Sep 23, 2022 Letters
Permit me to make some observations on the emergence of some developments in Guyana around claims of racism. There has been much talk about an apartheid state whereby persons of African descent are discriminated against in this country.
Respected commentators such as Ralph Ramkarran, Anil Nandlall, and Ashni Singh have all shown the impossibility of making credible claims about apartheid of any sort in Guyana. For those who still do not know, apartheid in its South African and Rhodesian forms, were overt and declared policies of discrimination based on race, and enforced by the apparatuses of the state, including using force.
Moreover, apartheid was sets of legally constituted practices. Put differently, racial segregation was codified in law. But apartheid went beyond the law per se. It was also the actualisation of a philosophy of racial supremacy.
Now, since none of the above applies to Guyana – not the legal code, nor the philosophy, how is it possible that well-educated Guyanese, many in high office, continue to make claims about apartheid, structural racism, and the like? Allow me to provide some insights here. Three points come to mind.
Firstly, accusations of racism against the PPP by opposition politicians, academics, and so-called civil society operatives are not fact-based or empirically grounded. There is a simple reason for this, namely, not a shred of evidence of apartheid as policy or practice could be found. None is ever provided. Instead, those like Nigel Hinds simply manufacture symbolic representations of racism, such as his ill-conceived “Accelerated Racist Policies”. The only thing ‘racist’ here is Hinds’ use of the word racist. Hinds’ article in Kaieteur News (September 19, 2022) is a classic example where racism is more a metaphor, rather than something literal, or material.
Secondly, in the said publication noted above, there is clear evidence of a unique strategy in making claims about racism in Guyana. The strategy is to use the sordid history of race relations in the United States and then locate Guyana in that historical dialectic. This is why Hinds begins his article with references to Obama and Biden. Notice that the references to both Americans presidents have no material bases whatsoever.
Third, and finally (for now), notice that the dubious plugging of Presidents Obama and Biden are further buttressed by vacuous references to big names like W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Walter Rodney. The names are deployed merely as signs, that is, without any meaningful use of the ideas of these great thinkers. Mr. Hinds could very well have indicated that the intellectual activism of Du Bois, and the anti-racist movement of Garvey’s UNIA, were both aimed at colonial and imperial domination based on economic exploitation and racial domination against people of colour world-wide, including in Guyana where the UNIA had a chapter. But no, Hinds is simply content to wave the names as something reminiscent of what Homi Bhabha in a different context called “signs taken for wonders”. As for the Walter Rodney quotation, Nigel Hinds may have added that the “…we have no power” part was a reference to endemic rigging of elections in Guyana by the PNC, something for which the illustrious historian fought against, and for which he paid the ultimate price.
The meaning of race will not be found in a definition, and this, no matter how profound the construction, or how reputable the author. Race is a political invention, initially developed to underwrite the hegemony of white supremacy.
Of recent, anti-democratic social forces in Guyana have been active in the business of racial innovation, albeit in the case of Guyana, to defend election rigging and an amalgam of other undemocratic practices. Race, for the APNU-AFC, is a political resource. If you want evidence, here is Nigel Hinds in his own words – “The efforts of Lowenfield and Mingo to undermine the majority vote are now defensible…” As you can see, the dynamic of race in Guyana has little to do with racism per se.
Dr. Randy Persaud
Office of the President
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