Expected US congressional delegation welcome but lacking in diversity

Dear Editor,

Like what I suspect would be the view of the majority of Guyanese, I welcome the news that a delegation including nine members of the United States Congress would be visiting Guyana shortly. I share the views attributed in the press to Minister of State Harmon that the visit of such a large delegation suggests that politicians in the United States believe that significant things are happening in Guyana.

However, I am very disappointed to see  what appears to be a stark lack of diversity in the make-up of the members of Congress slated to visit this multi ethnic Caribbean nation, which can always use reinforcement in our adherence to the principle of inclusiveness in our society. The nine members of Congress identified as part of the twenty-five member delegation are all white, all male and overwhelmingly (seven to two) Republican.

I am not sure how these delegations are put together. It may be that members join the delegation based on individually expressed interest in so doing. However, the person identified as leading the delegation should actively court members so that the visiting delegations would more closely reflect the diverse make-up of the United States House of Representatives. The Hill newspaper (November 17th. 2016) described the current Congress as the most diverse in history. The House is about 20 percent female and about 20 per cent non-white. It should not be difficult to form a delegation more diverse than the one comprised of nine white men that are coming to Guyana.

The person identified in the press as the leader of the delegation Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He would not have to reach very far to find someone whose presence in the delegation would in some way diversify his delegation. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee a Democrat from Texas is not only female but of African descent. Of even more significance in the context of Guyana is the fact the Representative Jackson Lee is the daughter of Caribbean (Jamaican) immigrants.

Regardless of the make-up of the delegation, I have no doubt that on both an official and unofficial level, Guyanese would welcome them warmly. It is my humble opinion, however, that a more diverse delegation would have had not only an important demonstration effect but would ensure that Guyana is perceived from diverse perspectives by the visitors.

Yours faithfully,

B. Mayo Robertson

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