In responding to Dool Hanomansingh’s, “Painting the history of Trinidad black” (Trinidad Express, December 6th ), Dr Claudius Fergus observed, “for a writer who appeals to Beckles and Kambon to respect the facts of history, Hanomansingh is most reckless with facts of any kind.”
Among the things that concerned the former UWI History Department Chair was a paragraph which called on Professor Hilary Beckles to denounce, “the fact” that Blacks in Trinidad “enslaved the First People” and protested when the Spanish governor decided to free them, forcing him to “give way to them while the Spanish and others had to free their Amerindian slaves.”
Describing this as “laughable” Dr. Fergus asks, “When did this anonymous Governor decide to end encomienda? And, what year did this mythical protest by Africans take place?” To underscore the magnitude of this anti African falsification, Fergus references historian Arie Boomert who maintains that Africans fought alongside Hyarima against the Spaniards to end encomienda in the 1630s before concluding, “if not for the danger that his [Hanomansingh’s] fiction might be taken as historical fact I would not even dignify it with a response.”
Hanomansingh’s propensity for fiction is indeed a cause for concern and even more so because it inevitably follows a certain socially corrosive, racially divisive and tendentious logic.
Around the time that UWI announced its historic decision to end its 90-year reverential relationship with colonial criminal Alfred Milner, Hanomansingh began publishing commentaries condemning the organisation which initiated the change: The Cross Rhodes Freedom Project (CRFP). Two of these commentaries, penned by his colleagues, Dr. Sally Radford and Kamal Persad, on October 27th and December 22nd 2017 respectively, appear only in the online Indian Caribbean Diaspora Newsletter (ICDN) of which he is Editor. The others written by Hanomansingh himself were published in this newspaper on December 6th and December 22nd. Curiously, Sally’s has since been deleted but can still be viewed on the CRFP Facebook page: Rhodes Must Fall Caribbean.
Collectively these pieces are a mind-blowing example of the absurd possibilities that stem from trying to analyse social phenomenon through the prism of Indian vs African, UNC vs PNM which can obscure both aspect and ratio of any issue, regardless of which side you choose to look through.
When the CRFP says that we seek to promote a new architecture of spirit and values by ending the glorification of unjust historical figures/false heroes and rescuing from oblivion those who represent our highest values/real heroes, regardless of whether their roots are in India, Africa, Europe or the Americas. Hanomansingh looks through the prism and sees me, “walking around with a brush (and a balisier) ready to paint the entire country black.”
It is not clear whether Kamal views the 1970 black power movement, as Dool does, as something to be revisited “to bring to justice to all those individuals who have perpetuated pain and misery on the population,” but he does see the CRFP as a “black power organization,” and potentially, “anti-white.”
His friend Sally is so convinced of this, that she has called for Indians and Europeans to unite against Africans to protect monuments from “anti-Caucasian activism,” perpetrated by, “blacks,” who should “re-domicile in ancestral homelands…instead of, destroying history to create a wasteland in the West Indies.” All this careless invective, to continue honouring Alfred Milner, a proponent of military colonialism in Africa and Asia; a pioneer of the dreaded “concentration camp” which featured so prominently in human suffering in the 20th century; a founding father of the vicious system of racial apartheid in South Africa; a proponent of the brutal Indian indentured servitude which added to the human misery in that colony; a key player in the design of the deadly Jewish/Palestinian struggle; and, the man who plotted with Colonial Governors to frustrate the fight for equality and self-determination in the Caribbean after World War One. So, as is possible in some extreme cases, the prism can impair judgement to such an extent that you can see the polar opposite of what is there. So, Sally actually sees Milner as, “an idealist…a social reformer and a champion of democracy,” and the CRFP as “pillars of black supremacy…driven by racial envy,” trying to slander a great man whose imperial enterprises saved the natives by delivering “education, culture, science, architecture, agriculture, engineering, industry and faith based on peace and truth.”
Dool may be with Sally on this but not when it comes to India. In an article in the ICDN he condemns colonial rule on the subcontinent as “naked exploitation” and recounts the role of Winston Churchill in the Bengal Famine which resulted in the deaths of 4 million Indians. He is also aware that this was just one example of the colonial crime of policy induced famines which resulted, in the deaths of between 15 and 29 million Indians.
That was on June 19th somehow in December he writes that I, “charged” Churchill with the famine, suggesting that I was, fabricating a story perhaps because as he says, “Black people” are “prepared to deny the facts of history…to suit their own agenda.” Is this a case of prism induced amnesia or did these facts become inconvenient to Dool when he discovered that we want to use them to bring the nations collective memory to life in a way that does not just invite citizens to contemplate history but to make it?
Whatever the answer the CRFP views the Indian vs African, UNC vs PNM dichotomy like the reverential monuments to unjust historical figures, as another appalling aspect of our colonial inheritance that we are duty bound to confront to free the future.