The Eurocentric psyche

Camille Robinson-Regis - SUREASH CHOLAI
Camille Robinson-Regis - SUREASH CHOLAI

THE EDITOR: In the explosive Kamla versus Camille competition for most beautiful name (ancestral versus slave master) Eurocentrism emerges as a major incubator of Afro-Trinidadian/Tobagonian perception of beauty, a condition that Zaire addressed by decree:

All Zaireans (formerly Congolese) must dispense with Christian and western names and return to their ancestral ones.

The Zairean president immediately acted upon his decree. He took the name Mobutu Sese Seko Ngbendu Wa Zabanga.

What a beautiful name, one that means the all-conquering warrior who will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.

No one disputes the violence, brutality perpetrated against Africans during the Atlantic slave trade. Certainly, the treatment meted out to “Toby” in a scene from the TV series Roots is illustrative.

The question is, however, that today, despite his freedom from chains and floggings, why does Toby (not his real name) adamantly cling to his European name while laughing at the name of his esteemed Tobago countryman, Olokun Igbaro (deceased Yoruba prince)?

Toby recently presented a video that showed the ordeal of his name change, the apparent answer to why he refuses to return to his ancestral name.

The PNM Women’s League provides a peek into the reason for Toby’s non-name change. The league says, “Kamla Susheila Persad-Bissessar, your given name is not ‘more beautiful’ than Camille RoseMarie Robinson-Regis.”

Beauty, it appears, is the issue at hand. But beauty is in the eye (mind) of the beholder. Thus one explanation to the Women’s League retort is that the league perceives beauty through a European lens.

In other words, members of the PNM Women’s League have a Eurocentric view of themselves, and that includes party supporters who laughed derisively each time the name Kamla Susheila Persad-Bissessar was called.

For the Afro-Trinidadian/Tobagonian supporters of the PNM, the name Camille RoseMarie Robinson-Regis is the most beautiful of the two names.

Apparently Toby, too, has a European-programmed psyche and image of himself. For what reason is the name-block that causes him to retain his European name while mocking others who change to African names?

Kunta Kinte, the original Toby, was kidnapped at age 17 and enslaved in America. Yes, his body surrendered to physical defeat, but his spirit, his mind remained untouched. He was an African whose psyche had been programmed on his tabula rasa, the blank tablet of his budding mind, by his ancestral world, Africa.

Unfortunately, the psyche of today’s Toby is configured by Eurocentric institutions, programmes that subconsciously motivate him to consciously act like a white man while wearing the burden of black skin. And it was those European programmes which pushed him to disrespect Prince Olokun Igbaro and call him a conomoonoo.

Trinis dislike what we deem ugly. “What is joke for schoolchildren is death for crapaud,” the grandmaster of calypso, Kitchener, sang.

But what is it about crapaud that brought a sentence of death to him? Schoolchildren say kill him because if he pee in your eye he will blind you. But is it not more likely that the reason for crapaud’s death sentence is his executioner’s self-hate, that is to say, “crapaud look too dark and ugly.” If not, then why kill crapaud when all he does is eat mosquito?

The unforgettable Lord Melody sang, “I wonder why nobody don’t like me, or is it the fact that I am ugly?”

Is it the victim’s ugliness perceived by a black man through a European lens the same reason why a black gunman, without mercy, lack of empathy, pumps 12 bullets into a brother; the ugly crapaud who looks just like him?

Is self-hate, black inferiority created for the purpose of prosecuting the Atlantic slave trade for profit, the cause of today’s murderous black-on-black rampage?

The Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) dropped the ball. In this crucial debate on the creation and rehabilitation of an African consciousness, presumably the organisation’s raison d'etre, all it could muster was a weak exhortation, a call for “sensitive cultural issues to be left out of the political arena.”

African liberation in the New World is fraught with difficulties. The international media and churches, the major institutions programming psyches, young minds especially, are mostly controlled by Europeans for Europeans.

Thus, if Afro-Trinis are to overcome the historical effects of Eurocentrism, they must actively work at countering its impact on the psyche. A return to one’s ancestral name is just a beginning.

And (looking at you Presbyterians), “…any priest found guilty of giving Zairean children Christian names during baptism shall receive a five-year jail term.” So ordered Mobutu Sese Seko Ngbendu Wa Zabanga.


via e-mail


"The Eurocentric psyche"

More in this section