Concepts of ethnic relations

Dear Editor,

The following are my concepts on race and ethnic relations in this country:

* Guyana seemingly has no dominant ethnic group.

* Guyana has ethnic alliances.

* Guyana’s major ethnic groups ostensibly have comparable socioeconomic status (SES), the indicators being education, occupation, and income, producing a composite index score. If this is the case, then we need to raise questions on marginalization as touted in this society.

* Guyana’s cultural mosaic inclines toward pluralism.

* Guyana’s fringe politicians and parts of the private media construct and reconstruct ethnic conflict, assisting them to manipulate the race card.

* Guyana has class-race-ethnicity simultaneously lived-in where each person belongs to a class, a race, and an ethnic group.

* Guyana has class divisions within each ethnic group as well as in the society at large – intra and inter-ethnic class structure.

And the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has a useful track record since 1953 of advancing equality before the law for all persons, regardless of their race, ethnicity, class, colour, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin.

And now, discrimination against people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, class, colour, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, is illegal.

Notwithstanding these protections, some people themselves engineer ethnic discord for their own ends; hence, people construct ethnic discord to further their own vested interests. Who benefits from ethnic discord? Clearly, the beneficiaries would be people who promote and realize their vested interests.

People define their own reality. Once people come to terms with this definition, they begin to live within this reality. Nevertheless, the individual in contact with others, either face-to-face, or through other forms of communication, shapes this reality.

Remarks and messages by politicians, the mass media, hate literature, and significant others, do influence the formation of people’s reality and their opinions on race relations.

Some of these typical messages in Guyana include:

Social inequality drives the Guyanese way of life; public leadership constantly pursues the initiation and strengthening of ethnic dominance; ethnic groups see each other as racially unequal; ethnic marginalization is a key public policy measure; ownership and control of the wealth of this country lies in the hands of a particular ethnic group; ethnic groups will be better off with their own ethnic kind driving political and corporate governance.

Television stations and the print media regurgitate these messages daily, and in principle they should, in the interest of freedom of speech.

Nonetheless, at least, the mass media should not disseminate messages, if untrue and unfair, as if they were legitimate, particularly as some messages cited above may be untrue.

Some elements within the mass media and political sphere may believe that these messages represent the true picture in Guyana. For this reason, it is plausible that the masses may accept these messages, notwithstanding that the messages for them may produce false perceptions and a reality overflowing with untruths.

Even so, regardless of the veracity or falsity of the perceptions, so long as people believe these perceptions to be true, such perceptions will drive their behaviours.

We can say that people talk about the messages to which I earlier alluded, and, of course, there are other messages, to form an opinion of race relations in Guyana.

And any artificial understanding (non-evidence-based) of race relations would obscure an appreciation of the factual scenario; alternatively, any sincere understanding (evidence-based) of race relations would produce an appreciation of the factual scenario.

Clearly, within the Guyana context, there are elements in the political sphere and mass media that ubiquitously present a non-evidence-based view of race relations and the McDougall Report that canvassed a small, but unrepresentative cross-section of Guyanese individuals and organizations is another case of non-evidence-based views of race relations in this country.

Yours faithfully,
Prem Misir

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