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May 23, 2022 Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon
Kaieteur News – Hindu priest, Swami Aksharananda published a letter recently in the newspapers in which he described a situation that occurred at a Hindu cremation at Ruimzeight. The requirement is for a Ministry of Health official to be present to see that the rites are done according to health standards.
The official, Mr. Gary Hinds, arrived on time but not the family of the deceased. When the family and relatives did arrive, according to the Swami, the official was incensed and decided he will only give permission hours after so the family can experience how frustrating it is to wait.
Swami wrote: “What was perhaps even more shocking to me was that beyond the hushed murmurs of disapproval the nearly 200 persons present on the ground meekly submitted to the big and bad bully. When I suggested to the concerned persons that we go ahead anyway the answer was that, ‘We don’t want to get in any trouble’.”
Let’s journey from West Coast Demerara to East Coast, Berbice. A gentleman reported in a letter to the press last Saturday that he was involved in a disagreement over the incorrect change he got from the goods he bought at a supermarket in East Berbice.
He said when he objected the owner became enraged and began to abuse him. He wrote: “It is sad to know that as the only Afro Guyanese in the supermarket, about eight Indo Guyanese stood at different angles looking on and even to the tearing of the money, no one said anything.”
I don’t know why the letter-writer did not write the words “eight persons.” He made it clear that he was African and there were eight Indian witnesses. I don’t know the state of mind of the writer. My task is to put interpretations on the things people describe.
Before I offer my reason why ethnicity was mentioned I want to revisit a letter in the Stabroek News which carried in the caption the words that the writer was a victim of racism. The writer who is African Guyanese said she went into a very famous Indian business place and was not served by the Indian attendants, particularly the cashier and her bill was thoroughly scrutinised. She amazingly claimed she was a victim of racism.
It turned out that the very cashier was African and the CEO of the store was African. I have seen both Indian and African Guyanese not treated properly by store attendants. I believe it has to do with attitudes rather than racial instincts. I went into a bakery on South Road to buy pastries.
Three African persons who came after me were served before me. I know this was just one of those things involving sales clerks. I don’t believe it had anything to do with racism. When it was my turn to be served, the attendant just dealt with me with no expression on her face. You expect these things with sales clerks.
The gentleman in the supermarket incident, I believe mentioned ethnicity because he believed the eight Indians did not act because he was a Black person. Then how do you explain Mr. Hinds versus 200 persons which I believe were predominantly Indian? They just stood there and allowed themselves to be treated like that by Mr. Hinds.
The Swami went on to add in his letter that he spoke to the gathering urging them to proceed with the service but they preferred to be bullied. So the question to be asked is why did the Indians stood in the supermarket and not acted. The reason was not race. The reason is the Indian psyche that was on display at the crematorium site.
There is a controversy in Guyanese sociology for which I have my theory. Many Indians hold the belief that Black youths in Georgetown single out Indians to rob. I do not subscribe to that as a Guyanese academic. Robbery is based on the perception of likely success. If a Black youth who wants to steal a bicycle sees one Indian cyclist passing by and another one is African riding his way. I believe he will pounce on the Indian guy.
His thinking is based on three perceptions. 1- The Indian guy would be the quieter of the two. 2- He can physically handle the Indian guy. 3- The Indian guy will not fight back. This is my experience both as an academic and someone who has spent his entire life living in Georgetown. We are too quick to see ethnic motive in everything. But then again, there are too many ethnic preachers in this country. Yes, including sections of the mainstream media.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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