I support Mr. Sukdeo's critique of Mr. Parris's story
Stabroek News
January 31, 2002

Dear Editor,

I wish to give my support to everything that was so feelingly expressed by Mr Gokarran Sukdeo (23/01/02) over the derogatory racial nickname used in the "Christmas Annual." I am dismayed that Mr Haslyn Parris and Dr Ian McDonald should display such insensitivity for a cheap laugh. I am doubly dismayed at Mr Ruel Johnson's defence of them and himself for using the slur. We have lost another generation to our low race war.

I have further unease over Mr Miles Fitzpatrick's defence of the crass racial remarks McDonald makes in his novel. My unease arises from Stabroek News' recent editorial stand on Naipaul's Nobel Prize which emboldened a host of critics to charge that Naipaul is a racist among other things. These critics found support in two blistering SN editorials. The first one, "Sir Vidia's Shadow", published on October 25, 2001, quoted from Caryl Phillips who stated that Naipaul has made "the most outlandish, racist, unscholarly and inaccurate statements in books and interviews ...". SN's editor added after this quote that Naipaul's "literary fame has allowed him to get away with a great deal of shameful nonsense".

The protagonist in McDonald's book bluntly expresses revulsion for whole races of people but Fitzpatrick dismisses this as the mere musings of a fictional character. Stabroek News never considered this defence as a possibility in Naipaul's case (putting aside whether the charge of racism against Naipaul has merit) and therein lies my unease. Fitzpatrick points out that there are rules of engagement in these matters and the learned SC must realise that SN has set a precedent on the criteria used for determining who is racist. The rules of engagement must be applied fairly and even-handedly. It would be very sad indeed if it were discovered that the rules are applied by Stabroek News in a racially discriminatory manner - that the criteria used to determine racism if you are an Indian differ from the criteria used for others.

I have further unease in the excuses being made for McDonald's racist statements by Fitzpatrick since I believe they are both directors of Stabroek News. It smacks of cronyism.

Johnson seems to be a very silly young man who knows little about everything and even less about language and its contextual usage. He is being given responsibilities that are way above his reach. He should note that racists are also courageous and honest, qualities he attributes to Dr. McDonald. Courage and honesty have to be linked with goodness, humility and intelligence before we can have decent people and societies.

Is Stabroek News also racist towards Indians is my question.

Yours faithfully,

Daniel F. Kissoon

Editor's note

We believe that Mr. Ruel Johnson, responding to a letter by R. Sukhraj in his letter of the 20th January 2002, made a genuine effort to grapple with the difficult and sensitive issues involved when he stated: "What McDonald's novel did was to validate and express the general psychic tension of Caribbean "white" people in an era of changing racial concepts in the region. Regardless of the historical juxtaposition of the races in post-colonial societies like ours, no individual should be denied the right to express a genuine emotion using literature, autobiographical or otherwise; the colour of someone's skin should not provide the equation by which we measure the validity of that person's feeling.

To write anything even vaguely autobiographical, Sukhraj, is an act of extreme emotional courage and intellectual honesty; to recognize and confess to the prejudices that have been conditioned into us is always a monumental task.

The Hummingbird Tree adequately captures the angst suffered by an individual and an era; as such its validity as one of the more useful pieces of Caribbean literature is beyond dispute."

Dr. McDonald is not a director of Stabroek News as the writer states but has been a most distinguished op-ed columnist since the newspaper started.