The debate on the ethnic situation is lopsided

Stabroek News

October 16, 2003

Related Links: Letters on 'Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana' death
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Dear Editor,

I really hate to go here, because I believe what Guyana needs now more than ever are words that offer healing rather than those which strengthen the wall of separation between groups. But I am an Afro-Guyanese who spent more than three quarters of his life in Guyana, and retain this citizenship into perpetuity. And I am amazed at the arrogance and blatant paternalism exhibited by Mr Kissoon in his so-called review of Doctor Gibson’s book. He calls Doctor Gibson a racist for her take on the historical relationship between Afro and Indo Guyanese, but it is clear that his anger is stimulated more by the fact that she dared to say what she did, rather than what she said.

I will not take authority unto myself to speak on the values of Hinduism and the caste system in India. But I absolutely consider myself informed and capable of speaking on the experiences of Afro-Guyanese in terms of the prejudices they endure throughout their lives because of their color. Anyone who contends that anti black prejudice is absent from the Indo-Guyanese community are as looney as those who deny that Indo-Guyanese are targeted by black criminals for robbery, et al. But the looney always want to have their cake and eat it too. When Doctor Gibson talks about Indians referring to Afro-Guyanese as “black dogs”, she is stating a fact. This does not mean that all Indians do this, or maybe, even that the majority of Indians do this. But comments like these and others that are dehumanizing of Afro-Guyanese have always come freely from the lips of too many Indians. I can go on and list personal experiences in this context that I am sure are familiar to many in my community, but it is all water under the bridge. The fact of the matter is that anti-black prejudice is as native to Guyana as mango and sugar cane.

This whole debate about the racial situation in Guyana is so lopsided, and formatted in a manner to give one side credence over the other. One side has the benefit of political power, the government-owned audio, video and print media, and the hubris that comes with the recognition that “awee pon top”. The other side has the experience of witnessing their angst being curtly dismissed, sometimes even by media which carries an independent label and independent mission statement. I suppose economic realities compel some measure of support for the side with the numbers and power. The lopsidedness in this issue is most manifested by the composition of the so-called Ethnic Relations Commission. Nowhere on that committee, or as far as I have read and know, is there any group whose mission is the representation of the interest of Afro-Guyanese. Every other major group is represented by one or more bodies which speak directly to their interest, e.g. a Hindu organization, a Muslim organization, an Amerindian organization, etc. Pray tell, which one of the others shares a similar relationship with the Afro-Guyanese community?

Those who are on this frenzy to crucify a black woman for her subjective or objective views, take your pick, balance their views on this kind of equality. It is of cunning and artful construction, a la “George Orwell’s Animal Farm”. It is reasoning and attitude which overtly view all people as equal per se, but covertly consider some people because of their membership in some specific race or culture, as being less equal than others. Go figure.

Yours faithfully,

Keith R Williams

Editor’s note:

The organizations represented on the Ethnic Relations Commission are the Christian community, the Hindu community, the Islamic community, the Private Sector, the Labour Movement, Women’s organisations and Youth organisations.

Mr. Kissoon appears to be questioning the quality of Ms. Gibson’s scholarship. Anti-black prejudice certainly exists, but is there a Hindu conspiracy?