TRINIDAD Y TOBAGO: Race and democracy - EntornoInteligente / News day / The racially-connected uproar over Anthony Bourdain’s CNN documentary, Parts Unknown, once again helped expose parts of this country’s racial underbelly. And this, at the same time, when our media dramatized the “racial crosstalk” that occurred in Parliament.

Such “race-talk” will not go away.

I remain amused by a newspaper editorial which called for “national dialogue” on the issue. The dialogue is already on. And even if there is a “national dialogue,” – evidence- based or intellectually-driven– the mass media once again will make mas out of it. It is the sharpened ole time controversies that will hit the headlines. Market-driven for the masses–fatal weakness of democracy.

Given the connection between ethnicity (race, religion, etc) and political power around the world, the question arising now is not so much how to get the different races to “behave” themselves, but how to develop a policy of managing ethnic diversity.

“Where every creed and race find an equal place” is an inspiring mission, but unrealistic, especially with the words “an equal place.” Equal? What we really should mean is “where every creed and race find an equal opportunity.” And the extent to which this promise can be left undisturbed, untwisted, by the political campaign, well, there will be some hope.

You see, apart from the latent (subdued) racial feelings here, we are yet to decide whether the preference is towards racial integration, flourishing ethnic diversity, or just leave things to evolve in the free movement and choices people make. Whichever route, the trouble really starts in the distribution of resources and the competition for them, example, jobs, education, state appointments.

People all over the world vote on the basis of, for example, ethnicity, social class and of course the extent to which they see their self-interest served or will be served by their voting choice. Or sometimes by hating the opposition. These are the issues that arouse blinding emotions, where emotions conquer reason.

Not about climate change, or remand yard prisoners.

Here is where the “political prisoner syndrome” enters. That is, any candidate, however honest or “issue oriented,” if he or she leaves out the connection to ethnicity, social class, self-interest or in today’s world, gender, well, he or she would likely come second or third, especially if the opposing candidate exploits the political currency of ethnicity or social class.

In other words, if, for example, the reliance is upon the elected politicians to remove racial politics from the election campaign, they would find difficulty to do so. You will be asking them, in the circumstances, to destroy something that gave them political life. So the compromise usually made is to preach national unity and racial harmony on the platform, and promote or tolerate something else underground. This is the “political prisoner syndrome.” As I said earlier, I was amused at the editorial’s call for “a national dialogue.” This society has a diminished intellectual culture. And as far as reading research-based literature, well, it seems too hard for so many of us. The raging preference here is for fire-cracker opinions, provocative generalizations, which are bound to command the headlines.

So the reinforcement is there.

And as for our school textbooks, it is so much a profit-driven industry – with little or nothing of moral or civic value for children. And it is allowed to remain so, helping to create an anti-intellectual, non-reading population. And making you think that the Mighty Sparrow was wrong to mock the Nelson’s West Indian book series. The baby was thrown away with the bathwater. A compromise could have been made by mixing local publications with Nelson’s.

So don’t worry folks, foreigners will always define us – by default.

Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown is not the end of it. Another racial epi sode will soon ap p e a r.

We are w e l l k n o w n for it. It is now part of our democracy.

TRINIDAD Y TOBAGO: Race and democracy

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