That there is racism in Mauritius is a sad truth. There is even systemic racism. And institutionalized racism. The question is how do we do away with it? The PMSD leader and ex-PMSD Barrister José Moirt in his Affirmative Action group are making the same old mistake of putting forward demands that end up re-enforcing racism instead of opposing it. The best way of re-enforcing racism is to perpetuate the horror of the old colonial race and communal classification of individuals, even if it is now self-classification. It implies that race exists when it does not. Colour is a continuum, “race” is a construct around prejudice rather than a fact, and we are all descendants of a common human ancestry in which there never were “pure breeds” except in slave-owner talk.
And “community” in Mauritius is a highly subjective “idea”, adding religion and geography into the cauldron of prejudice.
We have to fight racism in other ways. In particular, we have to fight it in ways that work, and that avoid re-enforcing it.
The PMSD leader is calling for a new Census that includes race/community classification. This classification was rightly outlawed in 1983. Xavier Duval thinks a new communal Census is the best way to respect the UN Human Rights Committee recommendations in the Rezistans ek Alternativ (RA) case against the Best Loser System. RA took the State to the Committee for its perpetuation of a slavery-time mechanism of race/religious classification. RA, however, brought down upon itself this “unintended consequence” of a new communal Census, by doing a similar thing to what the PMSD is now doing, i.e. arguing within the logic of racism: RA argued, inter alia, that the Census being used was too old (1972) to be of any use. This led to the tragic findings of the Human Rights Committee i.e. the Mauritian State must do one of two things: either, which is what LALIT is working towards, do away with the Best Loser System altogether or alternatively, and this is the tragic part, conduct a new communal census.
José Moirt and a Priest have taken another case to the UN Committee on Elimination of Race Discrimination and this has led to this UN Committee members also, as in the RA case, calling for the Mauritian Government to classify the whole of the population by race/community, and to keep statistics (duly classified in the old colonial ways) for prison populations and for employment.
It is understandable that the UN Committees reflect the mainstream views (See End Box) that condone continued, obsessive classification. It is even more understandable that the right and extreme-right, like the PMSD today and the original PMSD of Gaetan Duval, should call for measures that depend upon introducing or re-introducing race/communal classification. Gaetan Duval, the ultimate right-wing leader (against Independence, representative of the sugar barons’ interests, anti-immigrant party, with close links to the Front Nationale leader Le Pen, with a Black Power slogan, having set himself up as King Creole), so it was not surprising that he should agree with the best loser classification of the population and of candidates for general elections. What is horrific is when political or religious groups and individuals, who do not consider themselves right-wing, end up, by taking short-cuts, going down the same road – the road of classification, thus re-enforcing notions of race which are the mainstay of racism.
The appropriate demands:
1. For the Best Loser System: the only demand is to build up political will, as LALIT is doing, and was very near victory before RA took the mainstream media and parties on a 14-year long, legalistic detour only to finally get themselves lost in these woods now. There is no shortcut other than building up the political will for a political and Constitutional change. This is something that can and must be done.
2. For an end to race discrimination in employment: That we demand a law that makes all jobs in the public sector follow a simple protocol: for this, the State must publish on-line:
a) all applicants’ full names, and their full qualifications, and the district they live in.
b) all those accepted for the post/s.
This way, the appeals procedures, which already exist, will be much simpler and more open. Any systemic problems will be exposed, and can then be remedied – without race classification.
3. On how many people are in prison, it would be much better to call for no prison sentence at all for non-violent offences (drug use, for example), or even petty theft without violence; it would be more progressive to call for the release of all those in prison because they have not the money to pay the fine; and finally, for the release of all those in pre-trial prison for non-violent offences. This would decrease the entire prison population.
4. On how many people suffer police violence and torture: It is just outrageous to call for proportional violence and torture: all has to stop. JUSTICE: Against Violence of Officers of the State has, in its work with victims of police violence, developed a fine list of specific demands. Please see link at http://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/443/10-steps-to-stop-police-violence-and-torture-now/
We realise that the perpetuation of race classification is pushed ahead by the on-going influence of the USA’s concerns and its blinkered thinking in its mainstream on other countries, like ours. In the USA, the right-wing classifies people, as you would expect. But the left does, too. In the US many, many left organizations, not just the Democratic Party, but much further left, are dedicated to classification. They believe in it, and they are committed to “positive discrimination” and “affirmative action” as a method based on this colonial barbarity called classification. But then again, many of these organizations, even so-called “Black organizations”, and other radical left organizations, are funded by finance capital, just as the Republicans and the Alt-right are. And finance capital is finance capital, with all its concommitant interests in “divide and rule”. If you don’t believe that Soros funds the left, just look up who George Soros, the finance capitalist is, and who his Open Society Foundation funds by the billion dollars. They fund fairly honest leftish causes, as well as being the Democratic Party main funder, and an anti-communist funder (which when it means anti-Stalinist might pass for muster). Soros also helped found, according to Wikipedia, the Clinton Foundation. Clinton is the man who brought in “race profiling” as a policeman’s ultimate method of classification-at-a-glance. He later renounced it, fortunately, but the terrible effects remain. And Soros is also said, by the conservative press, to have funded Black Lives Matter to the tune of 33 million dollars (The Washington Times, August 16, 2016). Other capitalists, like the Ford Foundation, also fund grass-roots left organizations, and this, of course, risks making many NGOs accountable more to their funders than to their causes.
For one of the best theoretical articles on this “American problem” on the left, read Barbara Jean Fields at https://newleftreview.org/I/181/barbara-jeanne-fields-slavery-race-and-ideology-in-the-united-states-of-america
What is important is that we do not blindly follow these new calls for race/communal classification. Think about what they mean at their heart: They are a refusal to face the struggle for proper equality. They represent despair in the struggle for real freedom for all; they represent resignation, instead, to seeking no more than proportional representation in the exploitation, repression, and oppression that most people suffer under the present system. This, unhappily, could as easily be regulated by sacking those that are supernumerary (by race or community) in employment, or by beating up or locking up more of those who are under-represented (by race or community) in police violence or prison population statistics. This is not what we want.
And as for the Best Loser System, the judiciary put it aptly by the year 2000 in the case against LALIT and others, when Justice Seetulsing said: “We understand that a project of electoral reform is on the cards and hope that these defects would be remedied in the near future.” This takes political patience and a long-term political strategy and struggle. There is no quick fix.