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Dear Editor: Racist, dehumanising language and militarised approach to crime will make things worse

“There’s no serious analysis of the observation—that even the Acting Commissioner of Police once made—that ‘crime’ is as much a social issue as it is a law-enforcement/security issue.

“No, it’s easier to use words like ‘pest’ and ‘cockroaches’, strip the criminalised elements of their humanity—which they themselves often do as well, since they’ve also internalised these ultimately racist terms—and so approve of whatever heavy-handed approach security forces employ.”

The following Letter to the Editor on the National Security apparatus’ response to the surge in violent crime was submitted by Wired868 columnist Corey Gilkes of La Romaine:

Photo: A murder scene.
(Courtesy Scenecleanmn.com)

As someone who experienced violent crime, I understand the increasing calls for firmer, more direct measures by the State. The boldness with which many from criminalised communities—note the word I used—carry out their crimes and their gradual encroaching upon our recreational spaces do need immediate decisive interdiction.

But what is deeply troubling is the reflexive way many chose to employ these measures as the first and apparently only option. Weren’t these same “force-first” measures taken during the periods of enslavement and colonialism?

Even the same dehumanising language is often used: “pest”, “cockroaches”, “terrorist.”

There seems to be no independent, critical, decolonised thinking; partly because not many people are bothered to read to get ideas that can transform this society. Some of the few that do read are saddled with scholarly books that tell them nothing about this society. So we have UWI Criminology students who may read books on Criminology theory that do not mention “plantation society”, “plantation economy”, or “colonialism” even once.

There is no mention of Prof David Trotman’s “Crime in Trinidad: Conflict and Control in a Plantation Society 1838-1900”; so they can’t connect that to the works of Prof Ramesh Deosaran or Dairius Figueroa and see that the butchery we are contending with in 2018 is a self-regenerating cycle of dispossession, social inequality and individualistic competitiveness in a culture that normalised violence—and impunity—since its very founding.

Photo: A thug shows off his weapon.

As such there’s no serious analysis of the observation—that even the Acting Commissioner of Police once made—that “crime” is as much a social issue as it is a law-enforcement/security issue.

No, it’s easier to use words like “pest” and “cockroaches”, strip the criminalised elements of their humanity—which they themselves often do as well, since they’ve also internalised these ultimately racist terms—and so approve of whatever heavy-handed approach security forces employ.

Which brings me back to the “terrorist” label. This one is especially troubling, particularly in this age where there is an increasing militarising of police agencies—something else we held onto from colonial rule—that is connected to a global reversal of hard fought accomplishments in safety, labour and human rights laws as neoliberal, corporate capitalism becomes increasingly normalised.

I know there are different forms of terrorism, including narco-terrorism, and I know that a person spraying dozens of rounds in a crowded recreational space hitting target and innocent bystanders alike is most definitely causing terror. But why use that particular word at this time?

Was there a press release by a radical group claiming responsibility for the boardwalk shootings? Did they articulate some political or religious objective? Are they radical Christian? Marxist? Islamic? Environmental?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago soldiers on the move during joint patrols with the police.
(Copyright Baltimore Examiner)

I don’t care for most conspiracy theories, but if we anchor our violent crime situation to global economic developments and political history—and if we remember Gaylord Kelshall’s words about the strategic importance of our geographical location in terms of international geopolitics—am I to be faulted for thinking that word is partly prompted from outside?

Those who study terrorism and international politics in detail know there’s a major international player that routinely takes advantage of localised crises to extend its own hegemonic agenda and just as routinely creates much of those crises—deliberately and unintentionally—in the first place.

This militarising “solution” to historical socio-economic problems has been attempted in Colombia, Jamaica and Mexico; and they all ended up with escalated violence. Our crime problems can be effectively dealt with right here (regionally) in ways that combine both the security aspect and the socio-economic aspect. But the robber-talk needs to be dialled back.

And crime conferences that are stocked with people from the US military and purchasing water-cannon vehicles—isn’t anybody going to talk about this?—are not in any way part of the solution.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago and US military forces discuss logistics during a Fused Response exercise in Cumuto Barracks, Trinidad on 20 April 2018.
(Copyright Sgt Robert Venegas/US Army)

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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One comment

  1. Earl Best

    If Ria Taitt’s source is solid and Gary Griffith does become the next CoP, what in your opinion will he bring to the table that is useful? I am well aware that a MoNS is a policy MAKER whereas a CoP’s function involves EXECUTION of policy (does that make him an executioner?)

    But can Griffith alter the rhetoric in your opinion in any positive way?