Jun 23, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – “It has everything to do with the colour of one’s skin.” That statement was said by Mr. Roger Ferguson, one of that rare breed: a black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. This was noted in a publication titled, “Are businesses really tackling racial inequality?” It was produced and carried by BBC on June 1. The since retired Mr. Ferguson must have been mighty lonely up there at the pinnacle of the corporate mountain, since there were only four others like him, that is, Black CEOs at the helm of the most reputable and well-performing companies anywhere. It was and remains the best place, and the worst place, to be; and, regarding the latter that is driven home by that albatross around the neck, that mark of Cain (so to speak) branded square on the forehead. This means in other words, that the “colour of one’s skin” is all that matters when all is done.
The presence of minority CEOs are too few, with Black CEOs, the fewest of the few – the numbers convey the message. And when the span of senior executives in upper management is considered, the point registers, beyond doubt. “In the US, there have only been 19 Black CEOs out of 1,800 bosses in the 66-year history of the Fortune 500 list. In Britain, there are no Black chairmen, CEOs or financial chiefs in FTSE 100 firms.” Four hundred years later in America’s battle with racism and race matters, 19 CEOs out of 1800 of such corporate superstars is one grain over one percent of this American Legion.
But those are incontestable numbers of what can be quantified. There is the more unquantifiable nuance, the sometimes ignorant, sometimes deliberately subtle slights, of the culturally qualitative. The experiences of former CEO, Roger Ferguson, relay the reality at its heart, and of which he is not alone.
Mr. Ferguson tries to hail a taxi from downtown Wall Street to midtown Manhattan, and he is ignored, an exercise in visual frisking and physical abandoning. He is not lonely, for there are others of his complexion, his look, who share the same degrading fate. Neither sparkling corporate attire (suits) nor prestige address (Wall Street or the Waldorf) makes a difference. For even in the bright glare of midday, it is still the blackness of midnight in the minds of too many. Who is blacker than whom?
It is the same forlorn story with Black women managers in the office mistaken to be secretaries, and Black presences at glittering corporate dinners automatically stereotyped to be waiters. Mr. Ferguson has been there, seen it all, and lived with all that burdensome baggage loaded on him and his kind by the unwitting, the unwise, and the unwilling.
This is what we face here in Guyana, are yet to come to grips with, because we permit the entrenched prejudices and passions that they generate to take hold of us, make us willingly surrender our minds. With the easy and conveniently racial and in that, which brooks little of the soul searching that contributes to a deepening maturity? It is the racial that props up our steely intolerances, for which we live, and which carries us somewhere from day to day, and dumps us right back where we began.
In this country, it is not the starkness of white versus black, but brown against black, vice versa, and all those other shades of the colour of one’s skin trapped in the local social cauldron. The Indian man passes by in the successes of his endeavours, and he is not seen as a self-made citizen. He is a creature created by the corruptions of his own; therefore, he must be corrupt, too – a thief of the first water. In identical fashion, the Black Guyanese comes within the gaze, and he is the beneficiary of a crooked cabal that showers untold rewards upon him or her. In both the instance of the Indian and Black Guyanese inhabitant, his rise can many times be automatically attributable to his colour first, and nothing else. It is without merit, individual industry, aptitude, it is undeserving.
There are those, for sure, from both groups, who have helped themselves and been so helped (at the expense of others), by our politics and our ingrained culture, but almost two centuries later, and 55 years post-Independence, we are still trapped, like Mr. Roger Ferguson, by mindsets that fill racial voids and foster new ones. Education, promises, and manifestoes only go so far. Thus, the reality reigns.
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