Racism: Dead or Alive?
The recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown’ has drawn the ire of many Trinidadian people. The moment that quickly became infamous is around the 19-minute mark when Mario Sabga-Aboud made a claim that the Syrian/Lebanese community is the most powerful, or almost the most powerful, ethnic group in Trinidad. So is this true? What about it really irks so many people? What does that mean for most of us? Maybe the most important questions of all are: what can we learn from this and how will we allow it to shape us going forward?
People detest such statements because it creates a feeling of injustice, dissension and further division between ethnic groups. This statement, regardless of its intended effect, evoked feelings of racism and nepotism. Nobody wants to think they’re living in a world where a few people control everything. It serves to think that they- and by extension, their ethnic group- have little to no upward mobility.
Racism is not dead, and it remains a social and economic poison. It’s the strongest shackle that has been placed on our country and one that continues to burden us. So many of us prefer to discriminate and disregard our fellow Trinis just because of a difference in skin color or hair texture. We remain a weak, underdeveloped nation relative to the money, natural resources and unbelievable human capital we’ve been blessed with. Too many of us are blind to the potential Trinidad has if we could only operate with maturity and open-mindedness. If we could embrace and respect differences and create a united front in all our endeavors, we wouldn’t have to worry about who may or may not be a powerful group in society.
We need to understand that the reason small groups, like the Syrians, can be so powerful and influential is because they are united. The other major groups in our society are positioned against each other, and yet still divided amongst themselves. It’s a recipe for disaster; a surefire way to remain small and powerless. It’s not about all Indians and Blacks joining forces to fight against the Syrians/Lebanese, but it’s about recognizing the value of unity and strength in numbers. We must not try to hoard all the wealth and knowledge for ourselves to the exclusion of the rest of society. Imagine what we could achieve with a community of 50,000 people working towards the same goal.
Speaking plainly, it seems as though there aren’t that many black businessmen in Trinidad, relative to the other ethnic groups. I would like to see persons who come from business families, be they Indian or otherwise, sharing their experience and giving exposure to those who come from different backgrounds. The ironic thing is that by refusing to educate and empower each other, the level of quality and output begins to diminish. When there aren’t fresh ideas and new competition, people stagnate and the industries and by extension the country as a whole, fail to move forward.
So don’t cry about the Sabgas. Don’t try to punish them by not buying a Chiller and donut from Rituals. What you need to do is start accepting the power of being part of a TEAM. One man is not an island, but a band of men working with a common purpose can achieve anything. Trinidad is a small island. But, we must drill it into our minds that as a united front Trinidad can be a Caribbean powerhouse. Going even further, if the entire Caribbean is united, we could become one of the major players in the world. We would not be at the same level as a United States or a China, but at least we would be able to sit at the same lunch table with them.
Ever since slavery we’ve been plagued by division. We stand to be exploited when we remain apart from each other, competing away the little resources that we have. We need to develop shared goals, start pooling resources together and share information. We can either stand together and reach heights greater than we can imagine, both individually and collectively, or we can remain divided and hope that simply boycotting the most powerful leads to us getting a share of that power. You may not like someone because he’s Black or Indian, Muslim or Christian, but the reality is that you are both exponentially more powerful together, rather than apart. If 1% of the population can amass wealth and influence at an international scale, then what can 99% do?
Note that in 1925, there were 207 millionaires in America, just 0.00018% of the population. By the 1960’s, the percentage increased to 0.06% and as at the end of 2016, the figure was 3.33% (a total of over 10 million millionaires). We all have the ability to increase our wealth and influence. Don’t just be outraged at the aforementioned comments, but use it as a source of motivation and a lesson for us as a nation. We must reprogram ourselves and place greater emphasis on working together to achieve all our goals.
“Together we aspire, together we achieve!”