Past President and Past Prime Minister, Mr Samuel Hinds, who in his letter to the editor: ‘We African-Guyanese must free and empower ourselves’ (Sunday Stabroek, October 8, 2017) demonstrates why he could not have contributed to that process, even as he occupied high office that could have been used to contribute to enabling African-Guyanese freedom and empowerment.
In the second paragraph of his letter Mr Hinds stated that “It is firstly we Afro-Guyanese who must free and empower ourselves, making ourselves as useful and contributing as others”. I can hardly disagree with him that any group, and in this instance Afro-Guyanese, have to free and empower themselves. But to suggest that Afro-Guyanese ‘have to make themselves as useful and contributing as others’ borders on racism.
Racism is defined as ‘The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races (https://en..oxforddictionaries. com>racism). Wittingly or unwittingly Mr Hinds describes Afro-Guyanese ‘individually and all together’ as being ‘less useful and not as contributing as others’. He is clearly making a comparison among the race/ethnic groups that comprise the Guyanese society and specifically attributing inferiority to the Afro-Guyanese. Mr Hinds demonstrates complete disregard and disrespect for Afro-Guyanese who have toiled and continue to toil in the various sectors of the economy, to wit the educators, health care providers, miners, civil servants and many others. Are they any less useful and making a lesser contribution to the Guyanese society? In the Guyana context, this adds up to a description of race relations, with the Afro-Guyanese being at the bottom of the ladder. No wonder the People’s Progressive Party pursued the politics that they did, such as not finding a single Afro-Guyanese suitable for a diplomatic posting at the ambassadorial level, for which Mr Hinds has become a defender and apologist.
While Mr Hinds might be correct in inferentially distinguishing between Afro-Guyanese and the others, what he fails or refuses to take into consideration is that the different circumstances of their arrivals and the differential treatment meted out to the various groups, post emancipation, have forged distinctive psyches and ethnic profiles. As a consequence, a level playing field in the Guyanese context has to be an equitable environment that responds to our different realities.
Hind’s attempted justification of Afro-Guyanese being misled and used, whether true or false, in no way negates my earlier contention nor does it substantiate his contention that the Afro-Guyanese problem is founded in them not moving on from slavery.
Slavery is not a mere moment in history, it has helped to fashion the Afro-Guyanese personality, thus its impact has to be determined and confronted as Afro-Guyanese seek to overcome its negative impact.
Imagine, Mr Hinds also seeks to rubbish African enslavement as just another instance of an universal phenomenon. He stated that “slavery has been one of the most common institutions amongst humans; we, all, Afro-Guyanese grew up on the story of Joseph being sold into slavery into Egypt”. This is one of the most uneducated or misleading excursions that has been mouthed in contemporary times about chattel slavery. There is no comparison between chattel slavery and the forms of slavery that predated it. Chattel slavery was justified on the grounds of racism and inferiority, that saw the enslaved Africans being described as less than human, commodities. It was a dehumanising and genocidal undertaking perpetrated by one race against another. If Mr Hinds does not understand that, he will never understand his own state of mind and that of the Afro-Guyanese about whom he wishes to pontificate. With his wrong premise, there is little credence that can be attributed to his conclusions.
He concluded that Afro- Guyanese were not “structurally and purposefully excluded from the Guyanese economy”. However, he provides no evidence to show how they, to whom, according to him, “The damage had already been done”, were to be structurally and purposefully included. On the contrary, he argued that the act of exclusion of Indians during the PNC era led to them creating niches, but attributes African successes during the PPP’s 23 years at helm, to the PPP’s policies rather than to their own ingenuity. Therein again he implies Afro-Guyanese inferiority, since Indo-Guyanese were capable of prospering in difficult circumstances, without state assistance, in fact, in the face of hostility, while the few Afro-Guyanese who made it under the PPP did so due to the policies of the PPP without which they would have remained useless. Of note, is the absence of any articulation of those supposedly beneficial policies.
History has shown the resilience of the Afro-Guyanese in the face of an hostile environment. History has shown that the occupations, of apparent choice, of Afro-Guyanese have been determined by the environment in which they were made to pursue their livelihoods.
What did the PNC do to make the bauxite workers predominantly Afro-Guyanese? Yet Mr Hinds maintains the fable that the occupational preferences of Afro-Guyanese were due to the discriminatory employment policies/practices of the PNC.
If so, why hadn’t the employment landscape changed after 23 years of PPP rule and their clear attempts to reconfigure the ethnic demographics of the public service by by-passing the constitutional mechanism of the Public Service Commission in preference for executive contractual appointments?
Mr Hind’s letter is another example of historical revisionism and distortions. Until all of Guyana wakes up to its historical reality and commits to moving forward based on a common understanding and commitment, Guyana is destined to be the victim of its own folly.