With allegations against the employment practice of GECOM raised, the issue of race has surfaced again. Race is the foundation of Guyana’s life and existence and it is always a good and honourable thing to talk about.
To start out I wish to point out that Arthur Chung, our first president, was selected on the basis of race, pure and unadulterated. That appointment still remains the most glaring example of its kind. Because the selectee was neither Black nor Indian, it was meant to be consumed both as a non-racial and an anti-racial act, freed from all racialities. In truth, it was racial and racist to the core. And that by itself, most interestingly, was not necessarily a bad thing, except to the extent it might have belittled the ethnicity of the selectee.
Both PPP and PNC have filled and will fill positions with people of their own racial kind. There is nothing new and controversial about this and it should alarm no one. This is the stuff our politics is made of. It seems that it has been going on forever. It is a given. The practice is known and accepted, if grudgingly, by all as part of our heritage. Is there any reason to wonder why you vote for the party of your own racial makeup, regardless? There is nothing new under the sun on this score.
What is needed is a shockingly new approach to the problem. I will illustrate below the kind of thinking I have in mind.
Lincoln Lewis (SN and KN Letter to the editor, June 11, 2018) expressed the need for information regarding, among other things, “the race of the applicants who applied to fill the vacancies [at GECOM].” An even more important statistic would be the race of the applicants who did not apply because they knew they would be denied based on their race. This later statistic might reveal there is no need for statistics at all.
Consider too, GECOM’s statement that it hires “according to merit and not ethnic quotas” (SN and KN June 9, 2018). This is the same old same old. There is nothing new or commendable in this well-worn statement. To truly break from the race stranglehold of the past and present, new explorations out of the box are required.
In matters of race, jobs are the most important equalizer of man, more important than the right to vote even when voting counts. The civil rights movement in the U.S. became primarily a movement for the right to work. Give a man a job and he will find freedom and happiness (even if you confiscate his ballot).
A better approach would be the
complete opposite of GECOM’s: hire primarily on race and secondarily on merit. Of course a well-defined and agreed upon ethnic quota system would have to be in place with standards carefully developed and publicized. Such a scheme would take quite some time and effort to formulate. All stakeholders would be aware of what is going on and no apologies for discrimination on the basis of skin colour would be necessary. Checks and balance would also be in place to ensure the majority ethnic group does not get a disproportionate share. As a multi-racial country, Guyana could become a model and teach the world a unique lesson. I believe with this public and open race-based arrangement the great divide would be addressed head on. Do our leaders have the heart for even considering suggestions of this kind? I despair.
My suggestion is not without some bit of precedent. I think the United States experimented with such an enterprise with its affirmative and quota legislations of the 1960s and 70s. I have always rated these acts by the U.S. Government as more revolutionary than anything you will find in the radical history of the Soviet Union or Western Europe.
P. D. Sharma
Los Angeles, CA