Jan 13, 2021 Letters
Kaieteur News – Missives, replies, retorts, and rejoinders must not be personalized and replete with falsities; they must provide some useful information to readers for intellectual elevation. These qualities were missing in Lincoln Lewis’ latest (Jan. 10) and earlier responses to my attempts to correct his misunderstanding of reality. He continues to pedal more misinformation and myths.
I was not surprised with the quality of his last reply to use “a sledgehammer” in responses to me and Freddie Kissoon – that in itself exposes the character of the man. Lewis has nothing of value to add to his defence of his contributions to issues raised, and so he delves deep into his race. When one does not have anything of substance to contribute to an argument, one inserts ‘race’ and extraneous points into the debate.
Thus, Lewis brings up Kamala Harris’ upbringing, her Indianness, her Blackness, and the contributions of Black Americans to the presence of Indians in the US. Those points have no relevance to the ongoing discourse. In addition, Lewis belittles the enormous contributions of Indian Americans and other ethnic groups to the civil rights movement as well as to the development of America, and in so doing exposes his ignorance of the struggle for equality in the USA.
On Kamala Harris, as I stated earlier, not anyone can be a father. Impregnating a woman does not make one a father. Fatherhood involves being with children and being responsible for their growth and development. As Vice President, Kamala stated that the family was abandoned when she was age six. She praised her Indian mother and maternal kin for the progress of herself and sister Maya. She stated so publicly. And she has not mentioned her father in her speeches. What can I write about the father when Kamala herself did not mention his contribution? I will not indulge in speculation and misinformation into which Lewis seems to revel.
I would prefer not to continue this exchange as no amount of evidence or reasoning would enlighten Lewis. He is determined to see things only in terms of “his race” – no other factor matters. Race reductionism has become his mantra. Nevertheless, I must comment on his lack of understanding of the civil rights movement in America.
In America, every group historically had suffered varying degrees of oppression and persecution. It is indisputable that Black Americans were persecuted in America. Other ethnic groups, including several White ethnic groups and all immigrant groups (Haitians, Jamaicans, Blacks from Africa, etc.), Irish, Italians, Polish, Greeks, Jews, native Indians, Hispanics, Japanese, Chinese, Indian Americans, were all at one time or another oppressed by the dominant White group (Anglo Saxons). While Blacks contributed significantly to the civil rights movement, the contribution of other ethnic groups must not be cast aside as a post-script.
Black American leaders fought against slavery, and they played a leading role in the civil rights movement. Jewish lawyers and businesses were in the thick of the civil rights movement defending Black activists in court and funding the movement; the role of Jews in the civil rights struggle must not be understated. Irish leaders fought against indentureship that helped enforce Black abolition rights. Leaders from among other ethnic groups, including Indians, have also made a contribution to fighting against prejudice and ethnic abuses.
While acknowledging the major contribution of the Blacks, we must not ignore the struggle of each group that led eventually to improvement of rights that benefited all. And yes, Indians benefited from the preceding struggles of all groups, including Black civil rights leaders, for which they express tremendous gratitude. But Indians have also been building upon those accomplishments of the civil rights and other movements and have been distinguishing themselves particularly in such fields as medicine, healthcare, science, technology, engineering, and business. Each contemporary generation has to continue building upon the foundations set by previous generations. Succeeding generations are literally the building blocks of societal evolution.
Various groups were excluded from America. Although Indian soldiers made contributions to the geo-security of America going back to the 1800s and helped to protect American troops in WWI and WWII, they were not welcome in the US. When Indians, Chinese, Japanese, etc. came to the US during the 1800s, they faced racial discrimination, of which they fought against, and in so doing left their own imprint in early struggles for equality. They all helped to renovate, restructure and rebuild America. Indians grew food first to help feed the American nation, and now their contribution to America in all spheres of economic activity is substantial. This does in no way minimize the contribution of other ethnic groups to the country’s development.
The Chinese and Japanese helped built the railways. Indians, Chinese, Japanese, and Blacks helped to elect the first non-Anglo Saxon and non-Protestant President in John Kennedy. The election of the country’s first Catholic President helped to empower the civil rights movement. The 1965 Immigration Act paved the way for Indians and other ethnic professionals to settle in America. During the Vietnam War, when there was a shortage of professional labour and troops, Indians and other groups were welcomed to the US. The US opened its door to skilled Indian and Asian labour.
Indo-Guyanese and other Guyanese are in America, Canada, UK, etc. because of the racial persecution and repression that Lewis’ governing PNC party inflicted upon the people. I came to the US because JFK and others opened the door for me. And I have not been selfish. I have contributed to the Black struggle and civil rights. I was elected to student government at City College (heart of Harlem) in 1978 in my Sophomore year and was re-elected several times and served in several executive positions. I piloted funding for Black Civil rights movement, helped to organize Harlem Black Renaissance, participated in protests against apartheid and minority rule in Ian Smith Rhodesia and against closure of Sydenham Hospital in Black Harlem, fought against tuition increases at public universities, and took part in so many other activities that redounded to the benefits of minorities, including Blacks.
Lewis tends to mask his own racism when it comes to bauxite, sugar, elections, and land rights. He supports rigged elections to benefit a Black party. He asked President David Granger to cancel the 2020 elections, because his party lost. Poor chap! He still doesn’t know that Granger had no authority to cancel the elections. He only supports land rights to Africans but not to Amerindians and Indians. On bauxite and sugar, the African-based PNC closed the bauxite industry that employed primarily Africans. It was the Indian-based PPP that rescued bauxite in 1992 from collapse. Yet, Lewis accused the PPP of engaging in African genocide, and not the PNC that shut down bauxite! The gravy from the Indian-dominated sugar industry was diverted to revive bauxite as well as other sectors in the economy, and yet Lewis has failed to acknowledge the role of Indians and the PPP in the country’s development.
Lewis knows the history of his PNC party’s 33 (28+5) years of governance. The economy was wrecked and it required the PPP (the party he describes as Indian) to rehabilitate it.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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