Racism talk is in the air again

Dear Editor,

Racism is in the air in Guyana (again). The President’s Office staff member was unfortunately made the mascot of this new wave of racism talk.

That shouldn’t be the case, as she isn’t the first nor will she be the last to fan the flames of racism. The real issue is that the powers of the past and present didn’t decisively put out the racism flames with zero tolerance policies. So we are in the here and now of our democracy still trying to control these flames that are popping up over and over again. Many political experts talk and write about racism without having experienced it from both sides, so the public views one hears about are necessarily one-sided and fragmented. Racism is destructive to the individual, community and ultimately the country. There are two main forms of racism: aversive and overt. In aversive racism, the perpetrator sympathizes with the victim but still holds negative beliefs. In overt racism, the victim is denied economic and other opportunities based on race. Aversive racism occurs mainly at the individual level while overt racism occurs at the governmental level.

In Guyana, we deal with the overt form almost exclusively and so miss the opportunity to provide a comprehensive solution. Time Magazine (‘3 steps to combat racism in America’, August 1, 2016) provides a useful start for us in the here and now to combat racism. The important component is point 2 (“stand against rhetoric that reinforces stereotypes”) where individuals take a stand on the matter and transform that stand from the individual level to the government level.

There is still a sliver of hope for Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Shivanand Balram


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