Ethnic pluralism was propagated in colonial times to ensure hierarchical advantage

Stabroek News
June 5, 2001

Dear Editor,

Ethnic pluralism in Guyana began during colonial times, and was propagated since then by the ruling class to ensure a hierarchical dominance of the lanter class for their psychological and economic advantage. In order to achieve this and maintain the derived status quo, there was a need to stigmatize groups of people as lesser beings so as to justify dominance and exploitation. The exploited were supposedly inferior, lacking in ability to reason, love and hate. They were presumed lower in the evolutionary tree, needed "protection", were a "burden" that had to be taken care of through the generosity of others, had to be "Christianized" to make them docile and "civilized".

There was also science, pseudo-science, promulgated to prove the racial inferiority. This included the I.Q. testing at the turn of the last century, and the practice of phrenology - that cast the cloud of physical and mental subjugation of Blacks, Chinese, Mexicans, Native Indians, East Indians and others.

Because it was decided that they were the inferior people, they were segregated from the ruler class, which averted sympathies and any notion of equality. Indeed, the underclass were not allowed to attend the same church for fear that the equality status in the eyes of God might be surmised. All colonial peoples were thus labeled with taboos, and were stereotyped according to the racial/ethnic/religious group. The bottom-line for all of this was/is to exploit labor or property for economic gain.

Today, there are modern day racial theorists, individuals with respectable academic credentials, who spew similar prejudicial and bigoted rationalization, in order that a 'super' class is maintained, or for a political or religious hegemony to gain ascendancy. Mostly, these academics and intellectuals (and politicians) are on the fringe, extreme in their views, and fundamentalist in their practices. And they are on the rise worldwide.

Such rationalization is used to justify social cleavages rather than augment cohesion. We observe this kind of over-zealous and over-reactive behavior as racial, ethnic, tribal, religious, and indigenous when such consciousness takes shape and form throughout the world. The consequence is the development of a neo-Darwinist social thought that has appealed to some, and indoctrinated them in new concepts, in exaggerated beliefs, in fixity of human characteristics as being primal or primordial, which suggests that humans are unchangeable regardless of time and space. This kind of pre-ordained concept and immutable belief does not favor rational and objective dialogue.

"Though the concept of race [and ethnicity] is genuine enough, there is perhaps no field of science in which the misunderstandings among educated people are so frequent and so serious."

For my part, I venture that there is no "pure" stock, that racially speaking, humans are hybrids to a greater or lesser degree, and that the designation to race/ethnicity is primarily a function of cultural diversity. There are no better cultures, no chosen people, no superior or inferior people. We are indeed all brothers and sisters. The philosophy of the modern day Charles Murray (of the "The Bell Curve" notoriety) and the Kiplings and Chamberlains of the past should be purged from our thinking. The sooner we revert to the "brotherhood of man" concept, the better the world would be.

This Utopian dream will arrive one day, the sooner the better - when we can judge others "by the content of their hearts rather than by the color of their skin".

The debates will continue.... In Guyana, a new Government is being set up with great expectations. This new term must seek the opportunity to address the vexing question of a racial/ethnic divide that has been plaguing the nation for too long. It is not a job for the government only. It must be the special charge of schools and colleges, of all citizens to address the burning issues with truthfulness and candor. There must be genuineness on all sides. There must be debates and more debates, done with respect and civility, to arrive at positive resolve. Unity in the nation is a pre-condition for living together. With unity and democracy, there will be development for all to savor.

Yours faithfully,
Gary Girdhari PhD