The Black man's condition Frankly Speaking...
By A.A. Fenty
Stabroek News
February 15, 2002

Should I apologise? I'm not sure. You see I've craved the timely indulgence of my editor to recycle and repeat the reflections of the two major items which follow. They were both offered many "February's" ago. Reason today?

Well, so muted is the observance, the recognition or indeed the Celebration, of this February's Black History/African Heritage Month, that even I nearly let it slip by without even offering my now annual, provocative contribution through this column.

Recall that I'm in the habit of wearily acknowledging all the firsts that the Black African-descended man claims. From the first open-heart surgery, the first manufacture of shoes and ice-cream to being the first people to develop Asia's civilisations, I salute these Black "Achievements". And yes, I accept that the first humans appeared in Africa and that Beethoven was black and Jesus Christ brown. So then I ask: What the heck has happened since"? Was the cunning of the non-Blacks so powerful over the kind or na´ve hearts of the African? And if the Black and Brown peoples if the world know why and how they are subjugated, can't they ever break free?

Now to my re-cycled thoughts once again:
However, during a lengthy and spirited discussion recently I had cause to agonise over certain questions that have always intrigued, nay, mesmerised me. Will the Black Man...I mean Black African-descended people, be relegated to being the world's powerless, dispossessed and poor for as long as they exist? Cannot the world's people of colour even prevail or triumph over the forces that they claim or know are keeping them under-developed, under-privileged and marginalised? Put another way, will the Black Man be placed continuously in a position where he's forced to protest and destroy out of legitimacy or jealousy? Even in his own original African position of this Earth? And all this Forever? Or until the world "order" is changed fundamentally?

Well, I know that the above can stimulate, by way of response, a treatise or two. As an amateur cynic who finds reason to believe that, in many a case, African-descended people's have themselves to blame for their present economic - and cultural - condition, I ask my "more Afro-centric" friends for answers to those questions. And I'll share with you the answers and education I receive, after this brief but necessary diversion.

With frequency these days, many of my friends, foes and critics - especially Afro-Guyanese - Knowing of my past relationship with the People's National Congress (PNC) political party; or suspecting me to have "crossed over" to the Civic; or believing my effort to be "independent" and fair now; or just interested in my comments cum assessment, will ask me, with some fervour, "So Fenty how you think things shaping up under these people"? Of course the question is always pregnant with implication and, often strongly-held, foregone conclusions.

When I don't stick to the (expected) script, and respond indifferently to current real and perceived charges of discrimination against Afro-Guyanese, for example, or especially when I ask why better couldn't be done under the twenty-eight years Burnham/Hoyte period, well, it's then I'm "informed and educated" as to the "reasons" for the Black Man's condition and dilemma - here and around the globe. Interestingly, most Afro-Guyanese, whether intellectual, academic, business-oriented or religious, all seem to agree on the historical reasons and causes that shaped the status of today's African-descended person. I hope, therefore, you find it reasonable to believe that over the years I myself have been "made aware" of these reasons. My problem seems to be one of complete acceptance.

I know of the effects of slavery. I hear of one cultural consequence of slavery which seems to suggest that African people, especially in this part of the world, developed a dislike for farming, for agriculture, for Land. (Is that really so?) A local Afro-Guyanese-owned monthly 'paper, "Business Monthly", once informed me of the fundamental short-comings among local African-descended people which caused them not to be in a position now to own or control even a small portion of the "commanding heights of the economy". (I'm not sure whether Business Monthly is itself still around). I'm also familiar with the black complaint which highlights the fact that the powerful Rich/White institutionalised the racial/economic practice of favouring straight-haired non-white peoples over the suffering dispossessed Africans wherever they found themselves.

Naturally, as mentioned earlier, I'm always forced to ask what can the knowledgeable international reservoir of Black intellectuals, economists, historians, sociologists and cultural activists - all well aware of the causes and remedies - actually do about improving the lot of African peoples. Not much, I'm told and made to believe. Absolutely too much power, wealth and weapons reside in non-African hands and minds. Communication and cultural technologies are also becoming as powerful a weapon as basic economics in the battle "to keep Black People down". Must I believe that the European "Agenda" and the economic organisation of the world will be permanent?

Well since those thoughts and questions were first recorded many Black History months ago, so much has happened locally that I'd need another column to discuss all that the Guyanese Black Man now experiences, perceives - and that which has been "manufactured and provided" for him. For now, a reflective and productive month to all descendants of Africa.

"Schoolmen and school-women"
Fighting in our schools and their precincts. (Don't tell me about Trinidad or Barbados...). Rowdyism interrupting clean wholesome(?) performances at the Sports Hall or on the Athletic Sports fields. Immoral sexual behaviour among teens - even those that flock the fancy upbeat "churches" with fashionable "Pastors". And yes the creeping violence.

The sociologists and social/welfare workers offer all the usual, sometimes valid reasons for the breakdown. Hammie Green sounds the correct warning. And I? Well I share with you the following - Before the first fatality in our schools - I first heard the descriptions - "schoolmen and schoolwomen" - about a decade ago. A driver was remarking on the uncouth behaviour of some young secondary school students in Middle Street when he blurted out, in exasperation, "See! They're not behaving like schoolboys and schoolgirls! They're schoolmen and schoolwomen. The youths were impeding the passage of a vehicle whilst using vile language to express their opinions of a certain aberrant behaviour.

I have to reflect now on that expression, "schoolmen/schoolwomen", when I contemplate how much knowledge of adult activities and behaviour our young people are exposed to and familiar with. My second thoughts, though, centre on two principal themes: every generation gets the youth it deserves and it's adults that teach the young what the young learn.

Whether it's drugs, sex or crime generally, you'll realise that adults own, control and, wittingly or unwittingly, impart all the negatives the youth are accused of practising. Examine, briefly the question of sex and young people's attitudes based on their almost intimate, if premature knowledge of all its ramifications.

It's an enlightened age of openness, where information is freely accessible and no one must be kept in ignorance, we claim. Syndicated American columnist Jim Hoagland remarks that the Lorena Bobbit penis-cutting trial of some years ago, aired daily on television, revealed to all ages, that which a generation of young people thirty or forty years ago would have gone to their graves without knowing. That's a good place to start, if one wants to understand the gross, prematurely-adult behaviour of our schoolchildren. The media must plead guilty!

Dirty "dance-hall" lyrics apart, daily media reports of sexual permissiveness abound. Any Form One child can switch on a television set and see and hear all about depravity with animals, and about private parts, especially the penis - a word I learnt long after I was ten or twelve, I must ashamedly admit. Then that Form One friend can read in both Stabroek and Chronicle about acts of buggery -- another word accurate in law, but which as a child I dared not utter.

It had to happen I'm told. This generation had to be caught up by the sexual and other "revolutions" of enlightenment (?) Obscene language in lyrics and dirty dancing on the dance-hall floor and among nursery-school tots at Mash Time would have been unavoidable.

Oh well. I'm the last one to be "moralistic". I'm no good example myself. But don't be alarmed at what "this young generation" has become. We're to blame. After all not many teenagers make records, own the media or control the means to manufacture, transport and distribute drugs.

Business outlook delayed
Apologies to the Principal and his reputable firm. Because I have not recovered my copy of the Survey I loaned to my "expert" adviser. And also because I have not communicated with Mr Ram - for "balance" - I have to postpone to next week my necessary exploration on this sensitive subject.


1) Next week too, on the pre-Republic Day, we'll share thoughts on the "alternative Mash". Coming at all?

2) Let me be frankly Parochial, Practical and Partisan - consciously (PPP/C!). Can't the West Indies Cricket Team win something for the sake of Carl Hooper!?

3) I'm strangely glad I won't be judging the adults but see you at calypso Blairmont Tomorrow night.

Until next week!