Post 377.

Just as we showed solidarity with South African sisters and brothers under apartheid, so too we should share the anger of African-Americans rioting against the US police murder of George Floyd, which followed police killing of Breonna Taylor in March.

Non-Black folk have a responsibility to support struggles against anti-blackness across the Americas. This responsibility is bigger than the historical disdain between Indo- and Afro-Caribbeans. It is bigger than APNU–AFC electoral fraud in Guyana and heightened racial distrust as a result. It’s bigger than UNC-PNM campaigning in Trinidad and Tobago, and the PM’s bizarre and race-baiting reference to a “recalcitrant and hostile minority” exactly 62 years to the day after it was said by Eric Williams on April 1, 1958.

Anti-blackness is the legacy of a new world order birthed by colonialism – which combined genocidal capitalism, dehumanizing white supremacy, sexual violence and imperial expansion. At the centre of its cold heart is the idea that White heterosexual masculinity presents an ideal representation of Man or what it means to be human, with all others from women to LBGTI folk to those from across the ‘Third’ or majority world mattering less.

Entrenched through slavery, and not yet dismantled, blackness biologically represented the ultimate non-human. Once defined as property, black bodies remain the least valued of all. This is the reality in the US where state violence against black communities enforces such continued coloniality. #BlackLivesMatter and #IndigenousLivesMatter movements highlight the legacy that some bodies and lives, and their decimation, still matter least.

In Canada, on May 27th, police killed Regis Korchinski Paquet, a 29 year-old Afro-Indigenous woman. Thousands have been marching in Toronto against police violence, and its intersection with anti-black and anti-indigenous racism.

In Trinidad and Tobago, there has been an increase in police killings since 2018, predominantly of poor Afro-Trinidadians. Here too, black lives are disposable and we pay attention, only briefly, when communities burn tires to protest these murders and witnesses dispute police reports of self-defense.

As Dylan Kerrigan writes, “There is no consideration of the context of social problems, the background to the problem, or the historical evolution of the issues… poor black victims are simply ‘bad people’.”  When we pay attention, it is less to the injustice than to the threat to a social order in which some lives are, nevertheless, always under greater threat.

We saw such US reporting shift attention to the looting over the past week which simply distracts from and belittles legitimate rage. Young activist, Tamika Mallory, put it well. America has long been looting black lives, and the violence of looting in this week’s protests has been learned from the example of impunity over hundreds of years, beginning with the looting of Indigenous land.

Jamaicans for Justice have been protesting the May 27th murder of Susan Bogle, a 44 year-old mentally challenged black woman in August Town, St. Andrew, who was killed inside her home by Jamaican soldiers. For the year, there have been investigations into 361 incidents involving Jamaican police and at least 18 incidents involving Jamaican soldiers.

Violent protests by communities result from a broken social contract that leaves no investment in obeying power or rules. That said, the US government has a dirty history of undermining Black Power, peace and environmental movements, including by instigating violence, and no doubt this is happening today.

Excessive state repression, which we are watching with horror on TV, is historically rooted in vicious repression of plantation rebellion just as much as it is reflects the current militarization of policing. All that military hardware, developed for armies at war, has to be sold. For the last two decades, it’s been sold to police and used against citizens demanding justice. Even GG wanted to send military tanks up into Laventille.

The 175th anniversary of Indian arrival to Trinidad and Tobago requires that we honour our participation in the legitimate, and if necessary violent, resistance against injustice which has long defined the hemisphere.

Interestingly, this is also the 50th anniversary of Black Power in Trinidad and Tobago, and commemorations included debate on whether the movement included Indians or mattered to them. It’s clear there was no mythical mixing of the Ganges and the Nile, but that was then. Indian-African solidarity is now ours to define and live just as coloniality remains a contemporary reality for us to collectively end.

How ironic that we were bothering with sanctions against Venezuela when all can see tyranny in America’s glass house and the time for US regime change.

Post 204.

I am writing today to support the LBGTI community in their hopes, raised every election amidst platform speeches about a better future. These hopes are for what others already have, equality and freedom from discrimination. The kind of rights enslaved Africans and indentured Indians dreamed of and fought for, the kind of rights those Africans and Indians who became our post-independence shipmasters now deny, forgetting history then and charting us on the wrong side of history now.

What can our political leaders say to these members of our families and nation when they are not safe to be themselves? How much are our political leaders their leaders too? Or is it okay to lead the nation for the benefit of some, and to simply defer sharing that experience of citizenship to all?

When asked about her position on ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, by for example amending the Equal Opportunity Act, approving the National Gender Policy or removing draconian provisions in the Children’s Act that legalise life imprisonment of young people engaging in same sex experiences, Kamla 2015 said, ‘let the people decide’. When asked, the PNM leader, Keith Rowley, said the party never discussed the issue, though that is not exactly true. Both leaders decided that there are no political gains in pursuing full equality amongst citizens. ‘Suffer on’ is their message to those asking.

Imagine it is 1815, and enslaved Africans are asking those leaders in power for the same rights that they have. Imagine them saying, we’ve never discussed it. Maybe later. Suffer on.

Imagine it is 1915, and indentured Indians are asking country leaders for equal citizenship, and they respond, let the plantation owners decide, for giving you full citizenship is too controversial right now. Maybe one day. Suffer and wait.

Imagine it is 2015 and those African and Indian leaders are now playing the mas of colonial masters, able to deny rights and willing to do so, while those of you who have rights and enjoy full equality, quote religious text or tradition or family belief, to get on happily with unequal power.

Every election is a chance to create more inclusion, to lead in ways that are principled rather than simply popular, to articulate a vision for another generation to truly understand, evermore, what it means to be one people, one nation.

In frustration, voting citizens in the LBGTI community have created their own manifesto, one where non-discrimination isn’t negotiable or denied. Just six of the twelve actions they call on are for:

  1. All national officials to vocally support inclusion and dignity for all, including LGBTI members of the national community, and denounce discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.
  2. Pilot a life skills programme for LGBTI young people made homeless by discrimination.
  3. Lower to 16 the direct eligibility age for social welfare for young people abused by their families.
  4. Implement school-based initiatives and policy that prevent and protect young people from violence and bullying in educational settings.
  5. Repeal paragraphs 20(1)(c), 20(2)(c), and 20(3)(c) of the Children Act of 2012, which came into force on 18 May 2015 and specifically target young people of the same sex for criminalization and life imprisonment for sexual exploration with each other.
  6. Equip and charge the Victim & Witness Support Unit to support LGBTI complainants of domestic and bias violence.

Representation, school tolerance, state services for victims, and children’s care are what citizens are saying they hope to vote for. These are not unreasonable dreams for inclusion. Of Keith and Kamla, who will first stop repeating, ‘suffer on’?

There are many issues in this election, with the economy, crime, corruption and the environment being the most important. Yet, these issues of sexuality and gender are ones show whether our leaders understand what it means to lead us all, equally, regardless of the political costs because the costs will not be ones citizens are instead made to bear. Regardless of race or religion, this is a value we should share.

I listen to rallies, read manifestos, and see worn words without commitment to full equality. Why vote for such leadership when our hopes matter so little to them in 2015?