On January 30, 2006, African Guyanese political activist Ronald Waddell was cut down in a hail of gunfire. This came some time after a comment he had made on the air, and which the establishment media in Guyana labelled as racist. The gist of what he said was that African Guyanese need to be thankful to the African Freedom Fighters. This was at a time when violent crime was suffocating the society, and the fingers of blame were pointed at prisoners who had escaped from prison. One of these prisoners had appeared on the air claiming to be a freedom fighter, and since most of the violent crimes were attributed to them, Waddell’s comment inflamed the anger and angst of certain segments of the society.
The incoherent description of his comment as racist rather than perhaps inflammatory, spoke to the abandonment of balance, of even-handedness, or of objectivity. Waddell’s comment was made at a time when there were letters and statements from segments of the society praising the operations of vigilantes who, endowed with a hubris fed by their perceptions of what was then socially acceptable, were kidnapping, torturing and murdering people they ordained were deserving of death. In an exhibition of moral and ethical relativity, large portions of the society held their noses and rationalized one set of horrible and bestial killings, while vehemently and indignantly protesting against another set of the same. In this atmosphere, Ronald Waddell paid the ultimate price for being on the wrong side of the fence.
The killing of Ronald Waddell did not trigger any indignation from officialdom. There were no exhortations to law enforcement to track down and bring to justice those responsible, unlike what was happening when others became victims of the senseless violence. There were no rewards offered by officialdom for information related to his death. In any other society plagued with the same kinds of sharp and inflammatory political and other divisions, officialdom would have been galvanized into action over the killing of a Ronald Waddell.
That was the reaction to the assassinations of both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. In Guyana the reaction from the powers that be was, well, big deal!
Ronald Waddell was a black Guyanese activist arguing on behalf of the group he came from. In Guyana there are and were members of other groups making as vehement an argument on behalf of their groups, as Waddell was making for his. In Guyana at that time statements were being made that stereotyped entire communities as thieves and vagabonds, but those were acceptable discourse in the eyes of those using the media to castigate Waddell. Ronald Waddell was not perfect, and really none of us are. Stephen Biko once said, “So as a prelude whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks.
They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior. We would be miles forward on the way to a resolution of our local conflicts if, as a society, we embraced and promoted the idea that we are all humans, not inferior or superior.