Ridiculing ethnic name is offensive

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

THE EDITOR: The Kamla-Camille imbroglio has dominated the media over the last several days.

It is the most-talked-about personality political conflict not only in Trinidad and Tobago but in the diaspora as well and in other Caribbean territories.

Robinson-Regis poked fun at the middle name of Persad-Bissessar. This was offensive to all Indians and embodies racism. In sociology, it is called racial micro-aggression – the hurling of negative slights toward people of another group.

All must decry such acts of racist behaviour. Poking fun or seeking to ridicule Kamla's name is wrong. It is no different from ridiculing my name.

There is no doubt that Robinson-Regis was and is responsible for initiating this uncalled-for verbal spat. The public feels it was deliberate. What was she thinking when she ridiculed Kamla’s authentic traditional Hindu name?

Was it deliberate in order to stir up the ethnic base at a time when supporters are losing confidence in her government? Should she be reprimanded? Why haven’t her party and the media condemned her and urged her to apologise? In another country, she would have been forced to resign from office.

I have spoken with many individuals – Indians, Africans, mixed, Trinis and Tobagonians – on the Kamla-Camille spat. Almost unanimously, they have condemned Camille.

Kamla, fittingly did not take it lying down. She "giveth" as she "taketh." Few blamed Kamla for her response. However, she responded very inappropriately.

“You have the name of your slave master.”

Hindu names are assigned from the scriptures after parental or family consultation with a pundit although not all Hindus follow the practice. So Hindus would have a legal name and a "call or rassi name."

Indian names and their faiths (Hinduism and Islam) were historically laughed at ever since they arrived in Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, Grenada, and elsewhere. This caused many to change their names as well as their Hindu (and Islamic) faith.

That was a bygone era. It is unfortunate that Robinson-Regis brings it up again when it appeared dead. It is regrettable that she should still hold a colonial mindset 60 years after independence to ridicule Indian names. We must eschew such behavior.

Indian, like African (from Africa) and Asian names are heritage-linked. African names are beautiful – such as Kwame, Oheene, Kwayana, Mbutu, Ogunseye, Apata, Obama, etc.

I am most disappointed by Robinson-Regis' behaviour; she is among the most liked within her party and seen as a potential successor to Dr Rowley, should he not seek a third term. That she would debase her public standing and roll in the gutter has shocked many, including myself.

While Kamla is not wrong (historically accurate) to say that Camille has a slave name, in this era, it is inappropriate to say someone has retained the name of a slave master.


Via e-mail


"Ridiculing ethnic name is offensive"

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