Criticism of Indian Arrival Day is misconceived

Stabroek News

February 3, 2004

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

I refer to Mr Colin Bascom's letter of January 16, 2004 saying, "I am against Indian Arrival Day" and his letter "Kissoon's analysis of Gibson's book is flawed" published some weeks ago in October last. Bascom lives in England as a Black Immigrant in a country where Black immigrants suffer discrimination. Now Bascom, with this syndrome in his mind, last October tried to project it to Guyana.

In his letter on Kissoon's analysis, Bascom, after abusing Kissoon, seemingly mistaking abuse for argument and analysis, carried a contemptuous description of Guyanese Black people, says Bascom: "We [Black People] suffer disproportionate homelessness…we are largely landless and thus without proper means to develop a community …we suffer higher levels of street homelessness…we suffer extreme levels of poverty and inadequate infrastructure within our communities… we have higher than average levels of mental ill-health and family dysfunction…" Whether or not the picture Bascom paints is reflective of the situation of Black People in the UK where he resides, I can assure him that he is wrong about Black People in Guyana.

The majority of Africans are town-dwellers and so it is inevitable that there would be more Africans than others in the streets. But the numbers are very small and such persons are well-known "characters" and they prefer such a life. Being largely town-dwellers, like all town-dwellers Africans don't desire or need to own agricultural land though Africans who live in the country in their villages own their own land. And the levels of poverty in the African Community as against say, East Indians, is lower. This fact is proven by all studies on the subject. And the percentage of Africans who have mental-health problems are about the same as for other groups.

But Bascom's disparaging picture of the Afro-Guyanese, as I said above, is probably a projection of the Black condition in his adopted homeland. In Guyana, Africans are the most educated and cultured group with the highest numbers of professionals.

There are more African members of Parliament than any others; Africans dominate the Administration and the Security Forces; Africans own and live in the vast majority of houses in Georgetown. Most of the personnel in the electronic and print media are Africans; most of the employed persons are Africans: Africans in the countryside own their land as they have done from the 19th century and a good proportion of cane and rice farmers are African; and in the Guyanese Diaspora in the USA, Afro-Guyanese are outstanding. Progressively, we are going into commerce and there are several respectable African businesses.

And I could go on and on showing you the status and achievements of Africans.

Thought creates reality and it is people like Bascom who project the Black Man as a mentally ill parasitic failure and a burden to society, and as someone who feels that the government and the world owes him a living. Fortunately, the African is strong enough to resist this syndrome. The Guyanese African remains a creative force and a pillar of strength for Guyana.

Bascom is against an Indian Arrival Day holiday for a number of specious reasons. Such reasons are of the type that there should not be a Martin Luther King holiday in America because Martin Luther King was considered by extremists as an Uncle Tom who had Black Americans conform to the White establishment and all the essentially racist things it stood for.

Bascom gives the same kind of logic why you must abolish Thanksgiving Day and Columbus Day in America and the Queen's Birthday in Britain.

The bringing of Indian Arrival Day into the holiday structure would absorb a now massive celebration which attracts tens of thousands countrywide. A national holiday would eliminate its partisan nature and make it available to all as Mr Burnham did with the non-Christian holidays. Further, it would give double pay and would certainly be something which employees wish.

In Trinidad, Indian Arrival Day is a public holiday and this has made the Trinidadians more Trinidadian.

Yours faithfully,

Lindon S Carew