Racism is an albatross
Kaieteur News
May 14, 2007

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Racism is something that raises its ugly head at the drop of a hat and in every case people seek to use race to divert attention from the issue at hand. We in this country are not averse to such use of racism and in every case the situation has come back to haunt us.

After the elections of 1992, tempers flared in the city, and at the root of the anger was the racial question. One group of people expressed fears that by being of an ethnic group not known to support the ruling party in significantly large numbers they would have been disadvantaged.

This feeling continues to this day with even politicians accusing each other of racism. And there is no subtle hint at the fact that many feel that racism is behind so many things in the country.

Recently, one of the daily newspapers carried a cartoon that seemed to suggest that there was racism behind every major appointment. To date there has been one letter criticizing the use of the cartoon.

Late last week, a Guyanese, who had become a member of the New York Metropolitan Police Force, shot his estranged paramour and despite the evidence, he reportedly told the police that he saw a Black man following him and the now dead woman.

He then claimed that as a protective measure he withdrew his firearm which fell and the bullet accidentally struck the now dead young woman. And this claim was made to the White investigating ranks who are notorious for their dislike of Black people.

However, despite the community being predominantly Guyanese of East Indian ancestry and despite their inherent dislike of people of African ancestry, they insisted that the truth was something else.

We have seen other cases of the same thing in communities right here. An old woman who happened to be in her home at Leonora, West Coast Demerara some years ago, was found bound and gagged. She was dead at the time of the discovery.

The initial report by the members of the household was that a man of African ancestry was in the neighbourhood and that he was the prime suspect. The truth was that the very members of the household had killed the woman. They are now before the courts.

But even more tragic is that people in the throes of death rush to proclaim their ethnicity for fear that if they do not then they would not receive the requisite help. This was the case of Khemdat Sukhul, the farmer/businessman who was kidnapped and subsequently tortured before his kidnappers dumped him at Mahaica.

He is reported to have cried out that he was not Black, that he was of Indian ancestry. This had to be unnecessary because in this country people rush to help each other regardless of ethnicity. There have been numerous cases of this, including the case of a man who jumped into the Vlissengen Road trench to extricate a woman who was a passenger in a car that had driven overboard.

The problems of racism in Guyana are widely recognised. So bad was it at one time that the United Nations sent a special envoy to investigate the situation and to determine whether Guyana was indeed on the verge of another Rwanda.

The investigator found that there was a high degree of racial tolerance although there was some measure of racial insecurity.

The CARICOM leaders also recognised the problem and in what became the Herdmanston Accord insisted that there be a constitutional provision for an Ethnic Relations Commission.

Of course, this commission has not found favour with everyone. Some have accused it of bias in favour of the government but whether such accusations are justified is another matter.

The monitors who came for the 2006 polls in Guyana were at pains to insert into the regulations the need for all political parties to shy away for ethnic appeals during the elections campaign.

The issue of racism is serious and demands urgent attention. It is hopeless to appeal to the people to act responsibly and to eschew race. At the same time, one cannot expect the government to solve this problem overnight although we feel that there must be some positive attempts that none in the society would mistake.

Once this tendency to race continues, then the country would struggle to move ahead.

May 15, 2007

After careful examination, the management and publisher of the Kaieteur News have taken a decision to retract yesterday's editorial. We totally dissociate ourselves from the views expressed therein and offer an apology to our readers for this departure from the core values of the Kaieteur News.

It has never been the view of this newspaper that the East Indian community, or for that matter any ethnic community, has an inherent hatred towards others. We have always held that prejudice and hatred are manufactured vices and therefore capable of being eradicated. We also believe that treating with sensitive topics, such as racial prejudice, requires a delicate approach, something that was amiss from yesterday's editorial.

In order to prevent a recurrence, the management and publisher have taken a decision that henceforth greater attention and supervision will be exercised over the publication of editorials, including as is the practice of most newspapers those that are written by guest contributors. We offer our regrets and our apologies for any hurt that the offending editorial may have caused.