Dear Editor: Birchall, Aboud, Sohan and Hunt are rubbing our faces in their disregard

The 25th of May 2020 will forever be etched on my mind. Because that was the day that we all saw how little the lives of Black people meant to those in power. A day that many of us will not forget.

A man sworn to ‘protect and serve’, openly murdered a black human in cold blood. No one dared to intervene—one brave videographer, a young black woman, is now under threat for recording it. Unbelievable.

Photo: Tony L Clark holds a photo of George Floyd outside the Cup Food convenience store on 28 May 2020 in Minneapolis.
Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died Monday in police custody near the convenience store. (Copyright Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)

From the start I always understood what was meant by ‘Black Lives Matter’. That statement never suggested that other lives did not—it was created amidst a growing list of black men who were unarmed and sometimes handcuffed, yet still killed.

It was therefore necessary as a reminder to our collective communities, that our lives (also) mattered. It was never exclusionary, but a plea for our inclusion. Every blind jackass in a hurry understood that plea!

In Trinidad and Tobago, I have never believed in the idea of ‘tolerance’. As such, I always challenged our national watchwords (discipline, tolerance and production). I do not simply want to be tolerated.

The idea that we ‘take each other in allowable amounts’, never sat well with me. That idea was good for the time of independence, when our leader was easing us into the acceptance that our Trinidad and Tobago community was made up of many creeds and races.

But our education system has not kept pace and is archaic and irrelevant—not teaching us anything about the histories and stories of those we live and grow around. Dianne Hunt, Michelle Sohan and Michael Aboud are products of this system.

Chris Birchall also put his ignorance in full view. Clearly his T&T parentage brought him no benefits.

Photo: Starlite managing director Gerald Aboud.

Birchall, Aboud, Sohan and Hunt (The BASH Group) are our new symbols of prejudice and bigotry.

The parallels between Minneapolis and Port of Spain are interesting and demonstrate how the prejudices can become ‘systemic’. In Minneapolis, a black police officer, Alexander Kueng, aided senior officer Derek Chauvin. In Port of Spain, Hunt said that the hurtful words were written by one of her black junior staff.

That is not an accident. Both Kueng and the young waitress may have felt that they had to comply with the bias of their seniors. Systemisation of prejudice! To further complicate the issue in TT, add classism and colourism.

The BASH group are very privileged individuals, which further amplifies the magnitude of their dangerous ignorance. Ignorant, insensitive people with privilege are a threat to persons everywhere.

Amy Cooper showed us how privilege works, weaponising her whiteness as she called the police on a man simply because he was black and, more importantly, she white. While we were pining about brother George Floyd, our Trinbagonian nationals were bashing our black community, telling us exactly where we stood in their consciousness—while we lime together and merely ‘tolerate’ each other.

There is no excuse they can offer. In a land of water (access to information), only a fool is thirsty.

Photo: Bakery Treatz owner and ‘all lives matter’ advocate Michelle Sohan.

So, their apologies ring hollow and, as I have read and re-read them, they do not reflect an understanding of why people are angry.

I am angry—terribly angry about George Floyd. I see his face each day I shave. And Birchall, Aboud, Sohan and Hunt, just rubbed our faces further into the ground.

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About Brian Harry

Brian Harry
Brian Harry is a former CEO of TIDCO, who now lives and works in Texas. He is a consultant whose areas of specialisation include corporate development and strategy and organizational development, in the Energy, Hospitality and Financial Services Sectors.

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