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Too Black to be Prime Minister - The Shackles of Mental Slavery

Dr Keith RowleyOf all the offensive – and unintelligent – statements made in the politics of the post-independence Caribbean, an assertion, that Dr Keith Rowley, the leader of the Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago, is “too black” to be Prime Minister, has to rate as the worst.

It is a telling indictment of the person through whose mind the thought passed without perishing and from whose mouth the stupidity was uttered.  Fitzgerald Hinds, a former Senator of Mr Rowley’s political party, the Peoples National Movement (PNM), is the person reported to have made the statement to a party political meeting.  He is also reported to have said that “a group of businessmen and former PNM ministers have agreed that Dr Rowley was “too dark in complexion to become prime minister.”

In the past, this asinine attitude has been expressed in other Caribbean countries.  For instance, in Jamaica, there was the claim that Norman and Michael Manley were not black, nor were Alexander Bustamante and Donald Sangster.  When P J Patterson became Prime Minister in 1992, some circles in Jamaica actually said he was the country’s “first black Prime Minister”.  Before he was elected, it was doubted that the Jamaican people were “ready for a black Prime Minister”.  As it turned out, PJ Patterson was not only a successful Prime Minister elected to serve at his country’s helm for 14 years; he was also highly regarded in the international community.

In the Eastern Caribbean, the same nonsense was whispered – not always quietly - in many places including St Lucia, St Vincent and Dominica.  The taint of blackness was used as a political weapon with the underlying inference that being of “too dark complexion” rendered any such person as unelectable even to other black people who constituted the majority in countries such as Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and Dominica.

Of course, none of the leaders of these countries – not Jamaica’s Michael Manley, Trinidad and Tobago’s Eric Williams, Dominica’s Eugenia Charles, and St Lucia’s John Compton – would have counted themselves as anything but black.  And the Caribbean and the world would be hard-pressed to find more outstanding champions of black causes world-wide than Michael Manley and Eric Williams.



Also, there is nothing in the Caribbean’s political history that discredits its leaders of “dark complexion”.  Barbados’ Erskine Sandiford; The Bahamas’ Lynden Pindling and Hubert Ingraham; St Kitts-Nevis’ Robert Bradshaw, Lee Moore and Kennedy Simmonds are all testament to leaders of quality, the dark complexion of whose skin mattered not a jot to the execution of their duties or their representation of their people.

Mr Hinds’ statement about Dr Rowley rightly caused a stir in Trinidad and Tobago.  Regrettably, it also attracted the attention of international news broadcasters, such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), that not only reported on what must have been to its reporters a very curious phenomenon but they also sought to probe the causes behind it.  To the international listener, Trinidad and Tobago must have seemed like a very odd place – one which is concerned with gradations of blackness as a qualification for its leaders in a world where the majority of leaders are of the very dark complexion about which Mr Hinds (and apparently others) hold out reservations.

That in 2014, almost two centuries after slavery was abolished with all the shades of colour that made slaves more valuable only according to the whims of slave owners, complexion still preoccupies the minds of persons who hold (or held) offices of state, is a tragic commentary on those persons.  It ignores the reality of dark-complexioned people leading in fields such as the judiciary, medicine, education, science and technology, and sport.  It is worse that the perceived stigma of “dark complexion” alarms members of the PNM for that political party has always been seen as representing predominantly black people.

Had the statement about Dr Rowley been made by members of the ruling United National Congress (UNC) Party whose support base is mostly East Indian, the charge of racism would immediately have been lodged.  The repercussions might have been grave in a society which has not yet fully overcome the challenges of its racial diversity. Of course, there are also Indians of “dark complexion” and it leads to speculation that the doubts expressed about Dr Rowley’s electability might also apply to an equally dark-complexioned Indian.  Is the issue then more one of colour than of race?

Those who peddle the nonsense of complexion should be reminded of the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr that people “should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.   They would also do well to recall Bob Marley admonition: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our mind”.  They should also be careful that in expressing their own prejudices, they are not wrongfully assuming that the electorate of Trinidad and Tobago is as bigoted and small-minded as they are.

Dr Rowley is being challenged for the leadership of the PNM in a few months (May 18) by Ms Penelope Beckles-Robinson.   There was a time when politicians and others in Trinidad and Tobago would have said that a woman could never become leader of a political party or the country’s Prime Minister.  The present UNC leader and Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has debunked that assertion.  The contest between Dr Rowley and Ms Beckles-Robinson should be on their intellectual capacity, competence and qualities to lead their party and possibly become the next Prime Minister. 

It is leadership, vision, proficiency and commitment that all political parties everywhere need. That has nothing to do with the shameful and absurd argument about complexion which certainly has no place in today’s Caribbean.


Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, Senior Research Fellow at London University and former Caribbean Diplomat.

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18 Comments In This Article   

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RE: Too Black to be Prime Minister - The Shackles of Mental Slavery

#18 good citizen » 2014-02-21 20:09

Majority of the people in America are white. Do you really think a black man could be president of American if the white people did not vote for him in huge numbers? Hinds is suffering from inferiority complex. Hinds is not the only black person who think this way. Personally, i know alot of blacks who believe being white is better. The world is ready to embrace you no matter your colour once your character pass the test. So, Hinds is in Trinidad with all those indians who constantly look upon blacks as inferior. So, Hinds is just speaking out the reality of what he is living.
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good citizen

RE: Too Black to be Prime Minister - The Shackles of Mental Slavery

#17 Time to pay » 2014-02-17 15:28

Skyewill is right again... Hold your head up high... People stand up for your rights...!!! Time to Vote is coming our way..!! Vote for Change...!!! Vote what is right...! Vote Vote Vote...!
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Time to pay

Keep the Uncle Toms out

#16 Mr. Byam » 2014-02-17 12:55

Another reason why none of these people should be allowed into the country. All these self-hating blacks and the black hating Spanish smaddy should be sent home.
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Mr. Byam

Political Affluenza now spreading

#15 Doc » 2014-02-17 07:01

I do not know the patient Mr. Hinds but it sounds like he is suffering from the new term called Political Affluenza. If you never heard about Affluenza, see article+video on link below.

www.democracynow.org/2014/2/7/affluenza_defense_lands_wealthy_teen_in
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Doc

continued

#14 CIROC » 2014-02-16 22:51

What is happening in Trinidad.I hope this is not happening in Antigua in regards to leadership of the country.That is what he is echoing that only light skinned persons can run the country Trinidad.That a black skin man cannot be elected to run Trinidad and Tobago is absurd.
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CIROC

RE: Too Black to be Prime Minister - The Shackles of Mental Slavery

#13 CIROC » 2014-02-16 22:43

We as a people have come a long way.We still have some ways to go.This man is echoing something that I believe is covertly being discussed in certain circles.He just said it publicly.Is he speaking the truths as they relate to Trinidad and Tobago.The days of hiring Afro Caribbean persons because of skin color.I thought that was a thing of the past.In my opinion persons should be given jobs based on their abilities to do those tasks.
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CIROC

All Gods creation is beautiful

#12 Skyewill » 2014-02-16 20:44

I does not matter what other people say about you. it is what you think about yourself. You are what and who you think you are and should never allow anyone to define you like they try to do to you right here on Caribarena. You are beautiful because you were made in the image of the Almighty God. See Skyewill, See God!
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Skyewill

RE: Too Black to be Prime Minister - The Shackles of Mental Slavery

#11 SlyThatGuy » 2014-02-16 18:31

These kinds of negative feelings towards people of our own race are lodged deep into the minds of countless weak-minded black men, women, and teenagers today because the white people have been pounding it into their heads for years. Over the centuries, white people have used their money, and their skin color, to make them feel like they were superior to black people. They would tell black folks their complexion is why they are poor and needy, and they would also use phrase like, "white is right," "black is whack," or "black stay back" to put black folks down and to hurt their feelings. ( They said we are not human and called us uncivilized and some of us believed it.) Why do you think some black people are bleaching their skin,trying to change their skin color? Because they wanted to escape the negative stereotypes white people have about black people.
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SlyThatGuy

BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS

#10 RAWLSTON POMPEY » 2014-02-16 16:21

Hinds is not alone. These are sentiments often spewed by " ...Black Bigots, if not Idiots."

Thanks Sir Ron, you have awakened a " ...Black Consciousness," not only those who recognize the " ...beauty of a unique race," but also in many " ...Black Hypocrites."

Some people still cannot get rid of the " ...Slave mentality."

Even in " ...Crime Fighting" some are calling for the " ...Replacement of Commissioner Vere Browne by "...CANADIANS."

Social commentator Kelvin Pope, Mighty Duke, reminding blacks that " ...Black is beautiful," tells us how long the black man fought for an identity.

He said, " ...Many, many years it took; ...For us to find this natural look."

James Browne, implored everyone to " ...Sing it aloud; ...I am black and proud."

However, it was the Mighty Duke who said " ...Without pretext, ...Get rid of this complex; ...Erase it completely, the feeling of black inferiority."

Many remain " ...Brainwashed," and hold strong beliefs that everything and everyone " ...Black is evil."
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RAWLSTON POMPEY

SKIN COLOUR

#9 TRUE ANTIGUAN » 2014-02-16 15:52

Sad but true that this thinking still exists in Antigua.
Look at whom the politicians have kept down in the past and who just came off the boat and have been able to acquire vast amount of wealth.
They don't verbalize they just act.
We have too many capable and intelligent black brothers and sisters here in Antigua who have been lampooned, robbed and laughed at by our politicians
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TRUE ANTIGUAN

Too Black

#8 Skyewill » 2014-02-16 14:16

Happens right in Antigua also. Been saying it here for a very long time how we down grade our own. Too black for all sort of things but not too black for low end bottom of the barrel.
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Skyewill

Colour

#7 JD » 2014-02-16 14:09

Good article that raises a very important issue. It is about time the Caribbean started to check itself and look to being more 'politically correct', for want of a more appropriate phase. Still using words such as nigger', ''chinee', 'coolie' etc to describe people perpetuates this racism and the supposed importance of colour (which is in fact irrelevant of course). It means thinking before speaking, having and showing consideration and respect for others regardless of any differences, and it's been a long time waiting to see a change in our own behaviour in the Caribbean towards each other. About time.
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JD

GREAT FIND

#6 josephine son » 2014-02-16 13:32

I AM VERY SURPRISE THAT THESE SENTIMENTS EXIST TOSAY,GUESS WE HAVEN COME AS FAR AS I THOUGH
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josephine son

@@Fitzgerald Hinds PART 2

#5 NYC » 2014-02-16 11:33

Let's motivate the human spirit then contact Mr. Fitzgerald Hinds.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RYlAPjyNm8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgmVOuLgFB0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzgVdX7FtS8
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NYC

Judge him not his skin color but by his character

#4 Dig It » 2014-02-16 10:46

When I first heard about this, like many of you, I was very shocked! As shocking as it is, the fact is that this sort "mental slavery" still exists in our Caribbean...not only in government but in all walks of society. Sadly, Dr. Rowley, who is an "amazing intellectual capacity" is judge by his skin color and his character. In his "I have a dream" speech, MLK said Quote:
A man should not be judged by his skin color but by the content of his character
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Sadly, we live in a world where people are still prejudice by their 'complexion' of your skin or not by their actions. It is total/blatant "ignorance" to the core!
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Dig It

@Fitzgerald Hinds

#3 NYC » 2014-02-16 10:11

Gosh Mr. Hinds, Didn’t you learned that we should not judge people by the color of our skin, but by the content of character. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not die in vain. Listen to all 3 videos and see what has changed.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFPwDe22CoY

www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRIF4_WzU1w

www.hark.com/clips/hhfghhbkmw-content-of-their-character
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NYC

Insightful Article!

#2 Bachra Mary » 2014-02-16 08:25

Very good article...as a matter of fact a number of persons were so "ashamed" of their colour and heritage, that they would often change their names to European sounding names - all be it because they thought a European sounding name would allow for more "doors" to be opened for them!

Interesting to see how this plays out in Trinidad!
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Bachra Mary

MLK - Not skin colour but character

#1 Blogger » 2014-02-16 07:46

I would like Mr. Hinds email address to have a nice dialog with him about skin colour.
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Blogger

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Sir Ronald Sanders

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on Small States in the global community.

 

 

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