A resurgence of xenoracism
Guyana Chronicle
March 28, 2002

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Never before in modern history, has there been such a movement of people between borders, and an interface between cultures. Over the past two decades, Guyana has seen unprecedented levels of emigration, which were precipitated by the total collapse of the countryís infrastructure during the Burnham era.

The first ports of call for many Guyanese were, Suriname, Brazil, Venezuela and many CARICOM countries. For those who could have afforded, many travelled to relatives and friends in North America and Europe. Although the scale of this emigration is largely underplayed at home, one can never make light of its eroding social, economic and demographic effects. Guyanese are now, one of the most diasporic people on the planet. For me, it is always a surreal and emotively powerful experience, to see the large Guyanese, and Guyanese descended communities in other parts of the world. Such a tidal wave of movement, inevitably ensue the problems of reception in the "host country". There is the ubiquitous racism in Europe and North America, but in many black Caribbean and African countries, this unprecedented movement of people has seen a resurgence of xenoracism. This form of racism is not colour-coded, and manifests itself in the black on black violence worldwide. This racial model can be used to explain the attacks on Ghanaian nationals in Libya, so severe was this episode, and so embarrassing for Muammar al-Qadhafi, that the then President of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings had to charter an aircraft to ensure the safe and speedy return home of the Ghanaians. In South Africa, nationals from the fronline states who supported the A.N.C during the critical period of the struggle against Apartheid, currently experience virulent hostility from black South Africans, with this culminating into the recent attacks on black Zimbabweans. In the Ivory Coast, nationals of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Guinea and Liberia encounter immense problems. These problems, in all their unsavoury nakedness dominated the last general elections. Nearer to home, in the Caribbean, Guyanese nationals have experienced problems of prejudice, national profiling, resentment, negative stereotyping, discrimination and naked xenoracism in Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua amongst other Caribbean countries.

I have been the recipient of what has become the typical "Barbadian hospitality", on the sight of a Guyanese passport, in the nit-picking and the puerile semantics of the over zealous Immigration officer. What is even more disgusting, is that this British colonial outpost, while attempting to humiliate nationals of a sister Caricom country, continues to kowtow to white visitors, as evidenced by many travellers to Barbados.

There is a simple explanation for this appalling treatment of Guyanese in many Caricom countries. Donít tell me that the criminality of a deviant minority is responsible for the indecorous treatment of Guyanese by Barbadian officials. It has nothing to do with "the supposed criminality" of some Guyanese, but everything to do with the challenges posed by some of the most skilled, progressive, forward looking, inspirational and hard working people in the Caribbean, and in the world, as they win access to the legitimate opportunity systems of Caricom countries and the world. Guyanese nationals continue to dominate the Caribbean infrastructure as Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Nurses, Engineers, and the list continues interminably.

The growing resentment for Guyanese in Caricom countries has been mainly due to our domination of the legitimate opportunity systems, and with this comes very powerful resentment, jealousy and even violence. It seems as though Barbadians in their carefully contrived sense of amnesia need a reminder, about the period 1863-1924, when some Barbadians migrated to Guyana in search of employment, that today many of us as Guyanese have Barbadian antecedents.

During that period they came lock, stock and barrel, and kitchen- sink and all. Today in Guyana, remains one of the most enduring legacies, of that period. Amongst the "slave surnames" of some Guyanese, are Irish surnames, reflecting the period when the British banished large numbers of Irish men to Barbados.

Guyana is now becoming an attractive country for many in search of adventure and a peaceful life. We are at that threshold of our history, where we would have to co exist on Guyanese soil with large numbers of nationals from as far as Australia and Nigeria. Our experiences of living in foreign countries must serve to inspire us to treat others in the same way as, we would like them to treat us.
Joseph B Collins