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September 8, 2020
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Attacking racism at its root

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

“Racism generates inequality…but inequality also fuels racism”

—Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Dean, Faculty of Law, UWI STA.

Many thanks to all those who contributed to and participated in the recent virtual National Symposium entitled ‘A Time for Healing— Understanding and Reconciling Race Relations in Trinidad and Tobago’, organised by UWI’s Faculty of Law and CCSJ on Sunday, August 30. Those who missed the four-hour long proceedings can access it via the following link: https://tinyurl.com/yya6nlf4

Prof Rhoda Reddock rightly noted that, “We understand almost everything through the prism of race. Race becomes an explanation for all failure, achievement, economic decisions, marriage decisions, educating decisions, employment decisions and, of course, voting decisions…”

She said politicians need to be more aware “of the ways in which…racialised and generally divisive politics affects citizens. Even when overtly racialised statements are not made, the viciousness of the language and the imagery creates deep wounds. Attacks on political leaders become attacks on the people of those ethnic groups and perpetuate feelings of shame, anger, victimhood and even hatred, on which ethnic tensions and conflict are built.”

The interest shown, and the calls from many participants for this issue to be addressed further, is in keeping with the statement made by Her Excellency, President Paula Mae Weekes, in her Independence Day speech, that although this initiative is a step in the right direction, “Our only hope of treating with this scourge once and for all is to attack it at the root, recognising that it is the result of our histories, our origin, our arrival, our incorporation into the society and our politics.”

This cannot be a one-off initiative. We are committed to continuing this valuable work which is needed in the nation’s interest. CCSJ is working with others to take this initiative forward.

I share with you hereunder a Spoken Word poem written for the event by Emmanuel Joseph, winner of CCSJ’s/Youth Commission’s Spoken Word Competition during Justice, Peace and Community Week, 2019:


We are all one race

by Emmanuel Joseph

T&T was my land and of it I was proud and glad, but that was before the time that we live in now. Seems to me the red, white and black flying upside down.

Because all I see is a growing pain, maybe on the boats it came and resided on the plains, that we all worked on.

Things are coming to a head, racial prejudice found embedded in the comments. Captain! The ship is sinking! But who going to man the helm?

Here every creed and race racing to reach first but like we in reverse because we going backwards, hear every creed and race cry their pains and sorrows their heads lowered.

We supposed to be red, white and black but black and blue is the result of this beating, we sharing licks, we taking licks and we enjoying it like if is we fingers we licking.

I am confused! Won’t we supposed to possess that common love that binds and makes us one? Feeling like if all that I knew is now untrue, feeling like this battle will never be won

2…3 steps further away we go, when we racially discriminate segregate and humiliate our sisters and brothers, but ent we not one in the same?

I wish this game that we playing could stop. Wish we could bring back the old-time days where we play rounders and then we all run to the corner shop.

Wish he, she, and me: Boyo and Carla, Tan Tan and Saga Boy, Papa Bois and Anansi, you, and I, could once again walk this twin isle side by side

We stand together: African, Indian and all others. Black, white, and red, like a sitar and steelpan playing in perfect harmony, without end.

I want to know what coming next! When last have the Ganges and the Nile met? Here, every creed and race supposed to find an equal place and may God bless our nation of many varied races

But our cultural cemetery running low on spaces, can you not hear our forefathers calling? Now is the time we rearrange and change our mind and realise that we are all one race Trinidad and Tobago now is the time for our Nation’s dawning.

Discipline, Tolerance and Production this is the message that comes from our constitution where every colour faith, race and creed can love, respect and live in unity in this our sweet T&T.

Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.

(30) Pope Francis, Laudato Si

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee