Sunday, June 30, 2013

Commentary: Let's find answers to deal with crime among black youth instead of looking for scapgoats

There have been some shocking comments from panelists at a forum organised by the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) at the National Library in Port-of-Spain last Thursday evening. 

My comment is based on a report on the event published in the Guardian newspaper that quotes panelists as saying that Christianity and a "Hindu government" are contributing to crime among black youths.

The comment about Christianity is attributed to Pearl Eintou Springer, who advocates preserving African heritage and follows the Orisha religion. 

"Christianity in schools is having a devastating effect on children because of the mindset it creates,” the Guardian quoted the lady as saying. She apparently took objection to a teacher making reference to "the Lord Jesus Christ". According to the report Springer also claimed children from a school in the Morvant/Laventille area are being forced to learn East Indian dance.

This is the same lady who said it was "insulting" to black women that someone would sing "She's Royal" to serenade Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. She said she had reserved the song for black woman.

In a commentary I wrote about that matter I said: "music that celebrates humanity cannot be imprisoned within the narrow walls of racism." (Click here to read the commentary).

I doubt anyone is forcing school children to learn Indian or any other type of dance. But what is wrong with a society as diverse as ours teaching our children to understand and share our rich culture?

This divisive attitude from a person who should be demonstrating leadership in uniting our country is part of the cancer that the People's Partnership government has been trying to cure in Trinidad and Tobago society. 

Panelist David Muhammad, who is a member of the US-based Nation of Islam, added to the divisiveness with an irresponsible charge that "the Hindu People’s Partnership Government" is causing young black men to commit crime. 

The Guardian quoted Muhammed as saying, “African youths are targeted. You saw what happened when almost 8,000 African youths were arrested during the 2011 state of emergency by a Hindu government.”

First of all, there is no Hindu government in Trinidad and Tobago and there never was. Several years ago, the local media spoke about the Panday UNC government also being a Hindu government. By that logic, when Patrick Manning was prime minister, we would have had a Pentecostal government. But nobody seemed to have a problem with that. 

A government represents the people and in our country, the constitution guarantees every person the right to freedom of religion. So the PM and any member of her cabinet is free to follow any religion they choose. And the same applies to David Muhammed and Ms. Springer.

However, it is most unfair to blame any religion for the social decadence in the country and to make allegations that religion is a negative influence in the country. If you take a serious look at today's society you would see that religion is still one of our most valuable institutions.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is a Hindu and is without a doubt the most inclusive leader in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. She makes no apology for being a Hindu but her policies are not motivated by her religion. 

In the three years since she has been in government, she has treated every religion with the same reverence. And unlike her predecessor, she does not cherry pick when it comes to giving recognition to religious and cultural groups.

And no one could present a convincing argument to support the wild charge that the People's Partnership government targeted black people during the state of emergency. Muhammed seems to be repeating the PNM accusation without providing anything to support it.

However there is compelling evidence that the majority of crime is committed by people of one ethnic group. In 2011, then Minister of National Security John Sandy provided Parliament with the statistics:
  • 2007 - 2,726 prisoners, 1,464 Afro-Trinidadians 
  • 2008 - 3,012 prisoners, 1,610 Afro-Trinidadians 
  • 2009 - 1,886 prisoners, 1,776 Afro-Trinidadians
  • 2010 - 2,412 prisoners, 1,300 Afro-Trinidadians
  • 2011 - 1,734 prisoners, 890 Afro-Trinidadians
A draft of a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) produced in 2011 said there was evidence that 95 gangs were operating in Trinidad and Tobago with a membership of 1,269 members and that 83 per cent of gang members are of African origin.

This is the reality. We cannot blame Christianity or an imaginary "Hindu government". It's easy to find a scapegoat instead of trying to understand what is driving this trend of deviant behaviour and find a solution.

The Kamla government is doing that and has brought down crime significantly.

Jai Parasram 

Editor's note:
In a column in the Trinidad Express, Prof. Selwyn Cudjoe wrote: "Let us not dump on the Hindus or the Christians. They have their own problems. We will get nowhere by creating false scapegoats. Nothing but fierce honesty will save us." Read the column:

Don’t blame the Hindus or the Christians

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai