Ending racial politics begins with the people

Dear Editor,

Racial politics in Guyana must end, and this must begin with the people.  Your October 3 piece entitled ‘Nagamootoo accuses PPP of race-baiting,’ raises a serious issue that has long stood in the way of the Guyanese people. Being Guyanese-American, and having seriously studied the effects of race and its role in politics in Guyana, I believe that all attempts by politicians at race-baiting should not be permitted. Instead, racial politics and race-baiting should be seen as criminal acts, since they frequently undermine Guyanese democracy and the people’s choice, thus, indirectly, violating Guyana’s constitution and its contractual commitment to its people.

Race-baiting by politicians in Guyana is nothing new and is usually brought about when one or more of its political parties senses that it is failing the country economically. They then bring up race to distract the population from the real issues. I applaud AFC Vice-Chairman, Mr Moses Nagamootoo, for denouncing a practice that should not be tolerated in Guyana, and raising awareness in a public manner. When racial politics arise in the country, it constitutes an attempt by the Guyanese government to divide and rule the people for its own benefit.

To make matters worse, when racial violence occurs as a byproduct of political race-baiting, the world sees Guyana as a “racist” and “corrupt” society— which I know it is not.  Earlier this year, when I conducted research on Guyana, I found that Western scholars and organizations believe that racial or ethnic violence is the reason for the country’s weak economy and weak government. Looking at Guyana’s history their view of the nation seems accurate, but does not capture the full picture. Guyana is weak because its government and economy are. Because the nation is weak, the people are more susceptible to political race-baiting.

But there is hope. Guyanese scholars, and ordinary citizens that I have freely interviewed, understood that poverty is a bigger issue in Guyana and that racial conflict or race-baiting is only present when politicians definitively are benefiting from it. If the majority of citizens understood this, political figures attempting to hide their destruction behind race-baiting would not be tolerated. If Guyanese were able to stop electing corrupt and racist political individuals, policy outcomes could greatly improve. After all, if one sector or one racial group of people is benefiting more than another sector or group of people in the nation, Guyana will not grow and its people will continue to suffer as a nation.

Yours faithfully,
Tamanisha John
Research Associate
Council on Hemispheric

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