The Republic of Trinidad & Tobago has a new Prime Minister (PM). Dr. Keith Rowley, the man who last year had been called “too black” to hold that office has unseated the nation’s leader of just over 5 years, Kamla Persad Bissessar. I remember the feeling of pride I had when the twin islands elected her as their first female PM. It was similar to the feeling I had when the US elected its first black president, when Jamaica elected their first female PM, and now when Rowley, a man as dark in coloration as some of my family’s elders, has been appointed to this distinguished position.
Not being from Trinidad & Tobago myself but having lived the experience of people of my color being perceived as less than East Indians, Middle Easterners, Caucasians and basically everybody else all my young life, it amused me to learn of the unseating of the pretty Indian woman by the unelectable black man. Based on the reaction of T&T’s citizens, to many of them the upset is no laughing matter. There have even been reported threats on Rowley’s life.
According to Trinidadian writer Paolo Kernahan, the narrative of “all people are equal but some races are more equal than black people” is resurfacing. It is a narrative that doesn’t escape any community, regardless of how advanced they are. We saw it in this “post racial” United States with all the vitriol slewn at Obama and his peers after his election. We even saw a hint of it when France who spent so many years collecting burdensome taxes from poor black Haitians declared that returning the money they had taken would have been akin to welfare. Ergo black people being taken care of equals welfare, elite whites being taken care of is legitimate taxation.
As black people, we could choose to wallow in the understated racism that permeates our every day. But I propose that instead we should follow the example of Trinidad’s new Prime Minister, who decided that regardless of who saw him as an inferior African, he was going to win anyway.
Calibe Thompson is the Executive Producer of the “Taste the Islands” cooking series, now airing nationwide on public television stations and Create TV (www.createtv.com for details). Learn more about her at www.calibe.net. firstname.lastname@example.org