The murder of African-American George Floyd, who was killed on May 25, in Minneapolis, Minnesota after white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt for nearly nine minutes on his neck while knowingly being filmed by bystanders who recorded the entire event—even pleading with the officer to lift his knee as Floyd kept saying he could not breathe, sparked outrage and nationwide daily protests calling for the end of police violence against black citizens.
Floyd’s killing and the protests have also ignited domestically, conversations on the issue as it pertains to these societal structural ills, seemingly freeing muzzled voices among the African community in T&T who took to social media pledging support on a Blacklives Matter platform, candidly speaking up and speaking out against the prejudices, discriminations and supposed systematic racism they face and experience but normally cannot address.
Their position, however, has been met with distasteful clapbacks belonging to that of some in other ethnic groups in the island who have also taken to social media expressing plain-looking forms of racism, creating racial tension with disturbing and offensive posts and in some instances videos unearthing racial socialisation made by some high profile business owners—forcing the African community—some of their biggest clientele to threaten the boycotting of their businesses.
Guardian Media engaged the views of Shabaka Kambon, son of Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) chairman Khafra Kambon, as the questions was asked if there was a the resurgence of the Black Power era and was it time for T&T to have a national, open and honest discourse on racism and its cohorts—classism and colourism?
In his response, Kambon said what was happening on the local front stemmed not from the unequal application of coercion and punishment, which is increasingly a feature of our militarised policing and the broader criminal justice system, patterning itself after the US.
Rather, it was from the unrestrained responses of members of certain sectors of the Society, which demonstrate the degree to which, they were “invested in whiteness, not as a race, but a social construct of privilege and entitlement which stands in opposition to blackness again”— not as race, but as a marginal relationship to power and a commitment to social and economic justice.
Referring to the exposing of the network of Indian super-anti-African racists by David Rudder’s son Isaac, the salutations to “all lives matter” by businesswoman Diane Hunte and former CEO of CNMG Ken Ali, along with the statements by businessmen Michael Aboud: “they (the protesters) use the Floyd matter to do what comes natural” and those by Gerald Aboud: “If I don’t like Chinese people you can’t force me to like Chinese people,” and “If people are indeed racist and that is their position it should be respected,” Kambon said.
“These statements particular bring us face to face with our ugly underbelly and compel us to look more closely at our society and its institutions and to ask ourselves if we are really promoting the principles and values that we believe we are. And the answer is a resounding no.”
He said over the last year the country had seen incidences of African children in schools discriminated against because of their natural hairstyles, even though the focus should be on the inferiority of the schools that serve their communities and the paucity of the history and sociology curricula that serve us all.
He highlighted some things needed an urgent change from a historical perspective and noted–T&T was still very much imprisoned by the debris of colonialism and this was evident in the name branding of the country’s public spaces.
“The locals, who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today, are absent from the consciousness of current generations as they are from the veneration in the built environment. Instead of Francis De Ridder, the renegade Catholic priest who set up the first desegregated schools and churches in this country, we honour Woodford (Sir Ralph James), his legendary racist nemesis who promoted the segregation of churches and even cemeteries not wanting whites to mix with blacks even after death.
“Note that Woodford does not only have a square but most shamefully monuments in both the Anglican and the Catholic Cathedral,” Kambon said.