Racism, classism, sexism and elitism are taboo issues in global sport. Is Trinidad and Tobago an exception?
Be it active or passive, interpersonal or institutional racism, classism, sexism, elitism and variants of those isms, in most spheres of life here in Trinidad and Tobago, are never, it would seem far from the surface. There is as a result, a perceived standard operating manual that guides the interaction amongst the diverse members of society.
Dare to raise, it you run the risk of facing characterisation as being racist and or playing the race card. There is a deliberate attempt that is age old to intimidate discussions in respect of the topics of racism, classism, sexism or elitism.
In particular, when it comes to the perceived under-development of Afro Trinidad and Tobago communities if you ask the question, why is racism, classism and elitism such a taboo, the superficial answer is we are a rainbow and cosmopolitan nation where every creed and race find an equal place.
But is that true? Or is it that Trinidad and Tobago is in reality more about know your place and space and stay in your space and place? It is subtle and covert but at times overt and not so subtle.
There is a lot of talk about inclusion, but the truth be told, it is dependent on knowing your place and space.
Coded language - recently someone made the assertion to me of "not messing up things". I couldn't help but chuckle to myself as I wondered what would I have done since first elected Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee President, in May 2013, to make someone feel it necessary to express the thought that I run the risk of messing things up.
The history of sport in Trinidad and Tobago is unquestionably linked to the nation's Colonial past and its sociocultural dimensions. Sport in the main was considered one of the cultural foundations of British Colonial policy and was introduced to Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean by British military officers and plantation owners. The history of sports on the twin Island is connected to other aspects of colonial society.
Sport in Trinidad and Tobago, based on historical antecedents, reflected ideological socio- economic developments and the social structure at a point in time in history.
The social structure at one time reflected white planters, merchants and the colonial administrators. At the top of the pyramid, a predominantly brown mulatto middle class in the middle and a large group of black people and indentured Indians from India at the bottom- (Brereton 1981).
In the pre and post-independence period, there were fervent calls for a nationalistic orientation away from the values, norms and prejudices of the Colonial ruling class.
Because we shy away from constructive and progressive discussions about racism, sexism, elitism and classism, in many spheres the historical antecedents remain impenetrable and drive unconscious bias and prejudices. These prejudices inform how we view and interact with individuals who may not be perceived as historically fit for purpose to run things or lead.
The conspiracy of silence and cautionary attitude of "don't go there" in respect of racism, classism, sexism and elitism are constraints as Trinidad and Tobago attempts to fulfil its potential as a nation and build a new society based on transparency, good governance and meritocracy, is climate resistant, socially responsible and environmentally friendly and purpose driven.
Educating one another, breaking down barriers and boundaries and sparking effective conversation about race, gender, religion, sex and culture, are more important than playing it safe and ignoring the "elephant in the room”.
Written by Brian Lewis
The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee and The Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games Association.