Dr Misir outlines potential of Indian, African solidarity

by Sharon Lall
Guyana Chronicle
May 19, 1999

INDIAN and African solidarity has the potential for longevity but, that solidarity must be premised on developing certain conditions, opined Dr Prem Misir, Editor-in-Chief of the New York-published `Caribbean Journal'.

The US-based Guyanese earlier this month outlined a set of conditions, which he believes are likely to bring about some amount of change. He was speaking at a Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO) symposium held at the Park Hotel, Georgetown.

Poor race relations, he said, flow dynamically from a spotlight on an individual's "socially constructed physical characteristics".

"The human mindset is much more receptive to focusing on differences among people, and (is) indifferent to their similarities, thereby, diminishing the quality of relationships."

Dr Misir pointed out that in a period of economic weakness, "ethnic apportionment of blame" becomes a remarkable feature which can easily cause the region to, once again, resort to a system of "servitude".

His strategy of inculcation is as follows;

** The development of a cultural pluralism-based race, ethnicity and class to bring about meaningful interactions among all groups - a co-existence of cultures that transcend the "falsely rhetorical `Guyanese culture'".

** A stock of knowledge and authentic data-base systems on the socioeconomic status of all groups and,

** Race relations policies to be based on an interaction of race, class and ethnicity.

The university lecturer related that during the Colonial days, Indians and Africans interacted and perceived their society as if it were a nation. Their notion of a nation as a "community of sentiment" related to that of the Whites, despite the resonance of an embryonic African-Creole nationalism.

"Indeed, in the Colonial epoch, both Africans and Indians were "outsiders" in a society that they helped to build", Dr Misir said, explaining that the legal departure of Whites which began from 1966, destroyed the traditional triadic relationship between Whites, Africans and Indians, thereby, separating both ethnic groups into cultural sections.

"Loss of the White-mediating factor has induced Africans and Indians to use this ethnic diversity to their personal political advantage to be the successors of the legal political stage.

"Caribbean societies characterised by these diverse ethnic origins seem susceptibly but not inevitably driven toward displaying racial problems, more a product of race than ethnicity".

According to Dr Misir, Indo-Caribbean culture is not widely accepted as a valid concept or a legitimate field of study because the Caribbean is still mainly being associated with Africans.

Numerous studies, he said, attest to this conclusion and show an Afro-centric approach toward the Caribbean.

Some features of the Indo-Caribbean experience may very well be dislocation from India, massive burden of labour in the Caribbean, ethnic victimisation in the post-Colonial era and migration to the metropolitan centres, the speaker added.

Dr Misir noted that the main theme defining Indian contribution to the socioeconomic development of Guyana is solidarity. This is evident in their economic and industrial resistance, projection of grievances, mobilising mass support with the African cause against the White planters and, social support of the working classes during the last 28 years of dictatorship.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples