Below is the Sunday Express Letter of the Day entitled "Defend Other Ethnic Groups too" - a response to Dr Ryan's article:
Defend other ethnic groups too
Letter of the day
Sunday, August 23rd 2009
I write in response to Dr Selwyn Ryan's column in last week's Sunday Express (August 16) entitled "A gaseous mixture of racial hyperconsciousness".
Dr Ryan lamented the obvious racial imbalance in favour of Indo-Trinidadians in the medical profession and concluded that the lack of trust and discomfort of the Afro-Trinidadian community was a "very good reason why, in a society such as this, it was inadvisable to have a health system in which 80-plus per cent of the doctors are of one ethnicity".
The Indo-Trinbago Equality Council (ITEC) wishes to make the following observations/comments:
1. The preponderance of Indian doctors is not limited to Trinidad and Tobago. A similar phenomenon exists in North America and the United Kingdom where a disproportionate number of doctors are Indian.
2. There is merit in the state having as a policy objective, the need for racial diversity in the medical profession. However, Ryan admitted that the ethnic imbalance is reversed in the nursing profession but made no similar call for an increase in the number of Indo-Trinidadian nurses.
3. Dr Ryan supports the call by Dr Courtenay Bartholomew and Dr Selwyn Cudjoe for the internationally accepted entry requirements to be varied to allow Afro-Trinidadian students to study medicine but remains silent about the similar call made by the Indo-Trinidadian community for inclusion in the army, police service, prison service, fire service, coast guard and the public service in general.
4. Dr Ryan has never commented about the inequitable and biased distribution of state housing to Afro-Trinis to the virtual exclusion of Indo-Trinis. Such inequitable distribution of state resources cannot be right and violates the right to equality of treatment in our constitution.
5. Dr Ryan never commented on the fact that Indian students' entry in the medical school is based not on affirmative action, or secret scholarship but academic achievement. [Trin does not understand why this simple fact seems to be so difficult for so many to comprehend]
Should the nation's security services not reflect the ethnic composition of the society it intends to protect and serve? The sight of fully armed Afro-Trinidadian police officers and soldiers bullying Indo-Trinidadians protesters is a common one. One needs only to recall Prime Minister Manning's famous response to the Caroni protest that he will beef up the riot squad.
At present, the hierarchy of the security services and the entire public service is over 90 per cent African and not even a beep is heard about this fact from Dr Ryan despite several successful legal cases of proven discrimination.
The CEO's and chairman of all state enterprises and the special multi-purpose companies are also 90 per cent non-Indian.
Dr. Ryan's voice of reason is far too important to be one-sided and he should resist the temptation to jump out in defence of one ethnic group alone. ITEC therefore looks forward to his piece on "racial hyperconsciousness" of the PNM and Afro-Trinidadians when it comes to these other areas where the racial imbalance is reversed and the shoe is on the other foot.
Dr. Ryan's article:
A gaseous mixture of racial hyperconsciousness
Sunday, August 16th 2009
In recent days, we have had several statements on the "race question" from Dr Tim Gopeesingh, Dr Fuad Khan, Dr Courtenay Bartholomew, Dana Seetahal, the Maha Sabha, Gopio, the Indo Trinidadian Equality Council, Prof Selwyn Cudjoe, Israel Khan and Marion O'Callaghan, to identify a few of the better known commentators. The trigger for the talkfest was the emotive statement made in Parliament by Dr Gopeesingh that "there has been an issue of ethnic cleansing at the Port of Spain Hospital as far as the doctors are concerned. I understand that most of the East Indian doctors have had to leave Port of Spain Hospital".
Dr Gopeesingh's statement was savaged by numerous citizens. I too advised him that he should apologise to the public for misspeaking as Obama had done. I suggested that his use of the term was making it difficult for the public to focus on the substantive issues raised in his statement.
I have read his subsequent statement with care, and if anything, his use of the phrase was retained and even amplified, notwithstanding the fact that some of the senior doctors involved had publicly disassociated themselves from his remarks. Dr Goopeesingh might have felt that he had to shout "wolf" to get attention, but my own assessment is that he has lost a significant amount of credibility among some observers, as well as the opportunity to have his allegations discussed in a dispassionate manner.
I have myself made some preliminary inquiries and have concluded there is need for some kind of investigative report to verify the truth or otherwise of his claim. What we seem to have is a gaseous mixture of racial hyperconsciousness, professional greed, jealousy and frustration, xenophobia, bureaucratic incompetence and bungling, institutional rivalry, political jostling, and much else. The mixture is toxic, but does not nearly deserve the label, "ethnic cleansing" or "ethnic dirtying" for that matter, which is perhaps what we are left with.
The matter is complex and of long gestation. There was indeed a time when similar allegations were made in respect of Mount Hope. These allegations were investigated by the Centre for Ethnic Studies which had the following to say in its 1994 report:
"With regard to Afro-Trinidadian doctors, the views expressed indicate a perception that the medical profession had become or is fast becoming a closed shop controlled by Indo-Trinidadians, in which the choicest training and clerkships are reserved by Indo-Trinidadians for other Indo-Trinidadians.
Afro-Trinidadians doctors lament that those Afro-Trinidadian who are in senior positions and thus able to sponsor the careers of junior Afro-Trinidadian doctors seldom do so, preferring to appear even-handed or else remain aloof. Some junior African doctors go on to argue that their seniors effectively suppress their careers. The argument was repeatedly made, "if the Indians can do it for their kind, why can't our own people?"
When questions were raised about reports that certain doctors were tying the tubes of Afro women without medical justification, there was reticence on the part of persons questioned. The report thus concluded as follows:
"The most disturbing part of all this was the suspicion which some nurses (and doctors and medical students) had of the integrity of the care delivered by Indian doctors to Africans. Some were very sceptical, especially of gynaecologists and obstetricians (names called); there were even allegations of a concerted plot of genocide in which Indian doctors were supposed to be sabotaging the reproductive functions of African women. No evidence was advanced to support these allegations, but they were instructive as a measure of the suspicion and paranoia that exist in this critical area of the government service."
The paranoia remains even after the death or departure of some of the principals in that preceding set of events. This is perhaps one very good reason why in a society such as this, it is inadvisable to have a health system in which 80-plus per cent of the doctors are of one ethnicity and most of the nurses are of another ethnicity. As the researchers found in the 1994 study, "it is possible to discern among these two groups something approximating a siege mentality." Were Dr Gopeesingh and his colleagues witnessing the by- product of that siege mentality, or were they simply crying "wolf"? The public needs to know. Does the Gafoor Report throw any light on that matter?
Equally problematic was the Emancipation Day Address given by Dr Selwyn Cudjoe in which he claimed that the Trinidad news media did not give appropriate attention to the concerns and achievements of black people. As the other Selwyn moaned, "no black person who expresses a view contrary to the dominant ideology is ever given space in the newspapers or on television ...Nothing of importance to the black community is given space in the media. If one were to look at our newspaper on daily basis, one would be led to believe that black people do is kill and maim one another."
Dr Cudjoe went on to unleash a savage attack on those who might be termed "pseudo blacks" (aka the black Brahmins [Trin believes it is incredibly unacceptable for Dr Ryan to be denigrating the term Brahmin in such a manner - such inflammatory terminology by Dr Ryan is unfortunate ]or the black bourgeoisie) who live in gated suburban communities and who believe that they were more privileged than the uneducated blacks who live in the ghetto and who ignore the fact in the final analysis, the tribe is scarified not on the basis of who is the brightest and the best but by the worst performers. As he warned blacks, "our community is founded more on our culture than our colour; on our social and cultural capital than on our financial capital." In sum, we need to be a resource for the black community at large, whatever we do as citizens.
How typical - as usual blaming anybody who achieves any measure of success for the problems of the black community... carry on with your denial - isn't King patos still in power? Why Dr Cudjoe don't ask PNM who run tings for decades how the Doctrine of Soca might explain this? ]
As was the case in respect of Dr Gopeesingh, Dr Cudjoe exaggerated his accusations about the media, and most people dismissed them as an ethnic rant which had no empirical foundation. Unfortunately, his attack on the media served to mute the positive and relevant injunctions and messages which he directed to the black middle class,viz, that individually and, collectively, we no longer serve as motivators and mentors for black youth who are venting their rage on their communities and the society at large which is paying the price for our negligence.
The same message was being sent to the black middle class by Marion O'Callaghan (Newsday). Callaghan was concerned about the fact that the black community was no longer producing the outstanding doctors as it did in the late 19th and 20th century. Is it because a bunch of doctors and administrators rig the system in favour of their coethnics? Hardly.
The "social reality" which led to those astonishing performances no longer obtains.
In sum, the ingredients of "merit"are not fixed or determined by brain alone, but also by social, cultural and economic circumstances. In Callaghan's judgement, in contemporary Trinidad and Tobago, "In every one of those areas, while there are highly placed Africans, as a group Africans rank considerably lower than any other group in the population."
-To be concluded