Guyana does not need more ethnic parties

Dear Editor,

I write to correct an egregious attack on my character by Mr M Maxwell: ‘Guyana does not need the expansion of its ethnic competition …’ in which he stated that I defend “ethnic supremacy” (SN, Jan 31).  I consider the comment to be a serious challenge to my reputation and integrity. I state categorically that I never opined or advocated that any ethnic group is supreme over any other group.

Sociologists define ethnic supremacism as a belief that a particular ethnic group (or some other socially constructed identity) is superior to others, and entitles those which identify with such beliefs to dominate, control or rule those who do not. An example would be ‘The White Man’s Burden’ that was used to colonize subjects in the colonies. “White Rule Forever in Canada” would be another example.  The Klu Klux Klan in America would be considered as advocating and practising white supremacism as do the skinheads in Germany and other parts of Europe. The practices of slavery and indentureship are also considered supremacist where groups were considered as inferior and fit to perform only low-level chores.

Generally speaking, respected media outlets do not permit name-calling and character attacks and when they do, an equal response is permitted. An inexorable descent into personality with demeaning comments against others should not be entertained by the media. If Mr Maxwell engages in name-calling, then those he attacks should have a right to respond with equal name-calling. That has not been the case in the media. As journalism professors have commented, credible and trustworthy information is the bedrock on which the media survive and around which democracy is built. Claims must be evidentiary based. No paper should allow itself to be used to lambaste and to hurl abuse at others. The media must be fair and balanced and provide equal access to all but not entertain personality attacks and drivel.

Mr Maxwell’s letter does have one positive note which I compliment and endorse.  Guyana does not need more ethnic parties or ethnic competition and we need to find a solution to ethnic conflict.  That has been my mission. I have studied ethnicity extensively and travelled to dozens of multi-ethnic countries. Solutions are not easy and one has to theorize and experiment with various possibilities until we find a workable practical solution to solve conflict. European countries like Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland, etc, took centuries to arrive at workable solutions to their ethnic conflicts and even now there are ethnic flare-ups.  I do not imagine a solution to our conflict will happen overnight although I dream it would. But as Mr Maxwell said, I don’t think we should pretend we don’t have an ethnic conflict as some of the party leaders do. And solutions must be meaningful, practical and institutionalized, not cosmetic as some proposed.

 

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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