I continue to encounter on a daily basis African self-hate and cultural blindness

Dear Editor,

President David Granger’s recent address to the annual Cuffy 250 Forum has taken on a significance greater than he may have intended. Not only because the issues he raised are matters that the African community has been struggling with and wants lasting solutions to, but because he demonstrated a not often seen disposition to engage in public polemics. ( I like this side of the President and am looking forward to more with great anticipation). The President used the occasion to challenge Dr. David Hinds’ observations in relation to issues pertaining to the African community.

Comrade Granger must be aware that his speech has made the issues raised by him in his address, and those he cited by Hinds urgent matters for serious discussions in the African community – if not the nation. Hopefully, these discussions can take place with objectivity and if handled properly, can contribute greatly to our understanding of the historical and current challenges facing the African community and the nation. 

I am not sure in what capacity the President was asked to speak: as Head of State or as a leader of the African community. Nonetheless, Comrade Granger must have been conscious that when he addresses events like the Cuffy 250 Forum his audience expects him to address them as an African leader speaking to his people. It is in this context that I will examine the positions he proclaimed in his speech. If Comrade Granger has objections to being treated as an African leader addressing his people, then the value of this debate becomes questionable, if not useless. However, in spite of this “blind spot,” I am pursuing the discussion anyhow.

President Granger warned against “denialism” and said that we must face up to “….inconvenient truths, particularly about the country’s challenges…”. When politicians speak one is often not sure what to make of it – more so when they have power. You are never certain whether they want the public to take them seriously or not: I hope that Comrade Granger means what he says on the issue of denialism. Mr. Granger quoted Hinds as saying in his column that “African-Guyanese practiced self-hatred”; accusing African Guyanese of “cultural blindness”; alleging that African-Guyanese were “surrendering their collective dignity to the dictates of party politics”; attacking African-Guyanese for “losing faith in the ability to overcome” and of “dumping the emancipation spirit”; and claiming that “ there has been no bigger sinner against the black man, since Emancipation, than the black man himself”. Comrade Granger deems these observations as reckless pronouncements.

How correct is the President’s disputing of Hinds’ observations? The above will require much discussion and several letters, more so since the President is insisting on credible research. With due respect, his position on credible research on these matters seems more appropriate for a university class than for public discourse for mass consumption. Over the years PNC had propagandized that the WPA’ s approach to politics was too intellectualized and not for the masses. In reflecting on the President’s insistence on credible research before making pronouncements, it would be interesting to know his comrades’ present thinking on the issue of intellectualizing the political discourse.

I have decided to limit this letter to two of the many issues raised in the President’s speech, and leave the other issues for another letter since those can easily become politically partisan, and in the context of our political culture, counterproductive. I choose to start with Hinds’ position  that African Guyanese practice “self-hatred” and

“ cultural blindness”. Dr. Hinds in response to the President’s criticisms, claimed that Comrade Granger took his statement out of context. Both comrades are members of the academic community and I will leave the contextual argument to them. I have not discussed the matters I am about to address with Comrade Hinds and I am in no position to defend his thoughts; moreover, he can do so better than I can.  Therefore the position I take on these matters is not based on his “context”, but instead on the reality as I see it.

Those of us who are cultural and political activists generally dive deeper into these matters and in ways that conventional politicians don’t. I have been grappling with these matters since my early days (the late 60s) in the African Society for Cultural Relations with Independent Africa (ASCRIA),  and throughout my life I continue to encounter on a daily basis African self-hate and cultural blindness. This is a profound statement not backed by the kind of scientific research demanded by the President – but instead guided by my life experience.  And since it is on that basis the masses make economic, social and political decisions, my position cannot be lightly dismissed. 

In examining the issue of African self-hate and cultural blindness, the first point I wish to make is that this condition is not unique to Guyana but finds expression in every African community outside Africa where captive Africans experienced hundreds of years of chattel slavery and colonialism. Let me deal with the aspect on which it should be easier for us to arrive at a consensus – the question of “cultural blindness”. When African-conscious people speak of this issue they are referring to the historic disconnect that diaspora Africans have in relation to African culture as it existed prior to slavery and foreign domination of the Motherland. European enslavement and colonization of captive Africans over the centuries have produced a mass of people who have lost their historical memory, hence their culture. As Africans individually and collectively we are often not equipped with the tools for cultural emancipation. We use our Eurocentric mindset to perceive and interpret the world – that is cultural blindness.

Now to the more difficult aspect of the discourse, that of African self-hate. This is difficult because of the emotional sensitivities it evokes when raised. How can a people stripped of their religion, culture, and philosophy (worldview) not engage in self-hate? For example, If you randomly put to 10 Africans in Guyana that they are Africans and should act accordingly,  you may be surprised to find that nine out of the ten would object to being called Africans and reject the idea of an African conduct. Do the same with Indians and the other ethnic groups and you would find the reverse.

Now stop a hundred Africans and tell them that God is black and quickly they reject that notion. If you had told  them instead   that God is white their response would not be the same. How many African Christians have an African portrait of Jesus  Christ in their homes? How many homes have a European portrait of Christ? African readers should honestly answer these questions.

A people’s self-hate is best demonstrated in their individual and collective rejection of their God or Gods – Deity or Deities being a reflection of themselves. The only mass of people on earth that suffer from this disease are Africans who have experienced centuries of chattel slavery and colonialism. This is a hard reality that the African community and their leaders- religious, cultural, social and political- must come to grips with since it has negative consequences for every area of our lives.

In closing, any African that believes solely in a “ male God” and rejects the idea of an equal female God is experiencing cultural blindness and self-hate. Embracing the idea of an equal female God is not a question of Eurocentric gender equality but a profound acclamation of an African worldview reflective of our spirituality, developed and practiced before slavery and foreign occupation of the Motherland. Rejecting the African philosophical and spiritual principle of duality for a foreign  Euro/Arab male supreme god is a manifestation of African self-hate in the most profound way.

Yours faithfully,

  Tacuma Ogunseye

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