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MASTER’S VOICE: Ms De Verteuil’s racist reasoning justifies criminalising blacks

“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:

Photo: Protest in La Brea. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian/Rishi Ragoonath)
Photo: Protest in La Brea.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian/Rishi Ragoonath)

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.

Photo: A depiction of slaves serving their masters in Trinidad. (Courtesy Netssa.com)
Photo: A depiction of slaves serving their masters in Trinidad.
(Courtesy Netssa.com)

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.

Photo: Fernand Louis Joseph Marie De Verteuil. Nationality: Trinidad/Martinique Rank: Surgeon Regiment/Service: Royal Navy Unit (Her Majesty's Service).
Photo: Fernand Louis Joseph Marie De Verteuil.
Nationality: Trinidad/Martinique Rank: Surgeon Regiment/Service: Royal Navy Unit (Her Majesty’s Service).

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.

Photo: Police apprehend a young man in Los Angeles. (Copyright Channel4.com)
Photo: Police apprehend a young man in Los Angeles.
(Copyright Channel4.com)

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.

About Corey Gilkes

Corey Gilkes is a self-taught history reader whose big mouth forever gets his little tail in trouble. He lives in La Romaine and is working on four book projects. He has a blog on https://coreygilkes.wordpress.com/blog/ and http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/. Vitriol can be emailed to him at coreygks@gmail.com.

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123 comments

  1. It’s called “Cognitive Dissonance.” This attitude isn’t new and won’t be going away anytime soon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Zsh8NMweY

  2. Well said Corey Gilkes. Very well said indeed.

  3. Ricardo Hamilton another one.

  4. They justified criminalizing the”Red Indians” too in their one sided cowboys and Indians movies.They stole their lands and the lands of their Mexican neighbours and have continued to treat these native people with contempt.

  5. By the way, not all of the people with French surnames came with the settlers who were plantation owners. All the Louisons I know here came for example as part of the exodus from Martinique after the Mount Pelee volcano eruption. We are by vast majority the children of slaves impregnated by the French, therefore ‘black’ – at least all those I was able to know about.

    These Louisons split into quite a few factions across St. Lucia, Grenada and Trinidad, maybe more islands but I haven’t gotten behind that yet.

    The only reason my father was lighter skinned was because his father (a mixed man who one would call black), married a Portuguese woman who was then more or less disowned from the rest of her family (except when they needed her of course, running away from their sometimes vile husbands).

    Everyone has to remember that both black and white people had hard times; not every white person was rich or came to take advantage of blacks; some white people came as poor and as indentured slaves.

    I personally, being the lightest of my parent’s children and being more Carib than anything else DO NOT appreciate black children calling me a white woman. Okay.

  6. The bittersweet irony remains that the Father of the Nation was a super-disruptive scholar and activist…

  7. There are some very knowledgeable people on this thread- thanks for prompting the discussion Wired868. The thing is the historical head-start has been maintained with our participation and is now structural. How you changing that?

  8. I think “r de verteuil” never wrote this. Most likely was written by a shit stirrer

  9. Interesting topic.There is no easy way to broach this topic in a country that engages in an imaginative game of racial tolerance. In this country it is not uncommon to hear that an individual is ‘too black’ to be the Prime Minister. I am in concurrence with the contributions of Naette Yoko Lee, particularly, ”What that lady wrote is nothing new. We have always known that people in Trinidad held those views. We know who they are. We interact with them. But it is not polite to tell them to their faces, so we tell them on Facebook. HR managers bend to the pressure to hire people who look the part. Our colourism allows Venezuelans to flood the country and wind up in the most unlikely positions but Nigerians and Ghanaians get deported en masse. The whole country revolts against MacFarlane but perpetuates the attitudes and behaviour that his costumes represent. Black people in this country continue to make a distinction between “red” people and people of darker complexions. Television stations still encourage anchors to straighten their hair. Tourism videos have more light skin than anything else. But then we are bombarded with the “all ah we is one family” and if you disagree in polite company, you are branded as a racist. We have been going around and around in circles with this issue since the early 1900s. My argument, at least one of them, is that system requires participation.”

  10. I don’t think Naette wants us to forget. She wants us to do something about it actually.
    The question is just about what represents a good starting point for action.

  11. Ms Naette do you think that you can go on a Jewish thread and tell them to stop hunting the Auschwitz guards who are in their 90’s and who they insist must face the courts.The jews still want their money , paintings and other valuables ? As a matter of fact go right now and tell them to forget the Holocaust ,come back here and let us know what happens .

  12. I see Corey Gilkes tell R de Verteuil to fuck sheself too.

  13. Excellent … and thank you for also mentioning the indigenous peoples.

  14. Why is De Verteuil getting airtime anyway? Racists don’t deserve any attention.

  15. The syrians , local whites , chinese hell even the russians who are here have their meetings to discuss matters of mutual interest and i have no way of knowing what is being discussed . Take your time and you will see whats happening . Attend David Muhammad’s lecture at nalis on sunday morning or join the CLUof T&T.

  16. There is a movement happening right now that you may not be aware of Ms Lee .

  17. For those who prefer to listen, the entire book is read out in parts on youtube. Our situation is a mere microcosm of a much larger phenom..
    https://www.amazon.com/Destruction-Black-Civilization-Issues-D/dp/0883780305

  18. I really don’t want to get involved becuase it appears that several people in this thread know everything about everything and that never ends well. But I am absolutely fascinated by the lack of intropsection. Trinidad is not in a petri dish on a shelf somewhere to be looked at. We are all a part of the society that we are diagnosing. More to the point, we actively uphold the system of oppression, however we deem that system to be constructed and to operate. It cannot function without us. The perpetuation of that misguided woman’s ideas require a critical mass of subscribers. And even if we aren’t actively participating, we know someone who is. More than likely, we participate passively (if you doubt this you are probably one of the more active participants). It is not about which history is right as much as it is about the insidious ways in which all the versions conspire to keep us in denial about how we keep them alive. That is how hegemony works. It recreates itself in ways that diguise its true nature. It would really be helpful if we looked at ourselves with the aim of figuring out how bias is at work in our own lives. Without some degree of reflexivity, the evangelical ranting serves little purpose. #throwsshovelfromthegraveshehasdugherself

    • Interesting comment. It follows a particular logic that I think upon deeper consideration may be flawed. It’s like the FIX ME campaign. The campaign was flawed and never worked in part because it never dealt with systemic issues or rather it tried to attack a systemic complex problem with a me-first solution. I would suggest that fixing me first was actually not the problem – as it assumes that we seem to know what is best in all circumstances when as human beings we do not and cannot shift systems in isolation, despite our best efforts. Also your first statement perpetuates the very point or claim you want to attack, or maybe it was to inoculate against possible criticism (who knows?) – that several people know everything, but then you claim that no one is really introspective but you are. These issues we’re discussing are deeply psychological, complex and social, and are inevitably reproduced because bit bit people do subconscious things to get ahead, and cannot be erased by mere introspection as we’re all in the rat race and in order to make change – we have to get to a point to influence things. The best revolutions have been achieved due to collective action and collective analysis or fed-upness about the state of affairs. Mine was a simple comment about the logic or claim you seem to be making.

    • I never claimed to be more anything than anyone. Keston K. Perry. I just observed something and I suspect that if asked, most people would not be able to point to an instance in which they uphold the very set of ideas they are criticising. But they must. Hegemonic logic is not hegemonic unless it affects enough people with enough force that it dictates the way things are or are not. I am not against analysis or unearthing the systemic issues or discussion. But having had this same discussion so many times, over so many years and hearing the different people at different times say the same thing, I guess I am not prepared to enter it at the level where I expect to change anything. Trinidad and Tobago’s systemic race issues have less to do with history and more to do with psychology and economics. But today is Sunday. Have a good one.

    • ..And the psychology and history to call up ate not rooted in history? The letter from the good lady, and your comments, reek of elitist self-righteousness. History cannot be denied or revised. The “man in the mirror” fantasy provides no solution to our current problems, which have deep and abiding roots in a history created by the good lady’s forebears..

    • A forum like this allows people the chance to stress test ideas and thrash out perceptions. When we get to a more enlightened state due to our exchange of ideas, it is up to the individual to put his or her improved ideas to work.
      How exactly does cutting out the thinking/sharpening ideas bit improve things?
      A clear idea without an action might be frustrating–although I don’t know why you’re assuming that’s what is happening here.
      But an action without a clear idea is dangerous.

    • Me? Elitist? You are very funny. Introspection is not a solution. But arguments and strategies are useless if they are not reflexive. It is ill advised to assume that I am not pepared to debate your point because I choose to raise another.

    • Naette Yoko Lee that’s my very point about the FIX ME campaign – people are unwilling to point to flaws in themselves but are quick to blame others for theirs. And ditto wrt to Keith Look Loy’s point – economics and psychology are historical outcomes of various practices over many decades and centuries. So saying it’s one without looking at the other – misses the point altogether. Maybe you think you’re here and your frame of mind are based on what you did and learnt only today but I think it may be more than that.

    • Lasana Liburd the problem is the discussion we have here is only individual… I don’t know this type of engagement happens at a different level. I would implore that we take arguments towards their logical ends…as sometimes ppl may unfortunately present a point for a reaction and not for serious consideration.

    • I have a degree in history. I understand that it is important. I understand that it is the foundation. But there will be no consensus on what is the right history. That is not how knowledge is accumulated. There will always be opposing views. As such arguing about who is right and how history has been rewritten is really a useless exercise. I never argued for the FIX ME campaign. What I said is that a huge part of the problem is that most of us are participants in the system that we are condemning, regardless of what view of history we take. And understanding this is useful if we are going to develop any kind of real strategy.

    • . I have one too. Diagreement about the interpretation of historical evolution is always possible. There can be no disagreement that colonial white Trinidad was built on slavery and the exploitation of black and Indian people, which process placed the former at historical disadvantage. So-called “objectivity” in the interpretation of History is a cop out..

    • Naette Yoko Lee how does change happen and what is the source of change? I would ask. I don’t think it happens with one-off discussions or even several isolated discussions that we throw up our hands about because we heard it before. But is part of a cumulative process. A frustrating process at times. One that is riddled with truth and untruths. 1970 in T&T did not happen because of what people felt in 1969 — but because of discussions that occurred since the 1930s. We might be frustrated because our discussions actually do not translate into political platforms or policy directives but what are we doing to make it so happen, or is that the change we want? Or, we may be frustated because our democracy is actually not really a democracy, but an oligarchy with elections, and outsiders cannot influence very much. Have we thought about that? Re FIX ME, perhaps I construct arguments differently – I make a point and then I give an example — was not saying one person said this or argued that. I just think examples help illustrate what someone is saying, and that’s why I thought I would give the FIX ME example.

    • Lasana Liburd What that lady wrote is nothing new. We have always known that people in Trinidad held those views. We know who they are. We interact with them. But it is not polite to tell them to their faces, so we tell them on Facebook. HR managers bend to the pressure to hire people who look the part. Our colourism allows Venezuelans to flood the country and wind up in the most unlikely positions but Nigerians and Ghanaians get deported en masse. The whole country revolts against MacFarlane but perpetuates the attitudes and behaviour that his costumes represent. Black people in this country continue to make a distinction between “red” people and people of darker complexions. Television stations still encourage anchors to straighten their hair. Tourism videos have more light skin than anything else. But then we are bombarded with the “all ah we is one family” and if you disagree in polite company, you are branded as a racist. We have been going around and around in circles with this issue since the early 1900s. My argument, at least one of them, is that system requires participation.

    • Keith Look Loy I don’t disagree with you. I do not know why you would think that I would.

    • ..I don’t think anything other than!what I think. NOT because of you..

    • Keith Look Loy who said you needed anything?

    • ..Sorry. Sorry. Let’s keep on the topic..

    • Alas Keston K. Perry I don’t think it is going to change. At least not in the way you many want. It will be altered yes but different rules, same game.

    • Why is this discussion being had now? Is it because of what Ms De Verteuil believes or is it part and parcel of what is currently occurring in our society. I am an academic and cannot help but make observations that may seem clinical and I’m off island so perhaps it is moot. But I think these discussions are happening because of our economic situation — Ms de Verteuil is having a problem whatever that may be — crime has been a serious problem for the past 30 years. But our economy has been growing since 1993 and since 2009 been contracting – the economics is not divorced from the social or the political or the racist comments, as each group and people try to make claim on dwindling resources and a smaller pie….. these incidents are not isolated.

    • Keston K. Perry Alot of business people are in a bind . Believe it !

    • Keston K. Perry A more interesting question is why is this discussion being had here (and potentially nowhere else)?

    • Naette Yoko Lee my hope is that it is happening elsewhere and at different levels but I presume their concerns are very different. lol a very different type of discussion may be happening within inner circles where deals are struck. But the different tenor or character of discussion may have to do with the gated communities and our insulated politicians.

    • Naette, I agree with your comment on the tv stations and about such convos happening before and leading nowhere. But be careful not to generalise.
      I don’t have a history degree and I actually learned some things on this thread. So give it a bligh for my sake at least. Lol.
      Like I said, it might seem frustrating. But nothing will happen without consensus and a clear idea that people can get behind.
      Don’t discourage the discussion. Just help us turn it into action if you have the ideas to do so. 😉

  19. This reminds me of the KFC franchisee (Chairman of Prestige Holdings) who was asked by a reporter: when are you going to start promoting local/ T&T brands instead of international ones? He replied that at the moment they are only interested in these international brands (because it requires too much work to build a local brand and in the short term we just wnt to enrich ourselves). My emphasis.

  20. When someone tries to present this false idea that it was merely their own hard work and family values that made them a success, you know they are full of sh*t and entirely narcissistic.

    NOBODY does it alone. We exist in a society, with social systems, with a culture, with prejudices. In my dad’s time nobody with his complexion could be a front teller in a bank. It did not make him any less intelligent (he was a National Scholarship winner and Naps boy alum) or any less hardworking or from a strict family with strict values. Even when he returned to Trinidad and Tobago with advanced degrees from a French university he STILL had to contend with the “color grading” situation in the professional world. As a short, very black man he watched lesser qualified but well connected and lighter skinned people get promoted ahead of him because they “looked the part” and he ended up doing their work for them. It took him far longer to get the same level of professional success than it took others and he had to put up with a LOT OF BULLSHIT. Things that would make him come home angry and frustrated.

    Yes, eventually our family did rise out of a working class scheme to a middle class lifestyle but we did not do it alone. To boast it was only our hard work is to be arrogant. Nope. Others helped. We had luck on our side. The system yielded some fairness and breaks eventually. There were many who worked just as hard and did not make it. There would be times my dad would point out a vagrant on the road and tell me, “I went to school with him. Bright, talented young man, even more potential than me. He just could not cope with the injustice and unfairness. It broke him and he just dropped out of the rat race.”

    Everyone has their breaking point. Everyone has their limit of misfortune. Those who look down on those who become beaten down in spirit, mind and body are not people to look up to at all.

  21. This country has always and continues to bestow special allowances on small well placed minorities who enjoy proximity for one resson or the other to the current center of power. A recent example of such is the use of the Queens Park Savanah as a parking lot for the patrons of a particular nightspot.
    Those people parking there do not do so to procure geera pork, snowcone or oysters.

  22. We must always resist the urge to believe the nonsense about being “self-made” for starters. I have no big money friends, family name or access to significant start-up money or bank loans… And yet Wired868 has benefitted so much from mostly unpaid help and advice from others that it might not be here today otherwise.
    Who really drags him or herself up without a helping hand? I’d like to meet that person to tell him he is a damn liar. Lol.

  23. The history I learned was taught me in secondary school, so it was taught.

  24. Should I await a follow up response from Ms De Verteuil?

  25. This gonna get ugly…let me collect my thoughts.

  26. Ms De Verteuil simply expressing the views of the poor whites ,Irish and others who were deported to the caribbean ,after rebellion with Oliver Cromwell,they still live in some isolated communities in some caribbean countries,the petit Blancs of Martinique ,access to capital is what limited former african slaves to invest ,i find it very disturbing that lazy and indolent being levelled at the people from behind the Bridge .please white privilege do not justify or attempt to justify that,what we fought for in the 1970s has been eroded .

  27. There are many who still think like this. Unfortunately a lot of it has to do with lack of knowledge and age old belief that blacks are lazy.

  28. That is one scary letter…. I knew this train of thought/belief still exists. To see it expressed in black and white….

  29. Hmmm its tough for me to process de Verteuil’s letter. I originally began to read it and then stopped midway. Its hard for me to accept that some people really have this worldview but as someone else said on this post many folk share this perspective; this argument that “I am , where I am because I worked hard so all you have to do is work hard” I cannot see how some folk just fail to appreciate the historical, systemic subjugation of certain communities. The scholarship on East Port of Spain is very convincing in painting this picture; maybe if we taught this in our history class Ms. de Verteuil might have penned a different letter.

  30. I expect an insincere apology from Mrs. De Verteuil, a retraction, an insistence that she was misinterpreted, a glowing reminder of the many contributions of Africans to the development of this land and a mentioning of how many Afro-Trinis she respects and is proud to call friends.

  31. The sad part is that their are successful blacks that think the same way as De verteuil .

  32. Haha- except Keston Perry maybe.

  33. I’m willing to bet that noone will write the conclusion to all this discussion. If there’s been a historic imbalance, and we are where we are, shouldn’t it be corrected? Terrifying all of this is.

    • love you. just masturbation endless is all.

    • I think the conversation is healthy. But our notions of time and what can be achieved needs perspective… many are frustrated but they often fall into the unresponsible groups of people — Best used to say. We complain and complain but call for a meeting or a discussion, and who shows up? Nadda. We have cultivated an unresponsible middle class as much as our elite are unresponsible and doh business once their pockets are lined.

  34. Nice response but is the author suggesting that misogyny is solely a European construct?

  35. How do you first justify the oppression of African descended peoples many of whom had/have/ were born with nothing/very little by suggesting the little crumbs they may get (CEPEP, URP, MYLATT whatever) is freeness (whether as a form of patronage) and then say that Mrs de Verteuil’s view is wrong? Sounds somewhat contradictory to me. Why are we afraid to say that the system itself is rigged and that it furthers the actions and status quo from which the elites most benefit? And call out our elites for the the freeness/ favours from the state they continue to receive in different forms?