Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where were the grannies and old tanties?

As a proud Trinbagonian, I was most embarrassed to read Danielle Comma’s response of September 6 headlined “Do not throw stones”, to Ralph Camacho’s letter, “It’s not an issue of race, DOMA”. 

     Fancying herself speaking from a position of insightful detachment, Ms Comma wishes to “enlighten” those who would have expected those Beetham residents participating in last week’s violent demonstrations to exercise the same degree of personal responsibility for their actions as the rest of us.

No, says Ms Comma. They are not like the rest of us. Their lives have been harder, rife with poverty and despair. 

In other words, they may have looked like the aggressors last week, but they are really only the victims. From this it follows that the recalcitrant Beetham protesters, already feared by a Police Service too impotent to arrest even those who would open fire on uniformed officers, must be given a wide berth.

In fact, I did not have the experience of being raised in Beetham. But if I did, would it have been such a great misfortune? I do not know this for a fact. 

I myself have met many residents from Beetham and other so-called “distressed communities” who were proud of where they were from. I have met residents who unreservedly enjoy a hand-to-mouth lifestyle that I might not choose for myself. 

For these reasons, I do not believe it is any more unfortunate to be born and bred in Beetham than it is good fortune to be born in one of those areas where pockets are fatter and complexions fairer. My experience is that a man is not defined by where he is born, but how he conducts himself, given the hand he is dealt.

The transition from a child to an adult involves learning that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to ask for things. So, too, being a mature member of civil society means seeking redress for grievances in a way that does not harm other citizens. 

All grown men and woman know this, so it behooves us not to regard violent protesters as petulant children who must be coddled by a Police Service armed with padded gloves. 

Where were the supposed community leaders, the grandmothers and old tanties whose job it is to harmonise relations within the community, to instil the right values in the youth? We have seen pictures of what those old tanties were doing at the time of the violence, and they are not pretty.

But let us not call those helpless who refuse to help themselves. To perpetuate this national fallacy that the residents of the Beetham were born with less bread than the rest of us and so are entitled to be more wajang than the rest of us, is to feed the national Beethamphobia which infects many of our citizens and foments a self-image of victimhood among the very black boys who we should be trying to make into better citizens. 

Indeed, in seeing what she calls “the realities (of) young, impoverished Afro men” as an excuse for bad behaviour, Ms Comma reveals herself to be a vector of the same social disease whose symptoms are the very kinds of scenes like those which played out last week.

 J. Nathaniel

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