THE fact that a deep racial divide exists in Guyana between citizens of Indian descent and those of African ancestry is well known.
However, unfortunately, the fact that Indigenous Guyanese have been the victims of racism has been largely ignored or overlooked; and, when indigenous citizens are attacked or otherwise victimised, such behaviour is often attributed to some other factor, such as religion, political beliefs, etc, rather than racial prejudice, even though there may be overwhelming evidence that racism is the driving factor.
Racism is defined as the belief in the superiority of one race over another. It may also mean prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different race or ethnicity. Modern variants of racism are often based on social perceptions of biological differences between peoples; and although scientists have found no biological basis for racial categorisation, the notion persists, even in the minds of the better educated.
We recall that in December 2014, then President Donald Ramotar said that, “You don’t know anything about Jagdeo; if he bin hay he might a slap yo, coz you stupid.” The obnoxious remark was directed to Mr John Adams, an indigenous Guyanese. While such disrespect directed against indigenous Guyanese may be blatantly racist, there are certainly more subtle forms of the disease.
What of persons referring to indigenous Guyanese as b*** people? What of the employer who will not hire indigenous Guyanese? What of the worker who verbally or physically attacks an indigenous Guyanese, yet, never disrespects any other colleague of his own ethnic background? Evidently, editor, such matters should be addressed if we are to make progress as a nation.
For years, under the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) reign, indigenous peoples had been neglected. Of course, this sort of systemic racism has been eradicated by the APNU+AFC coalition government. President Granger has said that social cohesion, which has been a key area of focus for his administration, is rooted in respect for the racial, religious and social groups in society, particularly of minority groups. Unfortunately, the disease remains ingrained in the minds of too many.
It is saddening that racism of all types remains a problem. I am particularly disgusted as an indigenous Guyanese that prejudice not only appears to persist against Guyana’s first peoples, but the problem is largely ignored and hidden.
I trust that as a people, we can, some day soon, grow up and eradicate the cancer of racial prejudice and the verbal and physical violence which it may cause.