We must dismantle the racist victim themes now used for sinister political agendas
I have known Hubert Edwards and his wife Parvati for some thirty years. The complex implications of an interracial marriage though somewhat common with other Guyanese was always back then a contention with the rural Indo Guyanese communities whose attachments to arcane and atavistic dogmas and their interpretations had fermented extreme dictates that left no room for individuality and the complex chemistry that governs relationships. I cannot describe Parvati-Persaud except to say over the years I had decided to keep a safe distance from her as she seemed to possess a strange nondescript personality. Adam Harris captured her as I knew her over the years in his May 27, 2012 kaieteur News article. More important than Parvati is the July 3, 2012 editorial she wrote in our supposed to be national newspaper the Chronicle, that challenges us to rise to the responsibility and recognize that there exists a ready ‘Stock reference file’ of ‘Racist Victim Themes, cultivated through a mythic memory’ that have been utilized effectively by the PPP in the early years of its political advent realizing the power of belief and the mammoth task to dispel such beliefs, rather than just use them. The same was used over the last fifteen years by GIFT, ROAR, CHANNEL 69 and GIHA to demonize Afro Guyanese and keep these groups in distinct political camps through sustaining the existence of fear.
Though the accusations of these ‘ Racist Themes’ have always been proven without substance, yet the same Themes reappear. Because the roots of these belief systems rest in the archetypical imprints of another age. My early childhood was spent with my godparents at Mahaica, This was a mixed rural community and next to us lived a dynamic Indo Guyanese woman named ‘Buck Mai’ who was a practicing Hindu. Sheila was her granddaughter and of mixed heritage, and a big sister to me. Of the many stories she had interpreted from the Hindu narratives was the origin of the African race, and précised it goes like this; “The epitome of Hindu womanhood ‘Sita’ was stolen by Ravana the king of Lanka and Rama her husband sent Hanuman the Monkey man to rescue her, with his tail he burned down Lanka [ Ceylon/Sri Lanka] in the process of burning down Lanka the fire was responsible for changing the hair of the populace to that of the tight knit curls of Africans and their complexion to the ebony and browns of the African.” Thus the perception of the African man through a myth in relation to the Indian woman, and a clarification for a specific type of mutilation inflicted on murdered Afro males during the crisis of the sixties. The complete narrative of this story can be found in the Ramayana. I have never read the original story in the Ramayana; I have read adaptations in other publications and no such definitions mentioned above were alluded to.
But I am certain that its influence inspired racist notions about African peoples as it was used as a derogatory reference by my Indo Guyanese peers from the next village back then on the Coast. I can recall raising this before I left that area with an Indo Guyanese who was highly respected by almost every one; he was a WW11 veteran and was called ‘Yogi’. He confirmed it as an interpretation and gave me some explanations and some experiences he had endured in trying to become a Pandit ; he was darker than most Afro villagers. He explained the existence of the caste system to me and the preoccupation with ‘Varna’ as related to pigmentation that possessed the consciousness of his people.
Cheddi Jagan in his biography ‘The West on Trial’ dealt with the aberrations and injustice of the Caste consciousness active on the Estate communities, himself being a victim of it. He also narrated his metamorphosis into the Creole world that enveloped him and then embraced him on the levels of common ideas, but according to Eusi Kwayana, when Indo Guyanese PPP supporters complained to him about Africans employed at Freedom house he resorted to tell them “I employ Africans at Freedom house because Indians cannot work the Linotype machines.”
Kwayana contended that Jagan could not say to Indians that “African people are there brothers.” Kwayana declared that “He cannot even fight against his own slavery; cannot even carry out a revolution within himself” Eusi Kwayana was correct , because Jagan’s communist agenda was an extension of Janet’s quest, and she did not come to British Guiana to sing Chow-tal or Queh-queh songs. They both accommodated the antique prejudices that were a pool of readymade fanatical support.
Some years ago I met and implored an historian and writer of Indian heritage to conduct a programme that would explore the pre Aryan civilizations of India before the caste system and the eventual Aryan arrival and impositions through ‘The Laws of Manu’ as I had bought this book and had digested its frightening tenets [The Nazis used these codes as a guide to develop their 1933 racial laws; ] this would create a timeline that would provide a reference and understanding of the archetypes of a three thousand, five hundred year colonization and its impediments for those still contained by the same religious and political influences.
He told me that politicians, religious leaders and certain business enterprises benefited from these bigotries. He understood that towards a more democratic nation this type of enlightenment would be liberating, I did refer to an article written by a brethren ‘Abu Bakr’ Sept. 11, 2004 Stabroek News, that pronounced “ Once the idea of ethnic exclusivity goes so does Roar.” He agreed, but the learned historian just didn’t need the conflict. I do hope he reads this letter because eight years later an Indo Guyanese colleague after a fact finding visit to the National Archives’ declared to me that he was ‘nothing’ upon discovering that he was a Chamaar, I proceeded to explain to him that the Dravidian darker peoples of India were its forerunners of civilization and that the Brahmins were nomadic barbarians.. I got that look of disbelief, he had never heard that stuff before and was confused because most of the literature prized by Indians were the glorification of the Aryan colonization period; I even made a copy of a University of Guyana History Gazette publication, Jan.1990 by E. Sa Visswanathan, titled ‘A Preliminary Study of the Madrasis of Guyana’ but he seemed in-between about the sudden line of study.
Clem Seecharan deals with the subject of discussion in his book “India and the Shaping of the Indo-Guyanese Imagination 1890’s-1920’s”, thus the privilege by the PPP to exploit the ‘Racist Themes’ which have conveniently never been debunked remain intact, though eroded by human contact and assimilation, but a useful tool to communities culturally isolated from the mainstream, like the Indo Guyanese Lusignan resident that shouted in the face of Minister Robeson Benn “ How yuh’s Minister wuh mek yuh Minister?/?” in the wake of the Lusignan massacre.
To conclude this aspect of social analysis we must also identify that the two major groups evolved from different social orientations, Matriarchal- African; Patriarchal- Indo-Guyanese; two opposing systems of social management. This data would serve to clarify elements of domestic abuse, homophobia, Industrial relations etc. Had the ERC been properly constituted with a serious agenda and the adequate expertise, the above would have surely met its attention for discussion and dissemination. Anthony [Bishop Edghill j Cummings did not have the integrity, understanding or humanity to manage an Ethnic Relations anything, for example; Then leader of the PNC-R Robert Corbin had on the 11, July, 2006 at the city hall described Cummings as “Bishop Edghill is a PPP house slave who has disenfranchised African Guyanese during the floods.” The ERC contended that this was a racist remark that needed investigation. Six years later the most vicious racist editorial penned by Parvati that defines all people of African blood as envious and psychopathic emerged in the public domain and this same Bishop Edghill endorses its content.
This person has demonstrated an obliviousness to principles and character and a banal treacherous opportunism. An organizational concept like the ERC, if it must exist, cannot persist in the hands of many of its previous staff.
In concluding I must add that the sojourn into the New World of Afro Guyanese has also been filled with mutations; Golly wags, Colonial Jumbies, House and Bedroom slaves and Petty Chieftains, mutations it took the Afro community some two hundred years to understand and identify. Interactions with Continental Africans in relation to our differences and common links have been very inspiring. In doing research on the Orisha back in the 80’s I approached a Professor from Nigeria then at UG, the man snapped at me in a guttural African accent “I am not a Yoruba man”, and walked away, I got the data later from another African , Prof. Mrs. Odeala James. Eddy Grant once told me that “We’re the Steel who’ve survived the holocaust, the brothers on the continent are still iron ore”.
We in Guyana are in a unique state of social evolution, thus we must dismantle °The Racist victim Themes’ now used for sinister political agendas.