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The theatrics of racism

By Dr Margaret, Nakhid-Chatoor

Now that the battle has been played out in the arena of Trinidad and Tobago and the governing political party readies itself to strategically chart the next five years, those persons and companies who were hired to stage dramatic, almost theatrical performances on social media and to fan the flames of racial hatred, must be admired.

You did a good job and succeeded yet again, in reminding us that the elements of racism continue to undermine this country, to divide us as a people and to be seen as ‘legitimate’ during electoral periods.

I hope that you collected your pieces of silver like Judas did, and are headed to Akeldama—the Field of Blood.

To what end was the pursuit of racial hatreds other than to fulfil a need–that of creating divisive politics and a subversive agenda that should have been rejected and condemned by all from the very beginning. We seem to be no longer shocked and outraged by this betrayal of moral standards.

As my colleagues discussed the hypocrisy and debased values of this political theatre and the undertones of prejudice and discrimination that were displayed, one conclusion was clear: leadership that is noble, statesman-like and confident is lacking in our society and patriotic civility and courtesies to one another are often not displayed or valued.

As we surmised, any person can ‘attack’ your good name and pelt you with symbolic stones and a boulder or two. However, being steadfast and resisting the temptation to counterattack in the face of adversity is a truly admirable leadership style.

These opportunistic displays tend to suppress and exclude those voters who become disgusted by these vulgar shows, and who decide not to go out and cast their votes. Why vote for a party that displays such a lack of conscience?

But the theatrics of racism are not only ruled by these far-removed gentile qualities—instead, the freedoms taken in the speeches on the political forums, the liberties in artistic expression and the hateful online expletives were excuses to exhibit forms of misanthropy, egged on by a few misguided persons.

As a society, we know that racism exists. The social and education systems have done little to combat the cognitive dissonance and collective violence experienced by certain socio-economic groups, when told that all men are equal and that all persons are treated equitably.

This is a myth of equal opportunity that works for those who are comfortable and live well without fear of starvation or homelessness, refusing to unlearn the lies and the learned prejudices that have been passed down through the generations about persons of colour.

Psychologist Frantz Fanon documented how this collective violence toward one another begins to show itself when he states: “The colonized man will manifest this aggressiveness which has been deposited in his bones against his own people”.

When blacks victimise other blacks, even if one regards this as merely political banter, is a manifestation of the “aggressiveness which has been deposited” in our bones and psyches (Jackson).

We have been socialised since slavery and indentureship, to undermine our own black and shades of brown people and to be suspicious of those who are different than us in skin colour and hair texture.

When will we refuse to be played one against the other, and instead, become players and advocates for the benefit of our people?

In this new normal, let us take full responsibility for how we conduct ourselves. The coronavirus will be around for some time but if we choose to do so, we can work on eliminating the toxic narratives of racism and ethnic insecurities and hatefulness that continue to weaken the harmony that can exist in our society. These attitudes sidetrack us and minimise the real suffering and concerns of our black East Indian and African neighbours who are experiencing hardships, anxieties, and mental health issues during this time.

We cannot expect the government to solve all of our problems and to provide for all of our needs. During this pandemic, much is required of each one of us, rich or poor, black, or brown or white, if we are to survive.

The lead-up to the elections brought to the fore the theatrics of racism. Perhaps it is time for this society to have clear policies on racial discourse and to engage in a national conversation on race, which can lead to the emergence of new ways of defining racism within the context of the Caribbean diaspora.

With the guidance and planning of our new government, both in leadership and in opposition, can we stop playing the victim and focus instead on agreeable solutions to these ethnic divides?


Dr Nakhid-Chatoor is a clinical and educational psychologist, and immediate past President of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists (TTAP).