo-
sophical thought in Trinidad and Tobago.

In addition, caste should not be the major factor in allowing a person to become a
pundit, especially in a society such as Trinidad and Tobago where there is no room for the
caste system due to the homogenization of Hinduism. Thus this tendency that pundits
should only be of the Brahmin caste which is still practised in Trinidad and Tobago has to
change, since this has caused a certain amount of dissent within the Hindu community.

Hinduism and pundits, we noted above, have been largely misunderstood by the wider
society. Being the custodian, the caretaker of Hinduism, the pundit's role must include the
clarifying of the misconceptions that exist in the wider society about Hinduism. For
example, there is a general misconception amongst the African population that Hindus
view African people as Rawans. According to the Ramayana, Rawan was a wicked king
who abducted the hero Rama's wife. Rama in turn fought and killed Rawan to get back his
wife. The fact that Rawan was a black man strengthened the belief by the African popula-
tion that Hindus view Afro-Trinidadians as Rawans. Naturally Afro-Trinidadians assume
that pundits spread such teachings, however pundits do not propagate such views. At the
same time, pundits have not really done much to curb these beliefs, and the fact that
Afro-Trinidadians were supposedly accused of attacking and raping Indian women in
Central Trinidad appear to justify the Afro-Trinidadians opinion, that Hindus conceive of
them as Rawans. The fact is Rawan was indeed a wicked king who abducted Sita, the Wife
of Rama. According to the Ramayana, Rawan was a servant of Lord Vishnu who was
cursed by a sage and in order to be relieved from this curse, he had to be killed by Lord
Vishnu. Thus when Rawan abducted Sita, he provided the means by which Lord Vishnu, or
Rama, could kill him. That Rawan was a black man was due to the fact that he was from









South India. What is not generally known as well is the fact that Rawan belonged to the
highest caste of Hindus, the Brahmin cast, and that he was highly educated and very
powerful. When Rawan was killed at the hands of Lord Rama, he was liberated from his
curse.

Clearing these misconceptions will naturally promote a greater understanding of Hindu-
ism by the rest of society and this is essential towards building cross cultural bridges. The
fact that Hinduism has no absolute concepts means that there can be a plurality of views
which are not necessarily wrong, just different. In addition if Hinduism as a way of life was
able to survive many thousands of years allowing different interpretations of the totality of
life, then one nation should be able to learn from this experience and be able to do so as
well, peoples of different ethnic backgrounds living together harmoniously.

Finally then, what is the pundit'srole in making peace and building cross cultural
bridges in Trinidad and Tobago: The multi-faceted nature of the pundit's role qualifies him
as an important instrument in creating social cohesion. Most pundits are not equipped to
fulfill this role presently. Yet inspite of their deficiencies, they have made a valuable
contribution to Hinduism and it is this that makes the pundit suitable for the role that he is
being asked to play. As most Hindus observe, despite the lack of proper training facilities,
pundits have shown a remarkable persistence, sharing their mission with the everyday
struggle for survival in a difficult social environment as well as coping with the demand for
their services both at family and community levels, establishing themselves as the custodi-
ans of their dharma.

However, the socio-economic environment is changing and pundits now have to adapt
to this change otherwise they will be left behind. It is a generally accepted view that
Hinduism is going through a renaissance in Trinidad, but as Ashram Maharaj notes in his
book The Pundits in Trinidad.:

The Renaissance to a large extent is taking place inde-
pendently of the pundits...2

This appears to be true especially when one observes the attitude some of these pundits
exhibit towards the now practically eradicated caste system in Trinidad and their ridiculous
attitude towards women pundits. This is symbolic of backwardness in a society that has
begun to train missionaries Brahmin and non-Brahmin alike as well as females. It is also
ironic of a religion or rather way of life, tl(at preaches universality.

Hinduism's most remarkable feature has been its survival for so many thousand of years
in India and its survival in Trinidad as well as mentioned earlier. One of the reasons why
Hinduism has been able to survive is due to its adaptable nature. We live in an ever
changing environment. Adaptation is necessary for survival otherwise Hinduism would
have died long ago. A lecturer once made an analogy about the survival of Hinduism
comparing it to a sari. A sari started off as a plain six yards of material used by mostly
Hindu women as a mode of dress, it was probably made of cotton. However, with time the
sari has evolved and it is now made of silk, chiffon and other such materials. They have









become quite colourful and highly decorated yet the sari remains a sari, a basic six yards of
material used as clothing.3 To further add to this the sari can be worn in many different
ways but it still remains a sari. In the same vein then pundits fulfilled their roles according
to the situations that existed at the time adapting when necessary and they must continue to
do so to be able to fulfill the role that is presently required of them, to help Hindus and the
wider society build cross cultural bridges. However, this is not a one sided affair and as
most Trinis would say:

...it take two hands to clap.

meaning the rest of society must begin to build bridges as well, for a Swami
Vivekananda said:

Let us learn to live together, but let us also learn to
respect each other, in their own way, and as we believe
that there is but one religion in the world, the religion
of truth, there is but one race, the human race, and
there is but one language, the language of universal
love.4


NOTES

1 A puja is a ritualistic form of worship, requiring, in most cases the services of a pundit.
2 Ashram B. Maharaj, 1991. Pundits in Trinidad p. 38.
S Dr. Kusha Haraksingh, 1988. Lecture on Development of Civilization, U.W.I.,
4 Dr. Kusha Haraksingh, 1988. Lecture on Development of Civilization, U.W.I.










Bridging The Racial Divide In Guyana:
Problems And Proposals



By
KAMPTA KARRAN


Introduction
Guyana, a politically independent sovereign country, is often described as a land of six
immigrant races. The indigenous people, Amerindians, have their origins elsewhere. The
others are also immigrants, but of a more recent vintage. Europeans (whites), Africans,
Portuguese from Madeira, South Asians and Chinese are now all located on common soil.
This common sense racialisation of the Guyanese population, which is still printed in books
and taught in schools, fashions the thinking of a very significant proportion of the popula-
tion. Further, folk wisdom has added another race, namely those of mixed origins the
douglas and other hybrids.
Each group carries its peculiar cultural baggage and the multiple identities and prejudices
that accompany them on their voyage into and within the society. Each group arrived as a
cultural enclave with a specific social location and the subsequent development of the
Guyanese society did not benefit from any serious attempt to fundamentally change this
structural arrangement.
Obviously, this level of segmentation was promoted during the colonial era as it
responded well to the supreme dictates of the "divide and rule strategy" of colonialism. The
dictatorial and authoritarian post colonial state prior to October 5, 19921 also found that
societal fragmentation advantageously served its partisan designs.
Communally divided societies are characterized by contradictions which give rise to
several socially unhealthy outcomes. These include:

I. A type of scholarship steeped in the tradition of theories of conflict,
dependency, pluralism, nationalism, the state and revolution.

2. A system of political behaviour among political parties which appealed
to the racial loyalties of its supporters.

3. A pattern of public service administration that is geared to satisfy the
needs of the supporters of those who control the levers of power.

4 A level of antagonistic race relations especially at the institutional level.


5. The densification of prejudices.









6. Intensification of racial conflicts.

7. The struggle to maintain communal identity and group boundaries.


While all this is going on very little attention is being given to answering a very
fundamental question, that is what is to be done to transform Guyana from a communally
fragmented society into a harmonized human homeland?
It is hoped that this essay will shed some light on this most pressing of concerns.
To satisfy the requirements of our given discourse an attempt will be made, first of all to
answer the question WHAT IS RACE? Is it an illusion or is it a social fact? Secondly,
some causes of the racial divide will be explored. Lastly, a few proposals will be advanced
which may be useful in the molding of Guyana into a cohesive nation state.
WHAT IS RACE?
Illusion
R. Knox [1850] proclaimed "... in human history race is everything", and in the unravel-
ling of history, Gobineau [1853:2091 posited "... all civilizations derive from the White
Race." 2
The predominant logic of the 19th century supported the view that there was a conver-
gence between biology and development. The findings of Science were used to legitimize
this position. Darwin's Law of natural selection was combined with Spencer's theory that
man's genetic constitution determined his social behaviour.
This scientific approach gave credibility to the British Empire. It served to justify
colonialism and saddled the White race with the mission of civilizing the rest of humanity.
The poet Rudyard Kipling in 1899 referred to this process as the "White man's burden".


In the 19th century, there were several competing taxonomies of human beings, all of
which sought to establish a link between biological, and racial attributes and moral and
cultural superiority. Banton [1987] identified four basic assumptions common to the
classifications that were canvassed and fiercely debated. These are:

I. Variations in the physical appearance of peoples indicate racial types of
a fixed permanent kind.

2. These racial types developed marked different cultures, since culture is
decisively influenced by biological status.

3. It is possible, therefore, to acknowledge the superiority of White
Europeans over the rest of humanity.










4. Conflict and contradiction between different racial groups are "natural",
in so far as they spring ultimately from biological sources. [38] 3


By the mid-20th century the above assumptions came under heavy criticism. The assump-
tion based on phenotypical appearance is far from conclusive. Local indigenous popula-
tions are known to display variations in physical characteristics and the findings of modern
genetics seem to debunk the myth of static permanent types.
According to Albert Jacquard these empirical and clinical findings tend to suggest that the
genetic profile of human groupings is dynamic and fluid.4
Further, the concept of the pure race is misleading. Modern biological science identifies
several weaknesses.
Firstly, no indigenous population has the exact genetic profile.
Secondly, there is considerable continuity and overlapping among divergent groups
Thirdly, the similarities among divergent groups are more striking than the differences.
Fourthly, the differences lie not so much with the absence or presence of certain genes
but rather with their statistical frequency.
The belief that discrete races exist has been scientifically discredited. Banton and Hare-
wood tell us that:
"as a way of categorizing people.
race is based upon a delusion because popular ides
about racial classification lack scientific validity and
are moulded by political pressures rather than evi-
dence from biology" 5


In 1967 at a UNESCO forum, it was unambiguously declared "people of the World today
appear to possess equal biological potentialities for attaining any level of civilization". 6
But if race is a mirage why does it remain so prominent a fixture in society?
Race as Social Fact
Reality is not absolute but rather it is interpreted. An aura of relativity and subjectivity
shrouds reality. Out of this state of affairs social facts are born. According to Durkheim, a
social fact can exist independently of what is scientifically real. Race is such a phenome-
non. Race is socially constructed and invested with enough acceptability that it in turn
impacts on science itself.
The concept of races can be deduced from the Bible. 7 The Jews were God's chosen
people, a nation set apart. This separation of humanity concretised the idea of inequality,










difference and conflict. The Biblical brotherhood of man was distorted. Christianity was
used to justify the belief that God ordered the estate of each. By divine plan the whites
were destined to rule and non-whites (children of Ham) condemned to servitude.

Phenotypical appearance is used to identify, at a prima facie level, us and them. The
obvious physical appearance leads to the categorizing of those who look alike in one group.
Cultural and other differences are ignored. All those with a similar appearance are homog-
enized into a race.

Consciousness of one's phenotypical group becomes more pronounced during periods
of racialised conquest, conflict and competition. The victor group then establishes institu-
tions to propagate its ideas and protect its interest. The ruling ideas and institutions define
which race will access the benefits of the state and those who will be denied access.
Institutions are administered in a particular fashion which leads the observer to identify
which race is privileged and those that are deprived.

Individuals nurtured in this environment are socialized into the ways of society. The
individual is taught and even coerced into accepting the static racial category thrust upon
him/her. The individual becomes powerless in the public domain to distance self from the
category in which he/she is placed.

Against the above broad background one sees the emergence of an idea, the creation of
a reality, the evolution of a social fact which accepts the belief in the existence of discrete
races.

Race is a social fact moulded into shape by political pressure and it is bounded within a
given time/space framework. A people can, therefore, redefine race and empower it with
the properties of nationhood.

But what has been stopping us in Guyana from positively responding to this most urgent
of development needs?

Causes Of The Racial Divide
Oral Tradition

At the micro level our oral tradition must bear some of the guilt. Ideas of the world are
transmitted from one generation to the next by the various agents of socialization. Differ-
ent techniques of information transfer are employed to realize this objective. One of the
most prominent of these is word of mouth tutelage by the significant others. A child or a
new member of any society is inducted and is taught of the world through word pictures.
These are then internalized and when the individual interacts in society the word pictures
are recalled and this helps the individual to interpret the social setting in which he/she is
present or is about to enter of has left behind.
According to Gordon Allport a stereotype is "an exaggerated belief associated with a
category. Its function is to justify (rationalize) our conduct in relation to that category."8 In
the field of race relations a stereotype is often presented as a over-generalization about the










behaviour or other characteristics of members of a particular racial group. A stereotype can
be either negative or positive, but there is a tendency for it to be frequently negative. On
occasions, even a positive stereotype is given negative implications. For instance, there are
Afro-Trinidadians who are excellent musicians. Other racial groups may be tempted to say
(an oral label) "all the Negro people do is beat pan all day long". 9 In a similar vein
economic prudence among East Indians is greeted with the stereotypical label of "the coolie
is stingy and mean."

A stereotype is generally an expression of prejudice against a particular population
grouping. This prejudicial over- simplification is then used to predict the behaviour of the
racial groups. Afro Guyanese are said to be prone to violence. Therefore during the time
of political crisis and/or economic crisis they will engage in looting and hooliganism.
Indo-Guyanese are escapists. In times of crisis they will retreat into alcoholism and wife
beating or they will flee the country even as refugees.

Stereotypes are not objective but subjective and cannot be scientifically validated.
Given this fact the obvious question is -How are stereotypes kept alive?

Stereotypes are given continuity through the spoken vocabulary of one's family and
primary groups. The child is taught thathe/she is different from other population groupings
through worldpictures, gestures, bits of conversation he or she picks up from the adults and
other forms of orally transmitted information.

In the home and primary groups stereotypes are generally bandied about when refer-
ence is made to other racial groups. These stereotypes are sometimes innocently used to
condense information but even such innocence is loaded with prejudice and is inimical to
the humanity of the individual or group against whom these stereotypes are addressed. For
instance, the stereotypes of African males as rapists and East Indian males as wife beaters
condemn two entire racial groups for the behaviour of a few members of these groups at
particular times in the lives of those few members.

Because of what the child has been taught, learnt and internalized every time he/she
sees an African or East Indian male a mental image is created in his/her mind of someone
who is capable of unleashing a certain type of race and gender violence. In this way the
establishment of inter-racial relationship is premised on suspicion, distrust and insecurity.

The nature of one's discourses on issues relating to race very often reinforces negative
stereotypes. Our oral tradition has been historically imprisoned in this mould and until we
can see and describe the world through a humanized vocabulary, especially in our homes
and primary communities this pattern of oralism, racial stereotypes and reinforced preju-
dices will continue to inhibit the evolution of a coherent, multi-cultural and non-racist
Guyanese nation state.









History
At the macro level, the interpretation of history and incidents in history are two major
forces which seem to perpetuate divisions in Guyana. The history of Guyana is steeped in
the tradition of blaming and condemning. Very few attempts are made to solve problems.
One very disruptive interpretation which emerged during the reign of the People's
National Congress Administration is what we will refer to here as the victim concept of
African History.
According to this perspective the African was the victim, of every other race in Guyana.
They were enslaved by the Europeans, hunted down by the Amerindians when they tried to
escape from slave labour. Upon emancipation their independent labour struggles were
frustrated by East Indian indentured labourers. Their early entrepreneurial aspirations were
trampled upon by the Portuguese and Chinese. The African suffered from racial aggres-
sion. This type of history distorts what really occurred and can only serve to sow seeds of
hatred rather than those of trust.
Although our history has not been as turbulent as the Catholic/Protestant case in
Ireland, the Hindu/Moslem conflict in India, black/white contradiction in South Africa, we
have had incidents of racial violence in Guyana especially in the 1960s that have left deep
scars all around. Interestingly, the 1960s was the period of the independence struggle. The
very instrument that had the power to galvanize Guyanese served as a wedge to push the
various races apart.
Historically, Guyana's development displays racial division of labour and residential
segregation. Even though these gaps are being reduced and there are growing overlapping
and intersections these distinctions still exist. The majority of Amerindians are still in the
interior, the majority of Africans live in the urban areas or in their own villages and work
chiefly in the professions, civil service, the military and in mining. The majority of East
Indians are mainly agrarian and rural but they are also visible in the urban professional and
commercial sectors. The majority of Portuguese and Chinese are in the commercial and
business sectors. 10
Further, Premdas observed that each group has its own voluntary associations to
champion its cause and advance its interest on the labour and political fronts.This is very
glaring. The East Indian sugar workers are largely represented by GAWU and they are
essentially supporters of the PPP. This history of division and racially directed violence is
a major setback to the development of nationhood.
It would appear that there is a desire of certain Guyanese of three major races to
continue to ask for their space even to the extent to ask for independent, territorial,
sovereign space. The most recent call came from Susan Atkinson, a self-styled chief of the
Amerindian people. She declared the disputed area between Guyana and Venezuela as an
independent nation-state called Amerindia. It occupies 58,000 square miles of the 83,000
square miles that is Guyana. In the late 1980s Ravi Dev of the Jaguar Committee for
Democracy, a Guyanese East Indian organization, called for the federalization of Guyana.
Race is one of if not the most important variable of each federal component.










In the 1960's Mr. Eusi Kwayana (African) called for the Division of Guyana along
racial lines in his attempt to find a solution to the racial confrontations of that period.

These types of initiative from members of the three (3) major race groups in Guyana
suggest that there are those who are willing to abandon the non-racist/multi-cultural
enterprise in favour of the maintenance of Racial Boundaries, both social and physical.

Intellectual Tradition

Given this level of activity in Guyana it is not surprising that there has been a hope that
intellectuals would have been challenged to respond much more creatively than they had.

The studies of political economy seem to concentrate in the abdication of responsibil-
ity and laying the blame of under-development either to a racial group in the society or to
foreign intervention. One very popular thesis is that divisions in the Guyanese society were
caused by colonialism. This level of intellectual abstraction is at best incomplete.

The people whom the Europeans found in Guyana were already divided and competi-
tive. The natives were and are not homogenous and united. There are at least nine (9)
different tribes in Guyana each with their own language, customs, mores, rituals and folk
laws. Each has a distinct identity: the Auric, Caribs, Waraus, Akawaios, Patamonia,
Macusis, Wapishanas, Aracunas and the Wai Wais. It may be argued however that the
nature of the division changed under colonial domination.

Further, there is an instrumentalist interpretation of the genesis of the African/Indian
conflict in Guyana. The argument goes something like this: upon the abolition of slavery
the Africans began to bargain for better conditions of works and better wages. The East
Indian indentured workers came and under-cut their economic/labour aspirations.

This level of intellectualisation attempts to place the responsibility of the racial divide
on the shoulders of the East Indians. In so doing it ignores the fact that:

I. The East Indians were themselves a colonized people before they arrived
in Guyana;

2. Their immigration to this part of the world was not voluntary;

3. It takes away from the Africans the power to empathize with a fellow op-
pressed labour force;

4. It robs Africans of a historical class consciousness that would have
equipped them to identify the real instruments of their suppression namely
the plantation system and the emerging and inhumane capitalist world
order;

5. It ignores incidences of cooperation and united struggles against colonial-
ism.










This type of explanation served to mis-inform subsequent thought and was later used by
a small clique of African leaders in the PNC to neutralize African discontent and disen-
chantment against their dictatorial rule. Moreover, they also employed this line of argu-
ment to incite and to justify the displacement against their dictatorial rule. Further, they
also employed this line of argument to incite and to justify the displacement of aggression
and racial discrimination and hatred on the other racial groups. By way of example it
should be noted that as recently as 1989 at a meeting of the African dominated mining town
Linden, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, then Executive President of Guyana and now Minority
Leader in Parliament, threatened to unleash his dogs of war on the Puttage (Portuguese)
Mafia.

There is also a culturalist tradition which is equally harmful and which has its origin in
the Plural Theory. abstracting from Furnivall scholars like M.G.Smith and Leo Despres
they contend that the Guyanese society is made up of divergent immigrant extractions in a
relatively closed cultural enclave. They meet and mix in the market place but they do not
combine. The argument goes further to suggest that social order is possible in such
societies only when one cultural group captures state power and is able to impose cohesion
of purpose from above.

It must be noted that this trend of intellectual thought when stripped of its finery is
nothing more than a philosophical justification for one racial group to dominate the others
and if pushed to the extreme can be seen as a supporter of the racial superiority that we
alluded to earlier.

Theorists who follow the paths of dependency and under-development, and state and
revolution found great delight in externalising the problems of nationhood in the first
instance and in the second found the political and intellectual platforms provided them an
ample stage on which to rant and rave without having to give much attention to problem
solving.

Our intellectual endeavours in both the colonial and post colonial periods provided few
significant and consistent insights into solving the racial problems in the country.

BRIDGING THE RACIAL DIVIDE

One fundamental characteristic of the Guyanese society in both the pre- and post-inde-
pendent periods is a deep-seated distrust harboured by each racial group for all of the
others. There are individuals and groups who have been able to overcome this distrust: but
in the main this feat is yet to be accomplished by the majority.

Suspicion of the motivations of the others results in manifestations that are inimical to
nation-building. These include both overt and covert operations aimed at frustrating
attempts to mould a coherent, multi-cultural and non-racist nation state.

An unfortunate development appears to be that the articulators of these racial distrusts
seem to speak in isolation and even when their views are made public, one gets the
impression that they are addressed to those who share common beliefs. The levels at which









these racialised monologues occur tend to be harmful and may accelerate racial fragmenta-
tion, instead of breaking down racial barriers. The burning question is: What is to be done
to rectify the situation?

Responsible Media and Politicians

It would appear that racial tensions and insecurities are stirred up at certain time e.g.
during elections. Two guilty agents are the media and politicians.

The media has a responsiblily in developing societies to avoid racial stereotyping.
Negative images and derogatory stereotypes of certain racial groups must be avoided.
Reporting must be balanced and not done in such a manner as to cause perturbation and
incite racial hatred as well as the resultant conflicts.

Politicians and other public personalities must at all times resist the temptation of
invoking racial animosities in the pursuit of their sectarian interests. Their campaigns and
practices must be based on the politics of racial healing and nationhood and not simply of
ethnic cleansing and apanjaat.

Dialogue and Reciprocity

Although the various racial groups have shared a common space for over one century
they are by and large relative strangers. Very few of us realize that the African Que Que
and the Hindu Mata Core are both female based fertility rituals attached to the wedding
ceremony. To get them more acquainted, there is need for more open and constructive
dialogue.

Reality is often interpreted through one's cultural perspective which leads to different
approaches to life. Such diversity exists in Guyana. In the past, this was exploited for the
purposes of division. Today, our cultural diversity must be seen as an asset. The various
groups complement and supplement one another. The strength of one group must be
employed to brace the weakness of the other and vice versa. While our differences must be
recognized and harnessed, emphasis must also be placed on our commonalities like our
collective contribution to the humanization of our society.

History has taught us that no single racial group can effectively transform Guyana from
a developing society to an appropriately modernized one equipped to deal with the
challenges of the twenty-first century. This is a collective task involving and incorporating
all groups and must be premised on reciprocity among the various enclaves.

Education and Harmony

Education both formal and informal, is a major tool in the harmonization process. It
must be multi-cultural and anti-racist in orientation. Moral education in school must reflect
the various religious/cultural concerns in our society and not be dominated by any single
philosophy. The school-leaver must be equipped with a comprehensive understanding of
society so that he/she will be able to relate to the diverse sections of the population, not
merely with tolerance but also with respect and humanity.










To cater for those outside the school an on-going system of public education must be
put in place. Through seminars, workshops, community programmes and so on, all sec-
lions of the society can be reached.

The ultimate goal is to achieve unity in diversity, to realize a national identity and
mission, to end discrimination and to make Guyana's national motto: "One People, One
Nation, One Destiny", a reality.

Integration not Assimilation

In Guyana, there is a body of opinion which argues that racial minorities e.g. Chinese,
must be assimilated into the cultures of the groups who control the levers of power. It is
claimed that such assimilation will accelerate the realization of nationhood. Assimilation,
in this case, is the same as ethnocide and it fosters further insecurities. Instead of assimila-
tion, therefore, integration should be the aim of policy and action. Integration allows for
incorporation into the institutions of society on a humane and equitable basis and without
the loss of the essential elements of group identity.

Private and Public Domains

A just strategy of Government must be based on a system whereby the various racial
groups are fully integrated in the main stream of society, but at the same time, they are
allowed to practice their peculiar customs, beliefs and mores in the private domain in which
they are safe from outside interference. The state should not impose its will on these
activities but encourage and protect them.

In the public domain, which includes the institutions of politics, law and economy, an
egalitarian culture must prevail. The rules governing participation must not be skewed in
the interest of one group and against the interest of others. None must feel unprotected
before the law, nor alienated from public goods, services and opportunities. Equal access
to benefits of the economy must be allowed to all and where necessary the praxis of parity
practiced.

Equality and Parity

The underprivileged e.g. the Guyanese Amerindians, must benefit from positive dis-
crimination and affirmative action so that they can enjoy a fair chance of participation in
the various market places and all other aspects of society. Even though equal opportunity
must be a major focus, there will be occasions when it will have to give way to parity. This
will ensure that disadvantaged groups and those who were subjected to historical discrimi-
nation, are upgraded so that they too can benefit from effective participation at all levels in
society.

Fears Addressed

There is need for a public forum which will seek to address the fears of those who feel
that they are victims or potential victims and those who fear that they are alienated from the
benefits of the state. This forum must be neutral and independent and must be prepared to










incorporate the ideas expressed into its programme with the aim of improving the quality of
services received by the groups who expressed their fears. One purpose here is to put to
rest racial phobia by giving concrete proof of the honorable intention of the state.

Grievance

Further, any person who feels that he/she is discriminated against on racial grounds
must have recourse to seek recompense via a neutral authority empowered to investigate
the case and win compensation, reinstatement and vindication if it was proven that the
individual had indeed suffered from racial discrimination. There is, of course, the need for
supporting anti-racist legislation to facilitate the grievance procedure.

Race Relations Commission

Although the construction of a truly multi-cultural and non-racist society is the respon-
sibility of every citizen, there is need for an institution with specialized skills to assist and
guide this enterprise of overcoming racial insecurities in Guyana. In this regard a Race
Relations Commission is in order. This commission, apart from being independent, neutral
and equipped with the necessary skills, will have to pursue a holistic interpretation of
society and not see the society through the eyes of any cultural enclave. In its analysis, it
will have to observe the inter-connections and intersections between race and the other
variables like, class, gender, history, education, aspiration, residence and so on.

This commission can be responsible for the provision of the public forum and the
institutionalization of the grievance procedure discussed above. It should be a permanent
and statutory body invested with the authority to adjudicate and mediate in discriminatory
and racially motivated complaints and/or issues. Further, it will have to monitor institu-
tions, legislation, policies and programmes and recommend changes when necessary to
ensure that the fundamental human rights of no individual and no racial group are violated.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, several points become pertinent. Every individual, group and institution
must collectively share the responsibility of transforming Guyana from a racially frag-
mented society to a structurally cohesive homeland. Firstly, no racial group has the moral
authority to condemn the others. None is superior. None is inferior. None is guilty. None
is innocent. The Guyanese national poet, Martin Carter proclaims: All are involved. All
are accountable. Secondly, racial division is universal and not unique to us. In India and
Africa for example, racial antagonisms are greater than in our society. Thirdly, a major
challenge facing us today is the humanization and harmonization of our society. Finally,
responsible media and politicians, dialogue and reciprocity among the various racial
groups, the praxis of equality and parity, multi-cultural and anti-racist education, equitable
integration, a just grievance procedure, a committed race relations commission and en-
abling legislation, institutional and people support will definitely contribute to the bridging
of the racial divide in Guyana.









Ethnicity And Nation-building:
the Surinamese Experience


By
LUCY LEWIS


A nation is not formed by taking over the language, or
religion of others; that's not necessary to form a na-
tion. A nation is formed by the feeling that Suriname is
the soil on which we all find our existence and that this
ground is dear to us: that is solidarity. No one can
impose this feeling on you, no one can force it, you
acquire this feeling from your Creator. Therefore, Mr.
Speaker, let us do everything we can to allow this
feeling of solidarity to come to fuller expression.
Jaggernath Lachmon

Although there are many factors which influence the process of nation-building, in this
paper the focus will be on one such factor, ethnicity, since as Epstein states many countries
striving to emerge from a colonial past towards new independent nationhood increasingly
witness the struggle of various groups to assert their own distinctiveness and claims oi
autonomy.

In the literature one can observe diverse definitions of the term ethnicity. For the
purpose of this paper, I found Wendell's definition the most appropriate. According tc
Wendell, ethnicity can at minimum perhaps be defined as: "characteristic, distinctive
cultural or sub-cultural traits that set one group off from others." Different beliefs, values
and patterns of behaviour are involved as well as self and other identifications."2

For him, ethnicity is an important factor for nation forming and building. Nation
building is "both the formation and establishment of the new state itself as a political entity
and the processes of creating viable degrees of unity and adaptation, achievement and a
sense of national identity among the people. The nation state is, in this context, the
dominant form of organisation, based on the demand of the highest loyalty from the
individual."3

Ethnicity in the politics of both developing and industrialized states can be a stumbling
block for nation-building and identity. Gonzales states that although most countries are
polyethnic nations, the processes of social development and modernisation are still based
on the assumption that ethnic and cultural differences within nation-states will tend to
disappear via assimilation.4 Even though ethnic demands have led to tremendous changes










in constitutions, political situations and the like, they have also led to fragmentation and
stagnation of certain processes. Though not every multi-ethnic situation is conllictive, a
number of plural societies have found mechanisms for constructive association., Still,
many states have not developed effective ways of resolving or managing fundamental
disputes engendered by territorial or economic competition, oppression of some groups by
others, and disagreement over fundamental rights and values by which to live. Such
political failure may promote, as Gonzales states, protracted conflict, both latent and
violent, among the groups, as well as emigration of many of those who find themselves
helpless to improve their situation.6

Suriname, a primary mono-cultural export society, has also been confronted with ethnic
conflicts in the difficult process of nation-building. Assuming that the development process
has aggravated ethnic conflicts, the mechanisms used by the government to cope with
ethnic confrontations will be examined. The aim of this paper is not only to come to terms
with the actual ethnic tensions, but to attempt a prognosis for the future of Suriname in
relation to inter-ethnic harmony.

Due to time constraints the conflicts in Suriname cannot be described in detail. There-
fore, the ensuing discussion will be limited to general remarks concerning three periods:
Colonial Post Abolition [1863-1945), the Autonomous State (Statuut) 11945-1975] and the
period of Independence 11975-present). Although contemporary headlines will be ad-
dressed the main focus will be on the analyses of historical processes with special emphasis
on the Maroon situation. The view expressed in this paper are those of the author and not of
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Colonial-Post Abolition

Suriname as part of the Caribbean (although Dutch-speaking) had not been exempted
from the "general empirical processes that operate whenever races are in significant
contact." These events have shaped, and "themselves were shaped, by the conditions of
Suriname's history." As Brana-Shute states the country's journey is one of: European
conquest. African (and American Indian) slavery, Marronage, emancipation, Asian inden-
tured servitude, labour difficulties of the. inter-war years, constitutional advance from
colony to autonomous state, international relations with the metropole, migration to the
Netherlands, a civil insurgency, and a coup d' etat followed by a certain transition to
democracy.7

The origin of the majority of the population of Suriname can be traced to slavery and
contract labour. Table I shows the population of Suriname by ethnic grouping.










TABLE 1. POPULATION BY ETHNIC ORIGIN 1980
Ethnicity %
ast Indian 3
reole(Afro-Surinamese) 32
Indonesian 15 15
Bush negroes0l 10
merindian 3 3
Chinese 3 3
Other 2 2


Source: General Bureau of Statistics.




Although Suriname experienced ethnic conflicts since the first contact of our native
population, the Amerindians, with Eastern Society, our period of analysis starts after
abolition. It was during this period that the Hindustanis or East Indians and the Javanese of
the population were introduced into Suriname as contract labourers as a result of the failure
of Chinese immigration to solve the labour problem created when the ex-slaves moved off
the plantations. The Hindustanis arrived in the country between 1873 and 1971 from North
East India. while the Javanese arrived from the Dutch Indies between 1880 and 1939 and
add a distinct element to the population that is unique in the Caribbean.

Among the descendants of slaves, one finds two distinct ethnic groups: Creoles, the
partly or wholly negroid descendants of plantation slaves who remained in the areas in and
around the city, and Bush negroes (in the modern literature referred to as Maroons),
descendants of the escaped slaves who established a tribal way of life in the interior. The
creoles remained on the plantations and received their freedom with abolition (1863). They
acquired many of the cultural values of the Europeans and became fully distinct, if not
antagonistic, to the Maroons who maintained a certain degree of cultural integrity and
independence and who waged guerrilla warfare for almost a century against their former
owners. However, complete isolation and independence were impeded because it was
impossible to procure all the necessities of life in the forests. Changing circumstances after
abolition caused an increase in Maroon migration to the coastal area to such a degree that
their cultural integrity and independence were threatened. Let me state at this point that the
phenomenon of Marronage is not unique to Suriname. However, although established in
many countries confronted with slavery, the Maroons in Suriname and Jamaica were able
to avert Western influences and therefore still exist as a group.










Dew viewed the period of immigration as one in which the planter labourer relation-
ship vanished as a "central political polarity in the society's political development. He
characterized this period as "compartmentalisation of politics along ethnic lines, with the
problems of the Asian groups gradually being resolved by the government's accommoda-
tive social and agricultural policies, and by the social adjustment of the two groups
themselves."8 In spite of a gradual transition in government policy from providing laborers
to promoting colonization, the interests of the planters were dominant in the government's
calculation.

Despite the shortcomings of government policy, the transition of Asian workers into a
settled peasantry may be considered a success. The ethnic and geographical division of
labour broke down as the second and third generations of the immigrants began to drift to
the cities and compete with Creoles for more prestigious and lucrative occupations. During
this period the Creoles, Jews and Dutch were concerned about politics and the central
polarities were between these three groups. Internally, these existed within the Creole
group, according to lines of class, colour and culture.9 However, Surinamese politics
represented the interests of the planters and political participation of other groups was
limited.

Although Dew admits the overriding importance of ethnicity in Suriname's politics,
"fragmentation within ethnic blocs urge to identify the underlying divisions within each
ethnic group that impede, at least to some extent, the easy translation of ethnic strength into
cohesive political action." These divisions are: religion, language, residence and occupa-
tion.10

The planters and State jointly formed the parameters of control and more often used the
instrument of divide-and-rule to weaken the solidarity of their work force. For example, the
encouragement of labour competition between free and contract laborers, emphasising
religious differences, establishing separate housing for the different ethnic groups, and
employing psychological tactics such as preferential treatment, cooperation and racial
stereotyping. This divide-and-rule mechanism has led to divisions among the ethnic
groups."1

The Europeans facilitated the move upwards of the ethnic groups by giving them a
measure of assistance (economic, religious, educational). in this context, Jules Rens com-
pared the Surinamese society to the Abrasa, a native vine that coils around a tree, gradually
checking it, but gaining needed support for its own survival.12

The Period of Autonomy

During autonomy, a period characterized by self-government concerning internal af-
fairs, there was an emergence of "nationalism" cultural mobilisation and political party
formation among the different ethnic groups.

Although the political parties have been formed on an ethnic basis, most of them
indicated a willingness to work together for the "gradual extension of suffrage.13










Dew states that:

In this period, politically talented individuals discov-
ered the sense of ethnic "territoriality" among
Suriname's population groups and explored its terrain
for natural boundaries in order to stake their claims to
group leadership. The compromise reached on the uni-
versal suffrage electoral system issues by creating a
distinct system catering to ethnic strengths, validated
ethnicity as a principle of political organisation. But
while it had become evident that common societal
interests were unable to dissolve ethnic differences,
they could be bridged. Moreover, the ethnic group
itself could be fragmented. These facts emerged from
the manner in which the constellations of group con-
flicts shifted from (1) Creoles united against a Dutch-
Asian alliance over cultural policy issues to (2) broad
multi-cultural opposition to the local Dutch authorities
during the war to (3) a multi-ethnic, multi-religious
opposition to the local Protestant elite (and its few
Brahman and reform Javanese Moslem allies) over the
issues of suffrage.14


After a new electoral law came into effect in 1948, elections were held in 1949 and in
the period thereafter, the struggle for power occurred between the different political groups.
But as Dew stated: once again, "ethnicity though a powerful force when under effective,
cohesive leadership, proved to be fragmentable. Cross-cutting ties emerged to subdue
versions of ethnic hostility among groups. Hindus and the Creole old-guard cooperated
with each other and Hindustanis and Javanese could both aspire to roles as holders of
balance of power."15

In the 1950s the young Surinamese in Amsterdam were impressed by the nationalism
and Marxism emanating from the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) in British Guiana, (a
collaboration of the two most popular political figures: Cheddi Jagan and Forbes
Burnham). Perhaps inspired by these young Surinamers, Yagernath Lachmon, leader of the
UHP (United Reformed Party, mainly East Indians) and Adolf Pengel, leader of the NPS
(National Party Suriname, mainly creoles) forged their own populist alliance in the name of
ethnic fraternisation (verbroedering) Dew states that this alliance was not simply an
alliance of convenience, but the only way two leaders could gain power. In contrast to the
PPP, which split apart into irreconcilable Black and East Indian sections, in 1954-55, both
Surinamese leaders made great sacrifices to each other and their personal relationship was
genuinely warm for many years despite attacks from opponents.16









The Javanese on the other hand were first divided into two political parties, one to
improve the position of the Javanese in Suriname and the other aimed at emigrating to
Indonesia. After a while both parties disappeared from the scene and the KTPI or the Party
of the Indonesian lower class was formed.

It seemed as if in the period of autonomy the role of the government in solving ethnic
rivalries had been taken over by the political parties and labour unions. This was clearly
demonstrated during the 1973 unrest, a protest by the lower and middle class against
declining social and economic circumstances in the country.17

The class structure was a transition of the system existing during the Dutch domination
before 1940, and was racially depicted as follows, according to Hira: a weak working class
consisting of Creoles, small farmers mostly of Indian and Indonesian descent who were
employed by a class of white and coloured merchants who controlled the foreign and local
trade. The colonial state apparatus was primarily at the service of this bloc of classes. The
urban class was relatively weak. It consisted of artisans in handicraft, lawyers, doctors and
the like, mostly whites and coloured people although some blacks had also managed to
work themselves up into this class.18 Recently there has been a change in this structure.
Due to educational mobility and economic progress the different ethnic groups were able to
advance and are also part of the middle and upper class. Therefore it can be said that the
class structure transcended ethnic boundaries.

Against this background of class struggle and political rivalry, the "cry" for self-deter-
mination emerged from the Creole group. While the NPS campaigned on the need for
independence, VHP was vague on the issue but Lachmon made clear that the tie with the
mother land should be exploited as fully as possible before Suriname's independence was
worth contemplating.

In September 1961, the Nationalist Republic Party, (PNR-Party van de Nationalistische
Republiek) was formed under the leadership of the lawyer Eddy Bruma. Its goal was "to
bring together all progressive men and women as well as all Surinamese youth into a
well-organised political party, in order to give the Surinamese people a guiding body for the
achievement of the nationalist revolution." Despite Bruma's belief that parties should be
organised on the basis of issues, (ethnicity-free) his following was still largely Creole.19

In its pro-independence battle the PNR found support from the Action Group (Actie
Group) a political party consisting of young Hindustani intellectuals who returned from
studies in the Netherlands. In reaction to this development, both the VHP and KTPI started
an anti-independence mobilization campaign.

The period between 1970 and 1973 was characterized by a succession of strikes
'resulting from the failure of the development programme to improve the socio-economic
and political situation of the country. Despite the constructive talks between representatives
of the government and the four labour federations, the street disturbances and scattered
incidents of arson continued, along with organized marches by striking workers. During
one of these marches in which a group of Maroons took the lead, a leader of the Geological










Mining Service Workers, Abaisa, was killed as he tried to break through the police
barricade. The death of Abaisa "produced a great wave of emotions against the govern-
ment, but also, against any further demonstrations."20

In this atmosphere of dissatisfaction and pro and anti-independence manifestations the
elections of 1973 took place. Although the Javanese Party was against independence,
surprisingly they joined the NPS, PNR and PSV (Progressive People's Party) in the
formation of the National Party Combination (NPK) which won the elections. The surpris-
ing result created a dilemma for Henk Arron (leader of the NPS) and the other NPK leaders,
leaving him no choice but to exclude Hindustanis from the government. The fear existed in
the population that this would lead to political polarization, especially concerning the
question of the timing of independence on which the NPK had officially maintained
discreet silence. Evert Azimullah interpreted Arron's action as a strategy of ethnic "break-
through", in which the confidence of the Hindustanis would be won by deeds.21

After the elections, the political struggle between the opponents and supporters of
independence continued and was characterized by a huge migration, especially of East
Indians, to the Netherlands. (Since independence was for them equivalent to creole domi-
nation). Eventually, a breakthrough occurred when a compromise was reached between the
leader of the ruling party (Henk Arron) and the leader of the opposition group Lachmon to
embrace independence together. Thus, official independence was obtained in November
1975.

Independence

In the period after independence ethnic voting continued to be as strong as ever, but
now it had apparently become anti-consociational as well. The term consociational, used by
Dew, stems from the period before elections in 1967 when Pengel tried to replace the
(verbroederings) fraternization policy with a multi-racial party large enough to make
post-election coalitions unnecessary. Instead of cross-cultural collaboration occurring be-
tween parties, it would be institutionalized within one party. But this experiment seemed to
have hurt the forces of integration and assimilation more than it helped them.22

Nevertheless, according to Dew, the absence of consociationalism does not preclude the
existence of a number of cross-cutting common interests among all ethnic groups, i.e. the
commitment to civil liberties, preservation of the economic system and respect for each
other's cultural autonomy.23

Braha-Shute explains that in 1979 the power-sharing relations had degenerated into an
ethnically vicious match between competitors. The democratic system was severely dam-
aged and the door was opened for the military coup which followed a year later.24

In August 1980 the Constitution was suspended and the legislature dissolved following
the overthrow in February of the elected government and the formation of a National
Military Council. D6sir6 Bouterse was Commander-in-Chief of the National army until his
resignation on November 20, 1992.25









After the coup d'6tat there was a fragile balance of multi-ethnic power sharing in which
each ethnic group tried to gain as much as possible from the revolutionary policies. The
traditionally ethnic-based political parties, VHP, NPS and KTPI came together in 1987 and
formed the National Front for Democracy. The same coalition, joined by the Labour Party
(SPA) won the elections in 1991 and formed a government which represents the different
ethnic groups.

In this period Suriname had also been confronted with a civil war which could be
characterized as a clash between the national army and indigenous groups. The Surinamese
Liberation Army (SLA) commonly known as the Jungle Commando led by Ronnie
Brunswijk emerged in 1986. Soon after, other groups were formed such as Angula (Defi-
ance), Mandela Bush Negro Liberation Front, Tucayana Amazonica or Union for Libera-
tion and Democracy (consisting mainly of Amerindians). All the groups mentioned
supported the Jungle Commando, except the Tucayana, which was its opponent.

The SLA and Tucayana Amazonica suspended hostilities in May 1992 and signed a
draft peace accord in August 1992 with the government. This offered the promise of
political stability and the acknowledgement of the rights of the estimated 50,000 indige-
nous people, formerly disenfranchised, thousands of whom had fled into exile.

The SLA had maintained a seven-year insurgency campaign (punctuated by short-lived
peace accords) supported by large Maroon groups. Although the Maroons have enjoyed
considerable political autonomy over the last two centuries, they are still not totally
integrated in the Surinamese society, since they live isolated from the rest of the commu-
nity. The-two largest Maroon groups are the Saramaka and the Ndjuka, the tribe to which
Brunswijk belongs. Both tribes were involved in the fighting. The Aluku or Boni Maroons,
(approximately 4,000) living on the French side of the river were sympathetic to the revolt
but were only indirectly associated with the resistance. The war could have only been
"successful" with the support of the members of the Maroon society.26

How did Ronnie Brunswick manage to get such a large part of the Maroon population
behind him? A possible explanation lies in the social and economic position of the Maroons
in contemporary Suriname. "Suriname offered both positive and negative prospects to the
Maroons. For certain Maroon groups, Suriname was the country of unlimited and (partly)
unrealised opportunities while for others it was the opposite. On the one hand, after the
military coup in 1980 a lot of opportunities arose for the Maroons who in general, had had
"little chance of securing important political or civil service functions." This was because
their access to the public sector was blocked by "class interests, family relations, ethnic
prejudices and educational demands favouring those who grew up in the urban environ-
ment." During the post coup period it seemed as though a number of the restrictions on
Maroons in the public sector had disappeared. However, on the other hand, the disappear-
ance of these obstacles for a minority led to a rapid rise of expectations for many. These
expectations were however not fulfilled.27










The people of the interior acquired confidence in the Jungle Commando. From the large
ensemble of relevant social factors which influenced the attitudes of the parties in the civil
war Thoden van Vebnen describes four, namely, (a) the discontent which was the direct
reason for the conflict, (b) the policy of collective reprisals (c) the significance of Maroon
religious ideology for the cohesion of kinship groups, (d) hie part played by religious cults
in uniting the main Maroon group of east Suriname, the Ndjuka.28

The revolt had both internal and external effects on the Surinamese society. Internally
the economic, social and political links between the coastal society and the interior were
severely damaged. This has led to increased isolation of the indigenous people and exile to
French Guyana. The relations with France have become strained due to the influx into
French (Guvrvn.of 8,000 12,000 refugees from eastern Suriname. In mid-1988, the two
countries signed an outline agreement for the return of the refugees with the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, implementation of the accord has
been slow since the refugees have been reluctant to return without cast iron guarantees that
they will suffer no reprisals from the Surinamese army.29 After the peace agreements were
signed in 1992, the French government repatriated a number of refugees without the
consent of the Surinamese authorities.

With regard to the attitude of the civilian government as the revolt approached, it is said
Ihat "serious doubts remained about the extent to which the government's freedom of
action was constrained by the ambitions of the military."10

This agreement can be considered to be a big landmark in Suriname's continuing
process of nation-building. One hopes that the expectations envisaged by the agreement
will be fulfilled.

Conclusion

As has been demonstrated, the process of nation-building in Suriname has been one
characterized by constant ethnic rivalry or as Dew expressed it "a struggle for ethnic
balance and identity." This rivalry, especially supported by the divide and rule principle of
the colonial government, never took the form of an open bloody conflict between two
ethnic groups. This was largely because of the political diplomacy of the leaders of
Suriname who were able to mobilise the mass in such a way as to prevent a bloody revolt.

The measures taken however, were implemented on an ad hoc basis. Given the actual
social, economic and political situation of Suriname, there is a need to create a fundamental
institution to cope with the examination of ethnic rivalry, and provide recommendations to
the government concerning the solution of ethnic tensions. Mentioned institutions should
be incorporated in the development plan. Simultaneously, attention should be paid to
mobilisation and information of the population in order to prevent ethnic conflicts and to
achieve ethnic harmony. Cooperation with countries facing a similar challenge is recom-
mended. This is the first step in a long process to achieve a really democratic. non-racist,
progressive society.






81



NOTES


1 Epstein, A.L. Ethos and Identity: Three Studies in Ethnicity, Tavistock, London, 1978, p. x.
2 See Wendell, B. et. al. (ed.) Ethnicity and Nation-building: Comparative International and Histor-
ical Perspectives, Beverley Hills, Sage Publications, 1974, for a distinction between race and
ethnicity Also Marger, M. Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives,
Wadsworth, Publishing Company, Belmont, 1991.
3 Wendell, B. et. al. (ed.) Ethnicity and Nation-building: Comparative International and Historical
Perspectives, Beverley Hills, Sage Publications, 1974, for a distinction between race and
ethnicity.
4 Gonzales, p. 7.
5 Gonzales, idem.
6. Gonzales, idem.
7 Brana-Shute, G. ed. Studies in Third World Societies: Rebellion in Suriname: Old and New, Uni-
versity of Utrecht, the Netherlands, 1990.
8 Dew, E. Surinam: The Struggle for Ethnic Balance and Identity: Autumn 1972. The Difficult Flow-
ering of Suriname; Ethnicity and Politics in a Plural Society, Martinus, Nyhoff, Hague, 1978.
9 Idem.
10 Dew, Ibid.
11 Brana-Shute, Ibid.
12 Dew, Ibid., p. 47.
13 Dew., p. 64.
I 41dem., p. 73.
5 Idem.
16 Dew. Ibid., p. 20.
17 Dew describes the 1973 events as follows: "The streets of Paramaribo filled once again on Tues-
day, November 20, as they had on February 27, 1973. On February 27, the 27th day of a gen-
eral strike in Suriname a mass of bush Negroes, leading a long march of workers, proceeded
down the Gravenstraat towards the government center to protest for back-wages and improved
welfare benefits. In front of the Cathedral they were met by a large force of armed police, or-
dering them to disperse. When they refused, the police fired tear gas at them. In the confusion,
Ronald Abaisa, the leader of the march, stepped toward, his half-naked body covered with a sa-
cred, protective white clay of the Bush Negroes. Suddenly, someone shot him dead. The mass
of marchers, shocked at the unexpected violence, and the first political death in the long strike,
returned to their homes, or to their various strike headquarters. But where, in many other Third
World counties, such a death might stimulate a more massive and violent protest, in Suriname
the bitter, but orderly strike had peaked. For the next nine months, back-room politics replaced
street demonstrations, as Creoles. Bush Negroes, Hindustanis, Indonesians, Chinese and Euro-
peans, among many others weighed the meaning of the "February days" and organised their
judgements." p. 3.
18 Hira S. Class Formation and Class Struggle in Suriname.
19 Dew, Ibid. p. 130.
20 Idem, p. 167.
21 Dew, Ibid., p. 177.
22. Dew, Idem, p. 147.











23 Dew, Ibid., p. 206.
24 Brana-Shute Ibid.
25 See Keesing's Record of World events, Longman, 1993.
26 Brana-Shute, Ibid.
27 Idem, p. 163.
8 Brana-Shute, Ibid.
29 Keesing's, Ibid.
30 The Economists Intelligence University Venezuela, Suriname, Netherlands Antilles, Country Pro-
file, Annual Survey of Political and Economic Background, 1991-92.
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Framing a Cross-Cultural Dialogue in Trinidad and Tobago




By
ANDRE-VINCENT HENRY




MULTI-RACIAL and multi-ethnic societies pose important challenges for nation-
building. In small countries with a short history of autonomously resolving sociological
and political problems these challenges are multiplied. Trinidad and Tobago with signifi-
cant racial and ethnically' differentiated population groups, living side by side, often in
mutual suspicion, has at least a two-fold need. There is a need for a careful examination of
the historical sociology of race in the country. There is also a need to devise mechanisms
for the processing of views on race.

This essay intends to address these two dimensions in a preliminary way. The objects
are to trace the historical foundations of the present racial configuration in Trinidad and
Tobago and then to propose a framework within which the issues of race, and its deviates -
kinships and racialism with their mandatory concomitants of racism, racial tolerance and
racial equity can be placed on the agenda for national dialogue in Trinidad and Tobago.
The objective is to suggest a framework within which discussion of race is non-threatening
to racial groups. This dialogue in turn will be supportive of the national fabric and promote
racial understanding and national confidence building.

The purpose then is to dispassionately, if tentatively, recommend elements that might
be considered in dispelling some of the hysteria and misunderstanding that surround
discussions of race in Trinidad and Tobago.

The issue of race in Trinidad and Tobago has been addressed by others.2 It is felt,
however, that there is a need to start addressing ways in which the reality of multi-ethnicity
could be used in creating a civilised society in which the integrity of each ethnic group can
be respected. In large part, previous efforts to examine the foundations and the dynamics of
the racial situation in the country have tended to concentrate on descriptions of the
manifestation of race.

In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, there needs to be an explanation of the relatively
peaceful co-existence among racial groups which is, at the same time, accompanied by
suspicion, separateness and hostility. Some may point to the interaction between racial
groups that takes place in certain spheres. But this study argues that these interactions are
perfunctory and superficial.










The questions is often put whether there is a race problem in Trinidad and Tobago.3 An
observation of the media as well as the increasing and explicit salience of race in national
politics, however, indicates that there is a heightened awareness of race as being important
in the social processes in Trinidad and Tobago. So then even if race and ethnicity have
always existed in Trinidad and Tobago society, there is a "new" social awareness of its
ordering characteristics.

It is the argument of this paper therefore that while the manifestation of race in
Trinidad and Tobago may at present appear non-threatening, there is a need to explore both
its disruptive implications and the proactive measures that can be taken to minimise these
and at the same time convert them into positive forces for nation building.

The suggestions that appear herein are not necessarily designed to encourage racial
co-mingling or miscegenation or the abandonment of ethnic-based cultural norms for some
devised "national" self. Rather, it is to lay the basis for population groups to understand
each other in an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance. This, it is suggested, is the
beginning (and only the beginning) of building a national community in a multi-racial
society.

As late as the 1981-86 Parliamentary term, the Speaker of the House of Representatives,
Matthew Ramcharan, felt it necessary to caution Members of Parliament to avoid any
reference to race and racism and to refrain from any attempt to discuss matters of race and
racism in the House. Speaker Ramcharan felt that a discussion of race would do more harm
than good to the social fabric of the country.

By this action, the Speaker was lending credence to the myth that in Trinidad and
Tobago every creed and race did find an equal place and that the citizens of the country
were part of one big happy family. Self-congratulating favourable comparisons are repeat-
edly made between Trinidad and Tobago and other countries which are experiencing
difficulties in resolving racial tensions.

This disingenuous practice seemed predicated on the philosophy that if a problem were
ignored consistently it would eventually go away. In doing so, certain fundamental truths
have been ignored. The first problem is that the European settlers of both islands of
Trinidad and Tobago established the foundations for a racially hierarchical structure and
that their successive actions served to reinforce this structure.

At the start of the colonial experience, the Europeans came, completely subjugated, and
liquidated the indigenous populations of the islands,whom they viewed as their racial
inferiors. In place of the indigenous populations, the Europeans first installed their own
differentiated social structure of poor whites and rich whites. This was followed by the
importation of African slaves to replace white plantation workers. The African slaves could
be readily identified as the "inferiors" of the whites.










Finally, with the abolition of slavery, the final piece of the Trinidad and Tobago racial
jigsaw was put in place when the Europeans imported Indian indentured workers to
compete directly with the African ex-slaves.

A critical point of note is the convergence of two forces that were in themselves
mutually independent but mutually reinforcing. The first is the primary economic motive
that drove the Europeans in the establishment of forms of social structure in the colonies.
Initially, theirs were not considerations of race, as evidenced in the early use of poor whites
and convicts. It may be moot to argue whether the Europeans would have imported other
racial groups had their own kind not proved to be inadequate in numbers and otherwise
suitable for work in tropical plantations.4

The other factor in this convergence was the coincidence that races deemed most suited
to plantation work were also deemed to be inferior to the European race and were the
subject of European imperialistic ambitions in other parts of the world.

The sum of all this has been that in the history of Trinidad and Tobago there has been a
convergence of race and economics which persists to the present. It is a fact of life that will
not disappear by wishful thinking. It is a fact of life that will only be made more difficult
to resolve the longer it is put off.

Race in Trinidad and Tobago

Although the foundations of the current race relations in Trinidad and Tobago were laid
by colonists, culminating in the importation of indentured labour from India in the second
half of the nineteenth century, the dynamics of the present race relations in the country fall
to the two main population groups citizens of African descent (African for short) and
citizens of Indian descent (Indian for short).

The descendants of European and Chinese settlers in Trinidad and Tobago have opted
to concentrate their efforts in the areas of economics and have tended for the most part to
be aloof from the political and social dynamics of race relations in the country. Two factors
could be said to account for this orientation: the first is that, given the very small
proportion of the population that is Chinese and white, engaging in open competition in a
free electoral system with race as the primary ingredient for mobilisation is a highly
questionable strategy. The second is the inter-generational economic advantages inherited
by whites in Trinidad and Tobago, which have facilitated a continuation of the domination
of that racial group in the economy.

The Chinese success in the economy can be tied to three factors. First, their work ethic
has served them well. Second has been the willingness of the dominant white group to
co-opt an early generation of Chinese. Finally, and of great importance, has been the
extremely tight communal bonds that have existed among Chinese and which serve to
strengthen the network of contacts for mutual economic support and advancement.

This co-optation was especially important in the period of decolonisation when the
deliberate and explicit policy in the private sector was to recruit persons of "high colour"5










for staff positions. This practice continued in effect, if not explicitly, in the banking sector
up until 1970. Many will argue that this policy of racial exclusion continues in the private
sector, and that the only complexities of a modern economic sector which go beyond the
effective supply of persons of high colour compel the admission of increasing numbers of
darker persons to positions of responsibility in the private sector.

In the period following independence the total contribution of whites and Chinese in the
population has never been more than two per cent (See Table 1). The combination,
therefore, of low population and limited political involvement effectively means that
whites and Chinese are not significant in the dynamics of the racial equation. This is not to
ignore the significance of these two groups in the political dynamics of the country where,
respectively, and combined, they wield influence way out of proportion with their numbers,
but certainly in proportion with their economic strength.

TABLE 1

SUMMARY OF CENSUS REPORTS 1960-1990


Indian African Mixed Others Whites Chinese
1960 36.5 43.3 16.3 1.0 191 1.0
1970 40.1 42.8 14.2 0.8 1,2 0.86
1980 40,7 40.8 16.3 .67 0.9 0.52
1990 40.3 39.6 18.4 0.6 0,63 0.67


Source: Aggregated from records of the Central Statistical Office, Port of Spain.


Consequently, the essence of racial conflict has been concentrated in the rivalry be-
tween the Indian group and the African group. Put another way, the numerical dominance
of the African and Indian groups has dictated that theirs should be the inter-communal
relationship which would determine whether Trinidad and Tobago could be a viable
national society. And herein is the problem that faces Trinidad and Tobago as far as race is
concerned, unless the two major racial groups understand their commonality of interests
and their potential for mutual retardation, the enterprise of development will be consider-
ably slowed.

A survey of the population movement of Trinidad and Tobago since 1960 reveals a
number of demographic trends. First the proportion of whites and Chinese has almost
halved. Second, since 1970, the African and Indian groups have been essentially evenly
matched in the population of Trinidad and Tobago. The Indian group shows proportionate
increases from 1960 until 1970; and then registering a proportionate decline in the decade
of the eighties.










The "mixed" group, which includes the products of all kinds of hybridization has
shown a proportional increase of almost 30 percent in the 20 years between 1970 and 1990.
The hybridisation has caused no small amount of concern among racial purists, especially
among Indian leaders who continue to resist miscegenation. While it can be accepted that
there is no doubt a genuine concern about maintaining the purity of ancient ethnic forms, a
more dubious motive is possible to discern. For many leaders the cultural purity argument
is a means to mobilisation and to the maintenance of traditional particularistic patterns of
communal power.

It is important, however, to return to the proportional decline in the Indian contribu-
tion to the population. It has been argued that this decrease is the result of massive outward
Indian migration, especially to Canada, during the decade of the eighties.6 Many of these
emigrants have filed refugee petitions claiming that they have left Trinidad and Tobago
because of racial persecution. While there are, no doubt, those who feel genuine alienation,
many of these refugee claims are self-serving and designed to further the emigrants'
economic prospects, as has been determined by the Canadian authorities themselves.

Evolution of the Relationship between Africans and Indians

As was noted above, Indians were introduced to Trinidad in the second half of the
nineteenth century to provide direct economic competition to the freed African slaves who
had provided labour to the colonialists under slavery. This element of competition was
fostered and nurtured and set the tone for a basic antagonistic relationship between these
two groups.

Further, because the Indian labourers were allowed to keep aspects of their cultural
forms, it was far easier for them to maintain cohesion and a greater sense of identity. On
the other hand, African cultural forms were not merely discouraged, but actively sup-
pressed. As we will argue later on, this fact has complicated racial understanding on the
part of both Africans and Indians.

Moreover, the nature of political competition since the late 1950s has institutionalized
inter-racial rivalry in politics. With the introduction of electoral politics in the colony of
Trinidad and Tobago, an opportunity was presented to lay the foundation for racial under-
standing. On the contrary, rather than responsible political leadership, those leaders,
indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago, were not averse to using race for the purpose of
immediate political gain.

The inclination for early local political leaders to appeal to race can only be partially
explained by narrow ambition. In large measure, the problem rests with the nature of race
as a point of identification. It may have been expected that rational behaviour in the early
political history of Trinidad and Tobago would have dictated a calculation on the part of
local political leaders of both African and Indian communities, that they had more in
common with each other as dispossessed and disadvantaged groups in the society.










Further, it might have been expected that they would have viewed the colonists as a
common enemy, against whom it would have been vital to unite in order to defeat. That
they were unable to do so can be explained in part by the nature of racism which, in many
respects is anti-intellectual and beyond reason. We shall return to this aspect below.

Successive electoral campaigns have only served to reinforce early trends. Appeals to
race range from the explicit, through the clumsy and disingenuous, to the sophisticated.
Currently, the favoured approach to racial appeal is the use of code words which convey the
meaning intended by the users.

The final complicating factor in the racial equation in Trinidad and Tobago is the nature
of economic competition and the need for survival. It is possible to detect a heightening of
race as a political consideration since the start of the eighties. This can be traced back to
the worsening of the economic conditions in Trinidad and Tobago, consequent on the rapid
decrease in oil prices.

Comparative data will indicate that as long as there are sufficient national resources to
spread across the races, it becomes easier to contain racial and ethnic tensions. Examples
can be drawn from Belgium and Yugoslavia in the period since the end of the Second
World War. With the worsening of economic situations, racially divided societies find it
increasingly difficult to provide the "bread and circuses" that mitigate racial tensions.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the economic difficulties of the eighties have heightened
questions asked by various racial groups concerning "who is getting how much?" The
irony is that while these questions in themselves may be legitimate, if they are not
channelled properly and addressed with honesty, they could be the source of dysfunctional
behaviour that the country could ill afford when a concerted united effort is the only means
of recovery.

On the Nature of Racial Intolerance

It is important to point out that there is a range of behaviour that can be covered under
the rubric of racial intolerance. Racial intolerance can range from internal resentment of
the persons or practices of a particular group when those practices and persons are defined
largely, although not necessarily exclusively so, by their race. From this point, racial
intolerance can move to an expression of these internal conflicts into actions which further
the core beliefs.

There are two broad motivational aspects to racial intolerance. The first is what may
loosely be termed rational or objective factors. For example, a racial group may on the
basis of interpretation of behaviours of another group, or on the perception of a threat to its
well-being, decide to take either retaliatory action or pre-emptive action.

The second motivational aspect is of what we could call the irrational and anti-intellec-
tual types. In this case, without even the basis of a selective interpretative set of
rationalisations, members of one group perceive members of another as distasteful and
conceive actions to counter, contain, neutralise or eradicate their influence.










Interestingly enough, this anti-intellectual strain finds its best expressions through and
is fostered often by intellectual and educated members of the society who are able to
provide rationalisations. Examples in recent history can be found in the Serbs of the
Kingdom of Yugoslavia between the two world wars as well as the special position of
Afrikaaner universities in South Africa.

The irony of such an orientation is that the potential of the richness of a multi-cultural
society is lost. Diversity could offer the peoples of a multi-ethnic society the basis for
development and enhancement of the society. In addition, the benefits of such a society
extend beyond the bounds of culture, but also have implications for a broader quality of life
that includes economics and politics.

It is contradictory, therefore, that assertions of the cultural identify of any one group
should invoke fear on the part of the other. This assertiveness, no doubt, explains much of
the heightened antagonistic behaviour between the races in Trinidad and Tobago since
1970.

The attempt in 1970 by Africans to assert black racial and cultural identity, and with it,
to agitate for greater black empowerment, was to recapture much of what had been lost as
a deliberate policy of the British imperialism. This, however, could also be seen as having
a spin-off effect in which Indians who, as we noted, were allowed their cultural and
religious forms, sought to assert their own identity and force acceptance of the legitimacy
of their cultural norms by the national community.

The Indian group in Trinidad and Tobago has always had a greater sense of cultural
identity than the African group. On the other hand, the culture of the Africans which has
been a hybrid creole culture, became the dominant culture in society. This culture, it has
been argued, has been the accompaniment of political domination of the African group.

The efforts over the last 20 years by the Indian group to establish the validity of their
culture, and its claim on national resources, have caused a negative reaction among
Africans who see this demand of Indians as an attempt at domination of the society. The
argument is often made by Africans that Indians already dominate the economy and they
are seeking now to extend that domination into all other aspects of life in Trinidad and
Tobago.

While the roots of Indian culture are easily traced back to the Indian sub-continent, the
dynamics of life in Trinidad and Tobago have placed an unmistakable stamp on local
cultural forms, giving them legitimacy in their own right. In any event, even if the Indian
cultural forms were pure Indian, by definition, because they are held by a substantial part of
the national community they would be entitled to respect and to a share of national
resources.

On the other hand, there is a duplicity of many Indian leaders whose actions rob Indian
cultural forms of their legitimacy in the national community. In the desire to preserve
exclusiveness and, by extension, their positions of prestige and power within the Indian










community, it is not unusual for Indian leaders to decry cross-over cultural activities and to
seek to stem the social and cultural dynamic which would further put a distinctive Trinidad
and Tobago stamp on Indian culture. Admittedly, many Indian cultural forms find their
origin in religious observances and as such their religious purity must be respected, many
arguments offered by Indian cultural purists are self-serving and ultimately self-defeating.
It is contended that attempts at exclusion cannot be reasonably coupled with claims of
legitimacy.

It will be noted that no effort is made here to test the validity of the claims of either
group. The validity is really secondary to two factors. First and most important is the
perceptions and their result in sociologically built belief systems that are more important
than reality since action will be predicated on perceptions whether these are true or not.
Second, the immediate problem here is not to address these questihos in themselves, but
rather to discuss the lay-out of a mechanism which could begin to address them.

Whatever the original motivating factors, it is a relatively short step for racial intoler-
ance to create its own dynamic and gather a cascading momentum which, unless creatively
contained, can be devastating in its conclusion.

Immediately this points to a crucial sensitive and creative role for opinion shapers7 in a
racially divided society. For surely, while it might be easy to pronounce in an intemperate
manner about racial intolerance and to shape patterns of racial intolerance, the task of
correcting and erasing those patterns is far more complicated.

One further point must be made here. Quite often, in a racially sensitive social context,
it is possible for some action that was motivated by factors other than race to have the
appearance of being racially motivated and to encourage a response that is based on racial
considerations. Examples may be taken from favours that are the result of family and
neighborhood networks. Because in a racially divided society neighborhood networks often
coincide with race and with family ties, these all have the appearance and, indeed, cannot
be separated from, racial considerations.

The Problem of Mutual Misperceptions

A serious problem of mutual misperception exists in Trinidad and Tobago between the
members of the two main racial groups. There is always a danger of over-simplification in
attempting to draw a broad picture of group perceptions. Nonetheless, it is still possible to
frame the views most popularly held by each of the two groups. It is noted that neither of
these groups is monolithic or homogenous and there is considerable variety and intensity in
the racial perceptions and prejudices of Afro- Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians.

The Indian, as seen by the African is clannish and racist. He is a drunkard and prone to
violence. The Indian has no business scruples and is a conniving and cheating scamp. By
devious and dishonest means he controls a large portion of the wealth of the country and




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