Of race and racism Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 20, 2002

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WE WERE pleased to publish last week a viewpoint by Dr. Joyce Jonas first aired by the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation.

It was the exposure of, as she said, one of the lingering “absurdities” [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] of racial categories in Guyana.

It is sickening enough for this land of six defined ethnic categories, with an inspiring national motto of “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”, to be plagued by the post-independence burden of racism and racial strife that have too often been exploited for narrow, selfish, personal and political objectives.

But why should anyone, as Dr. Jonas discovered to her unpleasant surprise, and handled with admirable sophistication, still have to fill out a form for any health or other institution, on his/her ethnic origin?

Dr. Jonas and the nurse of the unmentioned city hospital may have laughed together over the absurdity of her having to identify on the form her “racial group”. But it is certainly no laughing matter.

Such a requirement has NO place in a country that badly needs to make a lived reality of its own national motto. All private and public institutions should object to any such form.

More importantly, it must be a matter of official policy to make it an offence for such a form to be in circulation. Nationality and/or gender yes. But what’s the relevance of one’s ethnic origin?

Playing the “race card” has for far too long been the name of the game for more than politicians across the political divide in this country. The “us” versus “them” syndrome, the blame-shifting on racism must be dealt with individually and institutionally.

Dr. Jonas made an interesting observation of immediate relevance to what’s occurring at this challenging time of criminal rampage.

“I’ll bet you”, she said, “that every single person in Buxton could relate an incident in which he (or she) received kindness from a Guyanese with straight hair. Similarly, I’ll bet that every single person in (neighbouring) Annandale can tell you of a trusted friend or valued co-worker who has kinky hair...”

Then came her strong appeal for all who really care: “Listen to me, the politicians are not going to move to stop the racism because racism fuels their selfish cause. But YOU (our emphasis) and I, as individuals, can refuse to subscribe to racism in all its forms - institutionalised and private”.

Well said, indeed. It is a sentiment that must be shared by all Guyanese who are sick and tired of the overt and covert racism that is weakening this nation, year after year.

What would have driven, for instance, a political leader, who knows of the consequences of racial exploitation in this country, to take a clearly partisan approach to Buxton and proceed to articulate a proposed development plan, as if oblivious of the criminality in that village that has affected, and continues to affect so many of differing ethnicities?

The irresponsibility would be no less should another political leader choose to play the same game in another East Coast village by expediently, opportunistically, highlighting the social and economic problems and demand millions of dollars of state funds for those villagers.

Such an approach is the way to more racial/political divisions, the road to hate and intolerance that could result in more human tragedies

Dr. Jonas’s advice, in alluding to the current crime wave, is worth repeating:

“You want to stop the violence? Then understand that YOU (our emphasis) too are involved, and cut out the racism. And you know full where to start”.

That “you” applies to all and sundry, across ethnic and political lines.

As Martin Carter, that great freedom fighter and patriot, reminded long, long ago:

You Are Involved:

Like a jig shakes the loom,

Like a web is spun the pattern

All are involved!

All are consumed!