TT has issues of racism, the Prime Minister said on Saturday, but he hopes the country can learn from what is happening to the US and other places that were reacting to the police killing of an African American man.
Dr Rowley compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the 1970 Black Power Movement where the conversation of racism reached TT from Canada, and young people marched on the streets, forcing the government to respond.
He said TT should not distance itself from what was happening in the US. He said while TT and the Caribbean were multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural, “we too have the perils of what we are seeing in North America.”
He acknowledged that over the years people have tried to get away from “the horrors” racism, “subscribe to a higher calling,” and accept that everyone was God’s people and had inherent rights. However, he said, the fight for those rights was a continuous one.
“The fear that we have is that there seems to be a new normal that is developing where the higher values that we thought we were ascribing to and the gains that we were making could be so easily lost. And here in TT we too have our issues of racism. And this is a time when we should follow the entreaties of our elders, when your brother’s house is on fire, you wet yours," he said during a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's
“Fortunately we have made sufficient progress, I believe, to bolster us and protect us from the most vulgar of what we’re seeing on the outside today. But let us not for one minute believe that we are insulated from that or it does not apply to us.”
Rowley was responding to protests which began on May 26 and eventually spread across the US after the killing of George Floyd, 46, the day before by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Police and the US National Guard have used tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and force against demonstrators, who are of all races.
Policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face-down in the street and saying that he could not breathe. At the same time, two other officers knelt on Floyd’s back, while another kept people away from the scene. The officers were fired the next day and Chauvin was eventually charged with second-degree murder and the other three with abetting the crime.
There were solidarity protests in TT this week, as well as backlash on social media against several business owners and a footballer who championed the All Live Matter cause, which is seen as a dismissal of the Black Lives Matter call to recognise the systemic and violent racism of blacks in the US. The US Ambassador issued two statements of solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters.