Howard University, the alma mater of Kamala Harris, proudly celebrated her appointment as the 49th Vice President of the USA. A senior student of the college’s debating team captured the moment in these words: “To just think, that 154 years ago, when this university was founded, Black people couldn’t vote,” Edgerton said. “And now we have one of our own in the White House. It is a great day to be a Bison.”
Black throughout the Americas and the Caribbean boldly identify with their history, struggles and identity without apology. However, when Indo-Caribbean people speak of Indian culture and identity, they are called racists and accused of dividing the society by blacks and their very own Indians. Rennie Ramracha pointed out that “when Dr. Eric was pronouncing that there was no Mother India, he was using State funds to promote Better Village, a program aimed at promoting black consciousness.”
Blacks have done their homework while Indo Caribbean leaders continue to behave like the proverbial crabs in barrels. One had thought that education and time would overcome this petty divisiveness. However, more education has only accentuated our differences as we alienate ourselves from our social history and philosophy.
In the 1920s and 1930s black intellectuals, – George Padmore, C.L.R. James, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta – all students in London, came together and formed the Pan African Movement. The Pan African Movement did not focus solely on the liberation of Africa and the Caribbean from colonial rule but more significantly, on the awakening of black consciousness.
George Padmore and CLR James did not confine their activism to London but migrated to USA where they spent time exchanging ideas with their American counterparts such as W.E.B. Du Bois and the pioneers of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement that saw the flowering of black arts, history and literature.
In the 1940s and 1950s this black consciousness was expanded to Howard University. Howard University, uncompromising in its vision to strengthen black consciousness, implemented a mandatory course on African-American Studies for undergraduates. One distinguished graduate of Howard University was Trinidad-born Stokely Carmicheal. Carmicheal, a brilliant student, had the option to study at other universities but opted for Howard. Carmicheal went on the become a major leader in the African American community struggle for civil rights.
Black leaders of the Caribbean have never shied away from their black identity. In fact, their sole purpose of being in public life and politics in particular is to raise black pride and black identity. This is unlike their Indo-Caribbean counterparts who don’t know if they are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist or Shango. With a disinclination to engage in ethnic issues, these opportunists quotes profusely from the Bible and dance to the rhythm of Bob Marley’s One Love in Debe, South Trinidad.
V.S. Naipaul has always contended that Indians don’t have a sense of history. Young undergraduates are discouraged from studying history because it provides limited options for employment. Nevertheless, the Indo Caribbean leaders can learn from Howard University that has taken the bold step to have a mandatory undergraduate course in African-American history.
In the US the whites are taught about the May Flower, the ship that brought the pilgrim fathers to the New World. From that settlement in New England came the celebration of Thanksgiving, now a national holiday in the US.
Is Indian Arrival Day, May 30, given such status and sense of celebrations among Indians like the celebration of Thanksgiving among Americans? Is the landing of the Fatal Rozack and life in the plantation taught in the schools, mandirs, mosques and churches? What about the birth of the Maha Sabha and the life of its founder Bhadase Sagan Maraj? Or ASJA and its founding fathers? If given a photo of Bhadase Sagan Maraj can the average person identify him?
Indians have reduced themselves to ‘chorus boys and girls’ echoing the sentiments of others because of intellectual laziness. V. S. Naipaul is always vilified by many Indo-Trinidadians who claim that he “never identified with his Trinidadian roots.” When told that that is a false narrative, the response is “I read it in the papers.” So, it is clear that the Indian does not have a critical mind and is always ready to lap up the slightest propaganda against his community.
The Indian community has not done its homework. It yet to lay a solid foundation to build on, thus explaining the so many challenges in the community. Dr. Steve Vertovec, author of Hindu Trinidad: Religion, Ethnicity and Socio-Economic Change, lamented that the Hindus are victims of proselytization because the ground work was never done unlike the Muslim community that did theirs in the 1950s and 1960s.
Indian politicians and community leaders have much to learn from the blacks of the Caribbean and the USA. Those people have learned to sit, debate, disagree and fraternize on a single platform. This was well played out in the politics of Dr. Keith Rowley when he announced Brian Manning, Amery Browne and Penny Beckles-Robinson as candidates in the August 2020 General Elections.
Massive egos and “heads like Ravan” have always conspired to defeat the Indians. And despite their repeated failures, these mimic men continue to hold on to their pride possession-their big, fat, juicy egos.