I and I know the truth of it all,
Cos we have smashed our heads ‘gainst that wall,
And now I seh we must create a scene,
We must recapture our culture
by any means.
Babylon Makes the Rules, Steel Pulse
It’s not what he said that was the travesty. In a country where children curse old people and men dehumanise women, you can’t really fault the goodly Mr Mungalsingh for saying what he had to say.
African people are doing the crime so therefore they don’t deserve to be alive. It’s not an original thought, and it’s not just shared by the Indians in this country who feel under siege.
One night a couple years ago an Afro-Trini man showed me an SMS joke of the day. It went something like: Question: what do you call a Laventille woman who has an abortion? Answer: crimestopper.
He watched me for a couple seconds, trying to assess what my reaction would be. Not too sure if I would burst out laughing or to knock him over. I don’t know why he thought I would find that even remotely funny. But we’ve become so desensitised to our own insensitivities that we think that everybody else is as callous.
I walked around stunned for a couple days trying to figure out a way to process that one.
So basically Harrypersad Mungalsingh took a joke and made it deadly serious. And he represents a completely legitimate voice in Trinidad.
Those who would see absolute sense in denying working class women of the reproductive rights. Those who have taken the trauma of living in a rotten headed state to new heights.
Those who are parlaysed by fear and self-loathing.
The answer is not to fire Harrypersad Mungalsingh.
He certainly was continuing a longstanding tradition of disrespect that has become a mainstay of our highest offices. People in power in this country can basically do or say whatever the France they want without fear of reproach.
So protestors can be drug lords and political leaders can offer to sleep with the devil for power.
I mean, imagine, if you can, if Sherman Mc Nicholls was a little natty head boy from Red Hill. Would he have the privilege to decide on which day he could turn up in court to give evidence.
He would have been down in Remand Yard eating sulphur filled hops bread before you could say contempt of court?
No, Aunty Kamla, Harrypersad Mungalsingh and his verbal diarrhoea are not the problem.
The problem is the one rule for the rich and another for the poor.
The problem is the huge valley that exists between the Indians who feel under siege and the Africans who are losing their children to gun violence.
The problem is that there is willing to take on the task of beginning to work through the barriers created by a century of cleverly crafted divisions.
The problem is not the African community but all the creole PNM-ites who think that political power is their birthright, even though it’s really not working to improve their conditions as human beings.
The problem is that sexual and reproductive health rights of women in the country as a whole are basically non-existent and sex is still tied up with somebody’s version of morals.
I think that Harrypersad Mungalsingh, together with a selection of black radio announcers need to be given some race and gender sensitivity training. And perhaps we could add Hedgwige Bereaux to that list after his pronouncement in a meeting in La Brea that “white” Trinis who are opposed to aluminium smelters don’t want black people to prosper.
Polticians say dumb things everyday. It’s as if when they enter office they get a big handbook of completely inappropriate things to say.
Or possibly they are the embarrassing product of what happens when you become so comfortable in our racism, in our bluntness and insensitivity that we can’t seem to be civil to each other any more.
That’s about as effective as putting little black boys in prison to get sodomised because they’re caught with a spliff.
To say that Harrypersad Mungalsingh is a racist is counter-productive. To axe him from Parliament even moreso.
I mean really, we should be glad that he managed to stay awake long enough to say anything at all.
The answer is not to fire Harrypersad Mungalsingh. To fire him is to absolve him of any responsibility for his actions.
And firing him doesn’t help us begin to answer the question of why he made those comments in the first place.