February 14, 1998

Dear Sir,

Now that the dust has began to settle on the events following the December 15th general elections, it is time that we endeavour to remove some of the conceptions that abound.

The first to be considered is whether we do have a racial problem in Guyana. It is my submission that any one who will state that we do not have a problem, has not resided in Guyana for any length of time. As I see it, we do have a problem but the question is - how serious is the problem?

It is my contention that fundamental to the problem is the question of attitudes. It is our attitudes that determine our prejudices, our likes and our dislikes. They also dictate how we feel about the people and things we encounter. Our attitudes also dictate our likely actions in a given situation and this was well demonstrated by what transpired after the close of poll on December 15.

One of the major misconceptions that abounds is the views expressed by many people, including some very good friends, that they are devoid of negative racial attitudes. They are not prejudiced they claim. Those who are East Indians espouse that they are not racial, citing the many black friends they have. Vice versa, many blacks speak of their East Indian friends.

The misconception here is that having Black or East Indian friends has nothing to do with whether you possess the racial prejudices conditioned by your attitudes. The attitudes are certainly there but you possess the ability to suppress them. Our ability to suppress our negative attitudes is most often determined by how far we are up two ladders - the "civilised" and the "economic". Important to note, however, is that those ladders can be very slippery.

Mr Editor, if we are truly to assess how serious is the racial problem, one has only to look at the content of the spate of letters-to-editor appearing in our daily newspapers. In 90% of the cases, without looking at the name of the writer, it is easy to determine the ethnicity of the author. Which side you are on in the current political impasse, is often determined by your ethnic grouping.

However, there is one thing that I find interesting. It is the number of names not associated with those of East Indian origin, aligning themselves with the PPP/Civic side of the dispute. It can well be that their viewpoints are indeed honest, but again we cannot overlook the motive factor. I say thisy since the social scientists advise us that in many cases, underlying the attitude could be the "motive factor". What this suggests, is that we can suppress our attitudes, if by doing so we stand to gain some benefit. Politicians over the years have perfected this kind of behaviour - hugging and kissing people of varying ethnicity, not to overlook children and the elderly.

Mr Editor, the issue of attitudes is a complex one. Our problem specifically, however, is racial attitudes which would have to be seriously and urgently addressed. For if I am to rephrase the words of our People's Poet, Martin Carter, we must be all involved if we are not to be all consumed.

However, after invoking the name of Martin Carter in my humble thoughts, I am taking the liberty to attach some other thoughts in verse form, which attempt to highlight the core of our problem.

Yours faithfully
Leslie Melville


I am a racist
And I hate it.

I hate what you say
And what you do
In the nocturnal seclusion
Of your sheltered walls
Within some impregnated sanctuary
In my bleeding country.

But I love you comrade!

I hate it
When you teachers of my children
Implant your unsuspecting prejudices
In those mindsetting factories
Within the impregnated sanctuaries
Of my bleeding country.

Still I love you Comrade!

I am a racist
Groomed in nocturnal seclusion
Within Sheltered Walls.
An unfortunate product
Fashioned in the mindsetting factories
In the impregnated sanctuaries
Of my bleeding country.

Yet I love you Comrade!
For I am you