Dr Olabisi Kuboni

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“It is important that each group be first of all honest with itself and its relationship with others.”

This was the advice from retired University of the West Indies’ (UWI) lecturer Dr Olabisi Kuboni as she weighed in on the local discussion of racism, discrimination, and prejudice, sparked by ongoing protests in the US over the police murder of unarmed African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25.

Floyd killing was streamed live on social media by bystanders who made repeated appeals for the now charged officer, Derek Chauvin to remove his knee from being pressed into the neck of Floyd for nearly nine minutes.

“An important question to be asked is, how is my self-interest served in my relationship with other groups?” Kuboni said.

Asked why she felt the killing of Floyd and the subsequent protests in the US were having a domestic impact, even at the risk of racial tension rising, Kuboni explained, among most African-Trinidadians, there was a natural tendency to identify with and feel a connection to Africans in North America. This sense of oneness, she said, can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s and the rise of black consciousness and the call for black power among Africans in the USA at that time.

She said, “Even though the leaders of the movement in T&T, at that time, did not restrict the notion of being black to people of African origin exclusively, on the whole, T&T Indians did not gravitate to the new wave of black consciousness in any significant extent. Even more so now Indians may tend to resist what they perceive as an attempt by African Trinbagonians to involve the population as a whole in a rallying call to support and identify with a race struggle in the USA.”

With a multiracial society such as T&T’s, Kuboni was also asked if it were time the country began a national discussion on these issues. In response, she said speaking of T&T as a multicultural society, while correct in a sense, tends to mask the reality that the relationships between and among different ethnic groups in the society may not be of a single, homogenous type.

She noted, however, at the same time, one couldn’t ignore the growing perception that Indians as a group were doing better than Africans in recent times.