No guilty race Editorial
Stabroek News
March 8, 2003

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The phrase ‘no guilty race’ is Mr Eusi Kwayana’s. The sentiment it seeks to convey, if we may interpret it liberally, is that it makes no sense to get involved, as the protagonists of ethnic causes often do, in some kind of historical calculus as to who did what, when and where and which ethnic group is more guilty of oppression than the others. That is a futile task which can only lead to bitterness, resentment and, in the worst case scenarios, attempts at ethnic cleansing. Nazi Germany and the `final solution’ Hitler crafted for the Jews was the most hideous culmination of this kind of thinking. More recently, Yugoslavia and Rwanda show us the possible outcomes of this kind of vengeful interpretation of the past.

Some offences are more recent and more brutal than others such as the attacks on and murders of Indians at Annandale and elsewhere in the last year and are therefore much harder to see in a larger historical perspective as the hurt and pain are still acute. Mr Kwayana, Mr David Hinds and Andaiye have forthrightly condemned these attacks as utterly misguided and destructive. Ultimately if we are to progress, we have to be prepared to put the historical baggage behind us and to think creatively about a future together. As Mr Kwayana has done, we have to speak out evenhandedly against all atrocities, not turn a blind eye to those committed by `our’ group as in that case our protest loses some moral force. After all, atrocities are always committed by a small and usually unrepresentative minority and groups should not allow themselves to be identified with or tarnished by their conduct because of their silence.

There have been over the centuries a number of great historical injustices and given the fact of uneven global development the strong will always set the agenda and injustices will continue. However, after a time the idea of justice can itself become a nebulous and complex topic. Harping on the past, adopting a victim psychology will lead us nowhere and can become an excuse for doing nothing or reacting negatively. Progress ultimately depends on putting the past behind us and building a positive future. The challenges of development, the outlines of which have been so well sketched in the National Development Strategy, are enormous and will take all our energies. Those are the challenges we must accept to move forward. We have to put behind us the destructive indulgence of ethnic hatred and distrust which leads us down a blind alley.

There is no guilty race, though there have been historical injustices at different times. If we can recognise that profound truth proclaimed by Mr Kwayana we can relate to each other without fear or prejudice and all things become possible thereafter, including the beginning of new economic development, the provision of jobs and the reduction of unemployment, the lessening of poverty and misery, and a more hopeful and less cynical and alienated attitude to the prospects for ourselves and our country.

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