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Exploring Trinidad’s Racial Divide: Indians and Blacks

Trinidad and Tobago has an especially unique demographic. The twin republic is known to be one of the few countries in the world that has a near equal composition from its largest ethnic group, Indians, to its second largest being the people of African descent. This potpourri has led to the rise of quite the diverse culture including elements of both races historical traditions sprinkled with the shared reality of living on an island, in the case of Trinidad, just 6.8 miles off the coast of Venezuela. However, there is an underlying tension between the races that the average visitor might not pick up on looking in from the outside or while on the island. So Buzzebly decided to ask a couple of our friends from T & T about the race relations on the islands and what they think are the factors that contribute to the divide.

In your opinion how does the political space influence the divide?

Kern
Basically politics is a reflection of the people. Politicians and artistes knows what can get the people what can get the people amped up and politics in Trinidad and Tobago are very race related. You have the PNM (People’s National Movement) who is majority ‘African’, then there is the UNC (United National Congress) who are majority ‘Indian’. That is the divide usually when it comes near to election time, people would say “niggers doing this” or “coolies doing that”. It is not about the actual politics, it end up becoming about race and which race is better to have a controlling stake in the country.

What are the race relations?

Natasha
Race relations are the same yesterday as there are today. Because of the advancement of technology and exposure to America through the media. You would have little more integration that is accepted where as long ago it wasn’t. But in some families especially Hindu families that are wealthy, if a child get a black boyfriend or girlfriend then they may be cut off from the family inheritance. But the relations today are still the same as they would tell you long ago “The best Indian is a dead one” or “Never trust a coolie” but it is all the same. Even between their own kind there is tension. Who have brown skin and have money don’t like the dark skin that poor within the Indian race. In other words they pretend to like you, you can never really tell if an Indian person really likes you because they mask a lot of things. There are still Indian owners of businesses who really don’t appreciate black people in their business.

Where on both islands have places of high tension?

Kern
It is on the low so you won’t see a clear distinction of it, that you would see it openly. The East West Corridor is mainly Africans and the Central to South is the Indians. You may tend to see some things happen around those areas but it is not an everyday thing. There is still that divide so if you look at the political voting last year you can see where you have a stronghold of Indians voting for Indian parties and a stronghold of Africans voting for African parties. There are known seats that no matter what they will get those seats. That is highly racially motivated also

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How are interracial relationships perceived?

Jessie
Once upon a time it was frowned upon but the East West Corridor in Trinidad, particularly Arima, you will find that interracial relationships are quite fine with those of Indian and African descent. There are pockets in Central and South Trinidad where they still frown upon interracial relationships. In the West, interracial relationships are another thing. With the Syrians you will find that they marry within their community. I remember seeing a wedding photo in the newspaper and the bride’s maiden name was something like Sabga Aboud and the groom’s last name was Sabga.

Did the general elections of 2015 highlight the racial differences?

Natasha
I wouldn’t say the general elections of 2015 highlighted the racial differences because there are Negros who are followers of the UNC and the Congress of the People because it was a coalition they joined together. But it is more technical than that. In that you cannot say for certain that is only East Indians voted for them(UNC), you really can’t say that because as I said thy have African followers as well. But based on local palance they would have it to say that the Indians came out and voted for the Indians. In that case no, however this administration went into to power based on certain changes that were made. Certain things that would have come out after a while based on enquiry and investigation from the opposition. You saw were they used the power they have meaning, abused their power, to give Indians who were not qualified big positions trying to root out the African people. So technically that is how I would say it was highlighted more after the general elections rather than during. They tried to do things for everybody because if they didn’t it would look very racial and ugly. So they did some things that helped black people as well.

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