Sun | Feb 23, 2020

Tony Deyal | Monday night for rum

Published:Saturday | September 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM

"She gone stark raving crackers," said one of my friends. "Who?" I asked. "Kamla," he replied, referring to the former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and now leader of the Opposition. "What happen? What she do now?" Pause. "She call de prime minister of the country an 'oreo'." I got it immediately.

According to Wikipedia, "Oreo is a commercial brand of cookie (or biscuit) usually consisting of two chocolate wafers with a sweet creme filling in-between ... . Oreo has become the best-selling cookie in the United States."

Had the comment been about Prime Minister Rowley's sweetness, popularity and appeal, it would have been taken as a compliment. However, and rightly in this instance, the comment was not seen as complimentary and reference was immediately made by Mr Rowley's supporters, and others, like me, who want the country to vote on principle rather than personality, reason rather than race, to the Urban Dictionary.

The Urban Dictionary is a 'crowd-sourced' and open online reference for slang words and phrases. It tells you how language is applied in real life and specific situations. Under the word 'oreo', I found several different meanings. One is: "A very cute dog that is black in colour and has a white stripe on its belly."

I saw a picture of a shirtless prime minister at the beach, and although visibility was not 100 per cent, there was no white stripe to be seen on any part of his anatomy. A second, and I expect some supporters of the opposition leader to jump on this as a belated explanation for her referring to Dr Rowley as an 'oreo' is, "A good cookie; made up of two chocolate cookies with vanilla filling, and sometimes peanut butter and can come in double-stuffed and Halloween varieties."


Betraying roots


Where the trick or treat ends is in the third and most supported meaning. It is a "term for African Americans that the black community is generally offended with for betraying their roots usually for dating Caucasian girls, dressing too white, talking too white, etc. The term is branded OREO since they are 'black on the outside, white on the inside."

Mrs Persad-Bissessar made the Oreo remark at a weekly meeting held by her party called 'Monday Night Forum'. I have often said that if I were someone accused of alcoholism, as the opposition leader has been for many years of her political life, I would not call my party gathering a 'forum', which has been twisted by many into a 'foh rum'.

But in the Oreo meeting she went a step further. During a lunch with the now-deceased celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, a local businessman, Mario Sabga-Aboud, said that the one per cent of people of Syrian descent, the majority of whom were born and live in Trinidad and Tobago, controlled the economy of Trinidad and Tobago. This immediately precipitated a massive backlash against people of Syrian-Lebanese descent, causing one of my friends to complain bitterly, "Boy, yesterday I was 100% Trini and today I become 1%."

Although it is believed that all political parties receive support from that powerful interest group, the opposition leader did not spare them in her 'Forum'. According to the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, which incidentally is owned by one of the so-called 'one per cent', the 'one per cent owns Keith Christopher Rowley." She is quoted as saying, "They tried to own Mr Manning, eh, they couldn't do that, they didn't get away with that ... . They tried their luck ... . They tried to own me, but I sent them packing ...They have their 'Oreo' now, who is their guy in Keith Christopher Rowley, and that's how the one per cent friends and family of Rowley control him."


Guilty of racist comments


Opposition supporters will inevitably claim that the government speakers at various events in the past and over the years are also guilty of statements about them that may be interpreted as racist. However, when I raised that with my friend, his immediate response was, "Two wrongs don't make a right."

He also reminded me of a previous public statement by the opposition leader when she referred crudely to who did or did not "put down pipe" by her. I had no answer to that, but got lost thinking about whether any biscuit would be appropriate for describing Dr Rowley or anyone else. Oreo produces a 'Chocolate' variety that is dark inside, but although this slur lessens the political impact of what was termed 'Afro-Saxon' by the Black Power leaders in the early 1970s, it also makes it more directly racist instead of less.

Would Dr Rowley's clean-shaven scalp or my lack of hair entitle her to call us 'Garibaldi'? While saying someone is a 'Boortsog' might sound like an insult, it is really a Mongolian dessert with lots of honey and sugar dipped in tea. There are people who might compare a minister in the present government to a 'Caramel Shortbread', also known as the 'Millionaire's Shortbread', because of its rich caramel and chocolate mix.

A great statesman or woman would earn the accolade 'Lincoln Biscuit', but, given the level to which our politics, made even worse by blatant racism has descended, none of our leaders has yet reached this elevated status, and it would take more than four score and seven years for them to do so.

There is one cookie I favour called the 'snickerdoodle' because of its cracked surface. If anybody asks me why, it is because that is the way the cookie crumbles.

- Tony Deyal was last seen saying it is a rum thing for an Oreo to leave a bad taste in his or anyone else's mouth.