“Nothing from Ms De Verteuil about her forbears being given parcels of land by the Cedula; no mention of the vagrancy laws passed by the colonial administrators influenced by the merchant elites—including De Verteuils—to force Africans back to the plantations and other laws aimed at preventing Africans from pooling resources to buy out estates as the Guyanese co-operatives did.
“No linking of today’s crime and unproductivity to the herding of these Africans and later Indians into barrack yard slums and keeping these “communities” in states of poverty and dependency except to manipulate them for votes and violence—a practice that carried over into our own time period.”
The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Wired868 by Corey Gilkes of La Romaine, in response to a letter by R De Verteuil:
I appreciate R De Verteuil condemning the lecherous gazes and sexually harassing catcalls she and untold numbers of women are subjected to every day across this country. I definitely appreciate her speaking out against the unambitious behaviour of many of our nation’s youths, particularly those from Laventille and other parts of eastern Port of Spain. That culture of freeness that has been allowed to fester and grow deeply irks me too.
But what irks me more and what I don’t appreciate is Ms De Verteuil doing so using the same historically selective, romanticised, racist reasoning that has been used to justify criminalising black youth behaviour by Europeans and Euro-Americans—even today.
I do not blame her for that—although I will blame the educated elites who internalised that racist mindset and since 1962 joined the old elites to do almost nothing to seriously deconstruct how this society was developed.
But then the name De Verteuil indicates someone from a group with a long history of insulation from the rest of society that they’ve viewed as existing principally to produce “wealth by the many for the few” as Professor David Trotman who examined crime in 19th century Trinidad puts it.
Her claim that her forbears came here penniless, fleeing the revolution in France, which apparently was soooo democratic and egalitarian under the King, and built themselves up by the sweat of their brows was very instructive.
She spoke glowingly about “the first settlers—the pioneers who cleared the land and planted” and then jumped forward to those “who came here later and settled in Central and South Trinidad worked hard, ate flour and water, channa, pumpkin, potato and bodi—to educate their children and teach them the value of hard work and sacrifice.”
Amazing how a few words instantly erased the Africans who were enslaved and brought here and who also sacrificed and educated themselves. What about the First Peoples who were here before everyone else and were almost completely wiped out?
Amazing that, her words, (un)consciously(?) conjuring up the image of lazy black people, are almost identical to what I read from a 19th century English woman, AC Carmichael, who then went on to condemn these lazy blacks for working their own land, growing and selling crops; and if allowed to, would work every day even on Sunday!!!
Nothing from Ms De Verteuil about her forbears being given parcels of land by the Cedula; no mention of the vagrancy laws passed by the colonial administrators influenced by the merchant elites—including De Verteuils—to force Africans back to the plantations and other laws aimed at preventing Africans from pooling resources to buy out estates as the Guyanese co-operatives did.
No linking of today’s crime and unproductivity to the herding of these Africans and later Indians into barrack yard slums and keeping these “communities” in states of poverty and dependency, except to manipulate them for votes and violence—a practice that carried over into our own time period.
Incidentally, Ms De Verteuil, even the lecherous sooting you rightfully detest comes from a cultural attitude brought here by your forbears and the British.
It was they who viewed and treated women as sex objects and the purveyors of sin; all Christianity—the religion they used to convey it—did was to cloak it in a mantle of divine authority. These are all part of the tainted legacy Helon Francis sang about.
It would be interesting for her to compare the works of Professor Ramesh Deosaran (2016) to what was written in the Moyne Commission (1938). But then to do that would be to study real history and abandon the idea that citing past injustices is just looking for excuses.
I agree that there must be personal responsibility, as some callers to i95.5FM keep saying. But there are too many self-righteous, insulated people thinking as Ms De Verteuil does. This includes many in law enforcement, Parliament and even in the depressed communities.
Earl Lovelace once said that the story of Laventille is a long continuing story of broken promises and a selective application of the “law.” People like Ms De Verteuil, however, will religiously ignore the fact that for a great many communities in this country, the legal system never had anything to do with justice.
If we are to make the people here more productive and disciplined, we have to have a more honest understanding of how we arrived at this sorry and dangerous state.