THE EDITOR: The Oreo issue has generated much passionate comment for and against and in-between, but I don’t see why it has created such a furore, since it is a manifestation of who we really are as a people.
The antipathy between Indians and Africans is historical with freed blacks becoming suspicious of incoming indentures who they feared would have compromised their bargaining rights with the planter class.
From then, the “division” between the two races assumed various forms with blacks being more urban and drawn to the civil service and Indians rural and basically agricultural.
Much acculturation and interchange would have taken place amidst this division as seen in douglarisation, chutney soca, doubles as a national dish as much as Carnival has its fair share of Indians, inter alia.
But the most poignant manifestation of this division is the race-based party politics which has emerged since independence with the PNM drawing its support mainly from Africans and the UNC, East Indians.
Notwithstanding our national anthem and all the talk of unity, this division in the politics is gospel, for it suits the leaders who rely on the tribe to secure power and so too the tribe playing the same game to fill their pockets. So it should be no surprise when an incident is given a racial slant as a way of maintaining the status quo.
Case in point is the Oreo “scandal” with the expected black connotation because of the colour, but it is instructive to see how the focus on Oreo is derogatory black, when the total cookie as black with a white filling could be regarded as a clear message, indeed a poignant metaphor, if not of Uncle Tomism of that famous book, of the powers that be in the pockets of the white oligarchy.
Much can be made of this latter interpretation as regards the impending closure of the Petrotrin refinery, for its workers are being placed on the breadline as against the widely held perception of rich investors being at the bottom of the restructuring, but this perspective is lost against the charge of the Opposition Leader being racist.
Which brings to mind the yellow sari skit at the PNM’s family day. One can see it as fun appropriate to the occasion, but the yellow sari being stripped off what seems to be a depiction of the Leader of the Opposition is given a racist connotation, carried further to a point of being regarded as mockery of the unravelling of Draupadi in the Mahabarata, when it could have been seen, like the Oreo, as the cut and thrust of our racist politics.
The latter is plausible, for the organisers of the skit, even the Prime Minister himself, had no knowledge of the religious reference to the Hindu holy book.
Our race-based politics is the breeding ground for all manner of insensitivity, and even as the PM for the Oreo remark or the Opposition Leader for the yellow sari skit may feel offended, they in the long run must bear full responsibility for such occurrences.
DR ERROL N BENJAMIN via e-mail