THOSE MAPS THAT DEFINE US …questionable political overtones

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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
people.
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
poor.
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
all.
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.