Gibson's book can create 'racial suspicion' -Hackett
-but must be read to be debunked
Stabroek News
April 22, 2004

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The Cycle of Racial Oppres-sion in Guyana, Dr Kean Gibson's controversial book, has the potential to create a climate of racial suspicion, however, it should not be banned from circulation if its errors are to be exposed and debunked, presenter Michael Hackett said yesterday.

Hackett offered this opinion to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) when the inquiry continued into the allegation by the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) that Gibson's book is "peddling and spreading racial hatred between Guyana's principal ethnic groups."

According to Hackett, while the book is a highly readable page-turner that can be read at one sitting, the unsuspecting layman and unscrupulous media personnel can use its content "to fan the flames of racial hatred and suspicion".

"For all its intellectual poverty and unscientific methodology and its potential for creating social mischief, in the name of freedom of expression, the book cannot and must not be banned or censored," Hackett said.

Among Hackett's criticisms of the book were that it was not peer-reviewed, lacked a publisher's note and provided no information on the author's academic credentials and past publications. Hackett considered these omissions "strange" particularly in view of the fact that Gibson's book addresses the sensitive issues of 'race and ethnic relations' in Guyana. He observed that there were no such omissions in previous publications - including Dr Basdeo Mangru's Indians in Guyana - that have dealt with similar issues.

The comments of both Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese, in relation to Gibson's book, have exposed the fears, hopes, insecurities and aspirations of both of these groups, Hackett observed. "[Thus Gibson's book] can serve as a safety release for perilous ethnic tensions [but if not properly used] can result in the Amerindian-named, African-built, Indian-maintained, Guyanese-owned house being burnt down from the explosive discharge of ethnic electrostatics."

He opined that the mere implication that Africans oppressed Indians because Indians oppressed Africans, as he believes is articulated by Gibson in her book, is an unsound and circular theory and exposes Gibson's cultural prejudices.

Because of this obvious bias, the title of her book is actually a misnomer. What she describes for the most part is European and Indian oppression. "One is hard pressed to find any cycle of oppression in her writings," Hackett declared.

He said the gist of Gibson's book is encapsulated in the single sentence on page 25 'None would belong to the Shudra caste since this caste is now reserved for African-Guyanese'. According to Hackett, since this line stands alone and un-referenced, it gives rise to a strong suspicion that this is "Dr Gibson's personal opinion, formed by her cultural perception of reality as seen through her own ethnic lenses. Hence her use of unreliable and unverified sources is understandable, she must confirm her theory at any and all costs."

Hackett told the ERC his search for two websites to which Gibson made reference in her book had turned up empty. He deemed the book an embarrassment to Africans and an "academic misadventure" that fails to mention the looting of Regent Street stores and some stores in New Amsterdam on October 5, 1992 and the stoning of polling stations that occurred in various parts of the coastland.

The ERC heard that the conclusion of Chapter 3 of Gibson's book presents a negative stereotype of Indians in the statement "East Indians justify corruption by dividing the practice into 'good thieving' and 'bad thieving.' 'Good thieving' is done by East Indians... 'Bad thieving' is done by Africans."

He advised that the book should not be used as a text or reference material in any educational institution except "as an example of poor research techniques, unscholarly work and literature of potential social mischief."

Television personality, Roger Moore, presenting on behalf of overseas-based Guyanese Clarence Ellis told the ERC that the most important contribution of the book is that "Hindu fundamentalism may be unyielding."

According to Ellis, the behaviour of President Bharrat Jagdeo and Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, in refusing to have the latter step down to facilitate an investigation into the death squad allegations against him is not encouraging, and "supports Dr Gibson's worst fears that the rest of the society is not accorded equivalence in status. The inequality in Dr Gibson's model is very much at work."

Ellis intimated that although this point may have been imperfectly expressed in Gibson's thesis and contained scholarly flaws, "it points to a … basic truth that the leaders of the government, imbued with the philosophy of racial domination that drives them, are condescending. It is a frightening situation."

Chairman of the ERC, Bishop Juan Edghill announc-ed that the commission will facilitate a public discussion next Tuesday on the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism at 5 pm.

The hearing continues today.