Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Wendy Samaroo: Defence of Jamaicans reeks of race bias

Published:Monday | May 2, 2016 | 5:00 AMWendy Samaroo

With reference to David Muhammad's recent article in The Gleaner titled 'From Trinidad to Jamaica with love' (Sunday Gleaner, May 1, 2016), I see that he cites only negative references to the Indian population of Trinidad & Tobago. I caution him as to the wisdom of such an approach, as it could lead readers to assume that he might be racially biased against this population.

If that is, in fact, the case, why does he lack the courage to come right out and express his bias directly? And if that is not the case, I hope Mr Muhammad can understand the process of reasoning that led me to believe that he felt otherwise about Indians in the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.

With reference to his book Black Studies, he stated that "the consciousness contained in it is geared towards uniting, rather than dividing". May I ask whether or not his book seeks to unite those of African descent with those of Indian descent in the Caribbean, or would that be too much to hope for? For if it does not, his book must be rather unremarkable in its scope, seeing as it comes several decades after the Black Power movement in Trinidad & Tobago. And even in that time in the history of Trinidad & Tobago, blacks and Indians were learning to work together in the trade and labour union movement.

So what precisely does Mr Muhammad's book set out to accomplish that is unique enough to make a person like me want to buy it, or is it just another one of those black-to-Africa books that I encountered so frequently when I studied English literature at UWI, St Augustine, in the 1980s, at a time when I was unable to find a course in Indian literature at a university in a country whose ethnic majority was actually Indian.

 

EVOLVED consciousness

 

Mind you, I very much enjoyed learning all about black literature, as it is indeed a great and noble tradition. But so is Indian and Indo-diasporan literature a great and noble tradition, and I should have had the opportunity to study it as well as black literature. Thankfully, nowadays, UWI has such a course available for study, at least at the St Augustine campus.

This is because the fine institution of The University of the West Indies itself has evolved "a consciousness that is geared towards uniting, rather than dividing". Now, which institution's intellectual scope would Mr Muhammad say is greater, that of the UWI, or that of his book Black Studies?

When it comes to the black and Indian traditions in the Caribbean, neither is superior nor inferior to the other, Mr Muhammad, and the most noble approach overall is to at least be open to both in one's writing. Otherwise, you will find that the psycho-cultural wounds of black folk will never heal. For healing begins with forgiveness of oneself, for ever having thought one's own tradition inferior in the first place, and then it continues with forgiveness of those who have wronged you historically, specifically the white people.

Mr Muhammad seems quite concerned with the wrongs that the Indian-led United National Congress of T&T inflicted upon black people trying to get into Trinidad & Tobago from other CARICOM countries at the time when the UNC formed the government of T&T. I put it to him that his path to healing that particularly indecent pain also lies in forgiveness.

As I am not a Muslim, I have no idea whether or not Allah promotes forgiveness in the way that the Christian God does, but I can assure Mr Muhammad that I am perfectly happy in my Christian faith, and proud of my ancestral culture, as I imagine he must be of his own. As many Jamaicans are generally Christian by upbringing, Mr Muhammad would be able to reach them more effectively with a positive impression of his own Islamic faith if he promoted a legacy of forgiveness in his own writing, rather than evoking a sense of the repeated pain that his people have suffered throughout history.

- Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and wensam@live.com.