Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: A Eurocentric psyche underpins name-calling between Kamla and Camille—on both sides

Dear Editor: A Eurocentric psyche underpins name-calling between Kamla and Camille—on both sides

“[…] Kunta Kinte, the original Toby, was kidnapped at age 17 and enslaved in America. Yes, his body surrendered to physical defeat but his spirit, his mind remained untouched. 

“[…] Unfortunately, the psyche of today’s Toby is configured by Eurocentric institutions—programmes that subconsciously motivate him to consciously act like a white man while wearing the burden of black skin. And it was those European programmes which pushed him to allegedly disrespect Prince Olokun Igbaro and call him a cunumunu…”

The following Letter to the Editor, which suggests Eurocentrism in the recent name-calling exchange between UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and PNM MP Camille Robinson-Regis, was submitted to Wired868 by Edmund Narine of Boston, Massachusetts:

Photo: Minister of Planning and Development and Arouca/Maloney MP Camille Robinson-Regis.

In the explosive Kamla versus Camille competition for most beautiful name (ancestral versus slave master), Eurocentrism emerges as a major incubator of Afro-Trinbagonian perception of  beauty, a condition that Zaire addressed by decree: All Zaireans (formerly Congolese) must dispense with Christian and Western names and return to their ancestral ones.

The Zairean president immediately acted upon his decree. He took the name Mobutu Sese Seko Ngbendu Wa Zabanga.

What a beautiful name! It means the all-conquering warrior who will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.

No one disputes the violence, the brutality perpetrated against Africans during the Atlantic slave trade. Certainly, the treatment meted out to ‘Toby’ in a scene from the TV series Roots is illustrative.

Photo: A slave, Kunta Kinte, is whipped into accepting the name ‘Toby’ in the original television series, Roots, which attempted to depict the slave trade.

The question is, however, why today—despite his freedom from chains and floggings—does Toby (not his real name) adamantly cling to his European name while laughing at the name of his esteemed Tobago countryman, Olokun Igbaro (deceased Yoruba prince)?

Toby recently posted a video that showed the ordeal of his name change, apparently as an answer to the question of why he refuses to return to his ancestral name. 

The PNM Women’s League provides a peek into the reason for Toby’s non-name change. Says the League: “Kamla Susheila Persad-Bissessar, your given name is not ‘more beautiful’ than Camille RoseMarie Robinson-Regis.”

Beauty, it appears, is the issue at hand. But beauty is in the eye (mind) of the beholder. Thus one possible explanation for the Women’s League response is that the League perceives beauty through a European lens.

In other words, members of the PNM Women’s League have a Eurocentric view of themselves.

Apparently Toby, too, has a European-programmed psyche and image of himself. What is the reason for the block that causes him to retain his European name while allegedly mocking others who change to African names?

Kunta Kinte, the original Toby, was kidnapped at age 17 and enslaved in America. Yes, his body surrendered to physical defeat but his spirit, his mind remained untouched. He was an African whose psyche had been programmed on his tabula rasa, the blank tablet of his budding mind, by his ancestral world, Africa.

Unfortunately, the psyche of today’s Toby is configured by Eurocentric institutions—programmes that subconsciously motivate him to consciously act like a white man while wearing the burden of black skin. And it was those European programmes which pushed him to allegedly disrespect Prince Olokun Igbaro and call him a cunumunu.  

Photo: Late former Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko watches a military parade in Kinshasa, Zaire, June 1976.
Mobutu Sese Seko Ngbendu Wa Zabanga was born Joseph-Désiré Mobutu.
(Copyright AP Photo)

Trinis dislike what we deem ugly. 

“What is joke for schoolchildren is death for crapaud,” Kitchener, the grand master of calypso, sang.

But what is it about crapaud that brought him a sentence of death? Schoolchildren say kill him because if he pee in your eye, he will blind you. But is it not more likely that the reason for crapaud’s death sentence is his executioner’s self-hate, that is to say, ‘crapaud look too dark and ugly’. 

If not, then why kill crapaud when all he does is eat mosquito?

The unforgettable Lord Melody sang: “I wonder why nobody don’t like me or is it a fact that I’m ugly?”

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley wears African robes on Emancipation Day.
(via OTPM)

Is the victim’s ugliness perceived by a black man through a European lens the same reason why a Black gunman, without mercy, completely lacking in empathy, pumped twelve bullets into a brother, the ugly crapaud who looks just like him?

Is self-hate, black inferiority created for the purpose of prosecuting the Atlantic slave trade for profit, the cause of today’s murderous black-on-black rampage?

The Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) dropped the ball. In this crucial debate on the creation and rehabilitation of an African consciousness, presumably the organisation’s raison d’être, all they could muster was a weak exhortation, a call for ‘sensitive cultural issues to be left out of the political arena’.

African liberation in the New World is fraught with difficulties. The international media and churches, the major institutions programming psyches, young minds especially, are mostly controlled by Europeans for Europeans.

Image: An image inspired by Toni Morrison’s novel ‘The Bluest Eye’ on black inferiority complex.

Thus, if Afro-Trinis are to overcome the historical effects of Eurocentrism, they must actively work at countering its impact on the psyche. A return to one’s ancestral name is just a beginning. 

And, (looking at you Presbyterians): “… any priest found guilty of giving Zairean children Christian names during baptism shall receive a five-year jail term…” 

So ordered Mobutu Sese Seko Ngbendu Wa Zabanga.

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5 comments

  1. This article is nearly as offensive as the name calling it references ‘on both sides’. You would think he would’ve been intelligent enough to steer clear of the path his subjects took (referring to the PM as ‘Toby’). We await the completion of this article/explanation of how the ‘Eurocentric psyche’ has impacted Kamla et al. The level of anger she displayed upon hearing her name repeatedly called suggest she also hasn’t escape its effects.

  2. Calling this situation a “competition for most beautiful name” is a gross mischaracterisation of events. This issue was about using the crimes against a people to demean their descendants. To make African people feel ashamed for the horrors their ancestors survived.

    • Lasana Liburd

      I agree with you, Fayola. The author makes some valid points about Eurocentrism but I’m just not sure about the relevance to this topic.

      • The author frames Eurocentrism as an African problem. It is not. Nationals of all races have these ‘slave master’ names, and as a society we elevate Eurocentric values and ideals. Singling out African people again seeks to shame them for being victims of slavery and colonialism. And it holds them responsible for overcoming its legacy in a way we don’t hold others responsible.

        • Lasana Liburd

          Good point. There are just as many Indo-Trinidadians named Tim, Clarence and Sheila, or Chinese-Trinidadians named Charles and Gerald, or Syrian-Trinidadians named George and James.
          Colonialism is not the black man’s burden alone.