By JACK WARNER
There are too many narratives regarding Covid-19 that if we fail to address them we will land us in hot waters.
There are too many stories of bias, some politically and racially charged, that create margins of divide that would leave us broken long before the country gets a hold of this coronavirus.
With just 100 confirmed cases and 6 deaths related to Covid-19, we have already begun to process the spread of the virus disaggregated according to geography; and already the notion that this virus is an East-West Corridor phenomenon is already beginning to take root.
The underlying political overtones nuance the idea that a level of irresponsibility seems predominant in communities aligned and affiliated to the PNM since statistical data reflects a pattern that suggests that the East-West Corridor is the homeland of PNM
However, there is an underlying racial overtone which prefaces the idea that it is people of African descent who predominantly support the PNM party, and by extension, these are the irresponsible people who will be held accountable for the spread of the virus across our nation-state.
These are not the kinds of narratives that benefit our country at this time; and while the authors of these discussions may never hold leadership positions with either of the two political parties, the reality is that because of the manner in which the data is presented, conversations of this nature would arise.
Most people who present statistics seem unaware of the variables involved in the collection and interpretation of data, and are also ignorant of the fact that what statistics reveals may be interesting but what it hides, is really what we want to know.
For instance, has the data been disaggregated according to age, race, community or places of employment? These are variables which could affect the spread of the virus across the country.
Have we taken into consideration where there is a preponderance for testing and whether this is predominantly along the East-West Corridor, Central or South of the Caroni Bridge?
Have we examined the number of persons who have requested testing and were denied due to a lack of tests or the people who have been tested and are awaiting the results?
And what about data that tells us which part the Ministry of Health has conducted the most tests and the reason why these communities were chosen?
I am concerned because the racial underpinnings with regard to Covid-19 are not just a local phenomenon but a practice that is being noticed globally. This is so glaring to cause a nurse in the British system to post across social media, videos which display such an open bias.
In the video, she posted front pages of a number of tabloids and traditional media of the faces projected as the leaders in the fight against Covid-19. It was amazing since Latinos, Asians and people of African descent were not among the pictures published of nurses who were sacrificing their lives to save others.
Our country is facing a challenge
While this did catch my attention, and while it became a subject of serious interest to me, lo and behold I am to visualise two maps posted on social media nuancing the same sordid discourse, sending a message as if to say stay away from the communities where Covid-19 seems to have taken root.
It is not just a message of physical isolation but one of community isolation and abandonment, suggesting in stealth that we need to stay away from these communities.
Instead of presenting data that could lead to such divides, one would have preferred to see information relating to infections based on pre-existing conditions and deaths based on possible comorbidities.
It is not only in the collection and dissemination of data are we seeing this crass behaviour, but also in decisions relating to businesses and who gets the right to have their businesses deemed essential and who are being denied that right.
Whether we believe it or not, there is no difference in the selling of doubles to the selling of KFC, Royal Castle, Wendy’s and all these other fast food outlets, yet doubles seem to be the only fast food that is being targeted by the administration; at least so it is alleged.
Of course, again, the nuance here is that doubles is being targeted because predominantly the vendors of doubles are people of East-Indian descent and by targeting doubles vendors, the PNM Government is finding a way to attack the UNC supporters.
That is not altogether true because I have taken a drive along the Eastern Main Road and I have seen doubles vendors plying their trade in a responsible manner unmolested by the State. I have also seen doubles vendors targeted by the police and this was because the level of social distancing practised at these stalls was
It demanded police intervention and rightly so the police intervened.
Our country is facing a challenge, the likes of which we have never seen. The world is under a threat that holds the potential to create large pockets of sick people from illnesses from which the body may never have the capacity to recover.
There has been some shifting the paradigm
This is a time when the world, not only Trinidad and Tobago, is trapped between our sullied dysfunctional past and attempts at improving the future for our legacy, void of the trappings of all these divides.
We are watching the movements such as where Russia is assisting her arch-enemy, the United States of America, in the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help the US protect its health workers during these troubling times.
We have watched how Europe, that once saw Cuba as a communist State, a pariah to our system of democracy, opened her doors to Italy and applauded the arrival of a plane-load of Cuban doctors. As if to make the acceptance complete, these Cuban doctors were all doctors of African descent so there is an attempt across the world to do the right thing. What is quite evident therefore is that there has been some shift in the paradigm.
How we still present data though could still find us trapped in our prejudicial past; still, find us imprisoned in our political and racial affiliations.
This is the higher calling to which we must respond if we are to face a brighter tomorrow.
This is the goal to which we must aspire and the Prime Minister, in a state of discomfort, dropped the ball in speaking about citizens abandoned in Barbados when he alluded to an imaginary “Partap” and compounded it further by reactivating Eric Williams’ 1958 “recalcitrant minority.”
Let me digress briefly here and advise Dr Rowley’s supporters that they do not help him when they refuse to tell him what he is doing or saying is wrong. We need to go past these contretemps.
Our motto “Together we aspire; Together we achieve” is most applicable in these times and what this country requires is a concerted effort on the part of its intelligentsia to seek to correct the misguided notions which seek to introduce race and politics in every discourse.
At times we may get blinded and regress into a familiar past but with sobriety, we need to move with alacrity to correct our errors, offer wisdom where the foolishness of the unlearned presents itself and try to cultivate an environment where equity, equality and justice are available to
Perception is a valid reality and if the perception we offer tends to suggest bias as in the maps posted, in the idea of selling doubles or even in referring to some citizens as a “recalcitrant minority”, we will never change.
Our message must ring true and it must be clear to all and must never embrace any notion of bias for or against the 1%, 10%, 25% or any percentage of our community.
If we are to achieve then it must be done void of any division among us. We have to do this together.