On Americans - and Burnham Frankly Speaking
By A.A. Fenty
Stabroek News
June 25, 2004

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My own journalistic idiosyncrasy not to quickly join debates on popular current issues, again leads me to recycle a few by-gone thoughts. But with purpose.

How much does the modern white (Caucasian) American really Hate African-Americans - merely because of race? And when will Mr. Burnham's legion of die-hard loyalists write his Biography? Now read on and be titilated, entertained, informed - or provoked.

Black American, White American......

It was the ole talk with the Boys at the Stabroek Square last Wednesday evening which prompted me to raise an issue not directly related to our own local bundle of problems and challenges.

The beginning to the saga that is the American basketballer Kobe Bryant's case gave rise to very firmly held, if animated, views by the fellows. I must report that the fellows I mix with held a "majority view" that the "White American Establishment", the powerful White American "System" is out to "get Kobe."

Now this is a view I'd already gotten from US minority publications - pro-Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Latino - and from scores of informed and "conscious" Black folks who "understand" that Whites have a life-long mission to keep Blacks in their "place" and would forever have that objective on their agenda. My friends point to such American not-white super-stars as Mike Tyson, Jackie Robinson, Paul Robeson, (and even) Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Sidney Poitier and "Magic" Johnson. At one time or another, they tell me, when these stars were in their zenith, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) super-structure, along with the Jews, the Italians and the Greeks, would gleefully pounce on any short-coming or misdemeanour to punish, demoralise or wreck the Black celebrity or Afro-American figure of influence. Then too, you might have seen American TV reviews and local commentaries pointing out that Kobe Bryant is being "tried by the media", perceived, largely to be the system's media which have already deemed Kobe guilty.

I posited the view that too many of my pals, "Afrocentric" or not, seem to be paranoid about this alleged harassment by American Caucasians and those people's perceived programme(s) to bury Blacks. I reasoned. Did not White people - promoters, producers, film directors, sponsors, trainers - promote the talent and careers of young, poor, under-privileged Blacks and cause the "rags-to-riches" rise and prosperity of hundreds of today's American Black Superstars? Were not Blacks given space and accommodation to "make it" within the last two decades? I asked. And even as I agreed that those Whites who discovered, nurtured or sponsored Black talent gained as much or more, from the latter's achievements, I held the view that Whites wouldn't want to tear down frivolously what they had helped to build.

Oh, the fellows tore into me! I was being naïve, they lamented. I don't really understand the venom of White America. Even Whites who feigned love for Black Americans secretly subscribe to the principle and policy of "thus far and no further" or "a Nigger should know his place." But somehow I wasn't convinced, naïve or not. I can't see what the "White Establishment" has to fear from Kobe Bryant or from seeing him in jail and some other Afro-American being super-star, being NBA celebrity or Heavyweight Champion. (Holyfield, Bowe or Moorer did not seem to be the spineless, humble Uncle Toms to me.)

Perhaps there is much more to the issue. Late in the debate and evening, one of the more "intellectual" fellows declared that, for White people, keeping certain Blacks down was "self-fulfilling" - the thing to do, their reminder of just where true "power" resides or inheres. Reflect on all this until I return to the subject sometime soon.

Perhaps, you'll come up with the reasons the "White Establishment" indicts, prosecutes and harasses "White" Martha Stewart.

He's my brother...

"I have watched this brilliant brother use his brain to scheme, to plot, to put friend against friend, neighbour against relative. I have watched him use this one and that one and then quickly discard them when they had served their purpose. I have watched him, with his clever wit and charm, manipulate people like puppets on a string."

"... when I heard him I smiled. It was so typical of my brother. This was indeed the moment of truth: 'Leader or nothing.' It was perhaps then, for the first time, I became fully aware of his 'winner-take-all;' attitude; his unending zest for the trappings of power, the frightening egotism of the man."

Well, well, In these days when some give serious consideration to the issue of "winner-take-all" politics, the "older heads" amongst us will recognise and recall those excerpts from a famous political pamphlet titled "Beware my brother Forbes" written by Jessie Burnham, sister of the late Forbes Burnham the founder of the People's National Congress.

Not unlike Fidel Castro's sister, Jessie was moved to reveal what she had then perceived to be the diabolical, scheming, power-hungry nature and tendencies of her scholar-politician brother, Linden Forbes Sampson. The pamphlet was widely distributed far and wide by the PPP just before the General Elections of December 1961. She, for various reasons, sought to caution the electorate and the Guyanese public at large - especially that component of the population which had begun to fall under the "Burnham magic and charm."

I reproduce the excerpts here today mainly for the younger "fans" of this column. Again, I'll withhold comment on her assessment. Suffice to say that when that almost sensational document hit the streets, I was a youngster who admired both Mr. Burnham and Dr Jagan. I was later to support and vote for Mr. Burnham (and his Party). Like thousands of others, one then gradually realised that the man rated to be one of the finest political tacticians, a statesman of vision - Dr. Eric Williams seemed to be on par, with Manley, Bustamante and Barrow some ways behind - and more than a worthy leader, had fallen victim to the "absolute - power - corrupts - absolutely" syndrome.

I feel the reminiscence is timely because I wish to provoke his loyalists into writing a fair Biography of Burnham as another August draws near. After all, the life and times of Cheddi Jagan are all around us...

The Government's employees

OK, I concede: this government has granted far greater salary increases to its own than any other previous administrations. But it is all eaten away by inflation - quickly.

Every month we read of the prolonged grouses of teachers and public servants especially. Conciliation, arbitration, tribunals - can't there be a more civil way?

Eight or nine years ago I wrote the following which doesn't ever seen to change: Leslie Melville calls the nation's public servants, who must implement the Government's policies and programmes, "The employed poor." (2) Public servants can't escape paying their taxes; other categories of workers can. (3) A work-to-rule means that nurses and doctors won't fetch patients or water because there are no porters who will work for a degrading pittance; and no public servant will man two or three desks. (4) The PPP/Civic Government should keep its campaign promises and really prove that it's "a working-class government." (5) The World Bank does not put governments into office. (6) Is it true that the World Bank officials "read the riot act" to the Finance Ministry people with regard to the use of funds for salaries? And that the Civic won't mind if funds are re-directed to the Agri-Sector because that's where their supporters are? (7) Public Servants are being put on "welfare", being given handouts. "You can put an engine aside for months until you acquire fuel; you can't put a public servant aside until you get money, clothes, rent, food..." (8) Sugar workers negotiated a satisfactory wage increase recently and their second set of back-pay was brought forward because they need to equip their children for schools' re-opening. (9) Industrial action is necessary but never desirable. (10) The President asked the TUC to indicate its displeasure at certain anti-working-class conditionalities imposed by international lending agencies.

Readers may judge for themselves. Whether the public employees unions are unreasonable in their demands. One parting shot: It's a fact that a visiting World Bank official expressed surprise and shock to the unions that some public servants earn only $38. (US) per month!

I ask today: can't innovative ways be found to reward our teachers, policemen, nurses and public servants?


1) Keep Solid Waste Management in mind. Waste can waste us away if not identified, used or disposed of in approved manner.

2) What's a controlled dump site? A sanitary- engineered and operated land- fill?

3) Paloma Mohammed has just launched a publication of five mythological (folk) tales. I understand even the Soukooyants, Vampires and Ole Higues are concerned about blood infected with HIV.

'Til next week!