Home / View Point / Guest Columns / Calcutta, Cookies and Cyats: Kamla’s “Oreo” jibe is part of bigger problem in multicultural T&T

Calcutta, Cookies and Cyats: Kamla’s “Oreo” jibe is part of bigger problem in multicultural T&T

“For all our multiculturalism, we really have succumbed to the danger of our group-think single stories. For all our racial harmony and ‘diversity-in-fete’, we exist in single-story social silos which are almost always at breaking point with one myth of the other: de UNC and Kamla tief; de PNM and Rowley sell out; Tobagonians doh like Indians; Trinis feel they better than ‘Gonians; all red ‘oman bad; de police does kidnap…”

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Wired868 by attorney-at-law and former minister of justice, Christlyn Moore:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(Copyright CNC3)

I only just heard the Leader of the Opposition’s statement referring to the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago as an Oreo—in fact an Oreo owned by the 1%.

As someone who has herself said some foolish things in public, I think I can comment with some authority on the topic of ‘Politicians speaking nonsense’. But the fact is that this issue is bigger than Keith or Kamla. It has to do with the venom of the national discourse and the danger of the single story.

Firstly can we agree that the unfortunate name-calling did not start with “Oreo”? We can’t discuss cookies without discussing cyats, golf courses that need grooming, alligators that live in murky lagoons, and little black boys whose heads should be shorn as punishment for singing love songs to Indian women.

We cannot talk about snacks without talking about creoles and coolies and niggas,  about women who are murdered—‘but did you see what she was wearing? A carnival costume!’—and fun skits which trope black men as gorillas, who disrobe a woman to reveal her truer, better, redder self.

We cannot talk about nibbles without talking about VAT and unspeakable comments about someone whose birth was supposedly the result of a crime. Let’s not talk about snacks without discussing the Calcutta ship and the 1%.

Photo: Protests against Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee in Woodford Square, after his insensitive comments about murdered Japanese Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya.

The fact is that as a nation, we have a problem with civility, identity, and race and gender relations. And our politicians echo this.

Trinidad and Tobago needs to come with a trigger warning that  socio-political engagement is likely to cause anxiety and distress.

For all our multiculturalism, we really have succumbed to the danger of our group-think single stories. For all our racial harmony and ‘diversity-in-fete’, we exist in single-story social silos which are almost always at breaking point with one myth of the other: de UNC and Kamla tief; de PNM and Rowley sell out; Tobagonians doh like Indians; Trinis feel they better than ‘Gonians; all red ‘oman bad; de police does kidnap…

It goes on an on—these mythical and dangerous stereotypes that we feel the need to nurture and protect. And every venal comment cements in our own minds our truth about the ‘other’.

I am no longer prepared to condemn individual comments, and have made all the apologies I am going to make for my own.

Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, share a cupcake.
(Copyright Marcus Gonzales/Trinidad Guardian)

It’s now time to address our island, race and gender relations frontally and in a systemic manner. We could start at the level of the primary and secondary schools, with a planned program designed to undo the cult-like hold of these pernicious personal and social false narratives.

We cannot permit another generation of citizens to inherit our single stories of racial hatred, social division and political rancour.

About Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor
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3 comments

  1. All part of the culture, the nastier part that needs to be changed.

  2. Gonna take this article with a drop of visine.

  3. Why can’t we just ask Mrs. Persad-Bissessar to apologise? I am yet again offended by a racist comment regarding a man who shares my skin colour. Is this how the UNC sees me as well? I don’t accept that rave comments should be lumped in ss general political picong. Ms. Moore should know better and speak it.