People cannot be representatives of their ethnic group in team sports

Dear Editor,

Imagine the glory days of West Indian cricket, when Clive Lloyd took the fight to England, India, Australia and Pakistan. When Lance Gibbs broke Freddie Truman’s record and proclaimed to all that “he was not tired.” When Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Andy Roberts, and a slew of cricketers of African descent were rewriting the record books of Wisden. Imagine if any regime in the commonwealth Caribbean had chosen at that time to bestow an honour or award upon them for their performance as an African. Then imagine what the reaction would have been from the very same quarters indulging in such ethnic ceremonies today, based on an individual’s performance in a team sport.

How can it be possible to separate an individual’s performance in a team sport, and quantify it on an ethnic basis. People cannot be representatives of their race or ethnicity in team sports. It is difficult to point to another nation in this world, where an award would be to an individual member of a national team based on his or her ethnicity. That it occurred in Guyana with the full support and acclamation of the national government should finally put to rest any lingering doubts about where we are headed, and who is taking us there.

Accusations of racism are constantly launched at the PNC regime under Mr Burnham by the very people who are today indulging in practices that party and leader never allowed, despite the infinite parallel situations presented to them for such indulgence. The sports and athletic accomplishments of African Guyanese during that era were multiple, as they represented the national flag in various parts of the world. What needs to be examined, and this is a legitimate point, is the apparent psychology of African Guyanese organizations and political leadership that refrained from this kind of collective self-love fest, and that of those who seem to be addicted to it today. You can bet that if the situation was reversed, the independent press would be waxing editorially about the bad taste being exhibited, and the pouring of inflammatory material on already simmering flames of division. But of course the Orwellian transformation that Guyana has been going through over the past 19 years explains such convenient outrages that erupt from some quarters.

For what it’s worth, I contend that too many of us are allowing ourselves to be inhibited from making it plain because of, to paraphrase a once prolific and thoughtful letter writer, a psychological sense of being wrong. Too many of us have silenced critique of the blatant racial and ethnic hubris of some in Guyana, to coerce us into being politically correct in our reactions and responses to their escapades. We saw it glaringly exhibited in the brochure put out for the Cricket World Cup, when only one ethnicity of the many that make up the population of Guyana was culturally referenced. Eusi Kwayana made reference to it, citing a pictography depicting the peoples of Guyana that was confined to one specific ethnic group. We see it literally in the fact that only one group in this nation has been awarded a public holiday exclusively to celebrate their contribution. The fact that it is deserving does not invalidate the claims for equal recognition of Africans whose ancestors contributed centuries of free labour and skill to the creation and development of Guyana.

We need to cease this obsequious shuffling and speak truth to power about its cockeyed understanding of things like fairness, balance, equality and justice. We need to cease allowing those determined to promote the impression of a homogeneous Guyana from controlling reality, and altering it in manner that is supportive of their self promotion.

Yours faithfully,
Robin Williams

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