Race: President Granger has the power in his hands
Membership of our two main political parties does not necessarily imply that one is a racist or subscribes to an ethnic approach to politics. The leaderships of both parties seriously strive, largely unsuccessfully, to broaden the leadership and membership of their parties. That they have not been successful has not modified their efforts. In the past when there was a clearer ideological distinction between the parties, it was even easier to justify the assertion that motivations for political activism were not ethnic, at least overtly. But supporters are recalcitrant.
While no leader would tolerate ethnic slurs made by their supporters, they are always conscious of the fact that unacceptable language or characterizations in referring to another ethnic group is a common feature of Guyanese life and their supporters might falter. Strong measures should always be taken against such behaviour.
When Bill Marr, the white US TV host/comedian, liberal who was strongly anti-racist, and donated US$1 million to Obama’s election campaign, recently said light-heartedly while interviewing someone that he should not be considered a ‘house n***’, there was a national outcry. He barely kept his job and had to apologise and publicly atone.
One of his guests in his next show, the African American actor and rapper, Ice Cube, said that when that word is used in any context, except by African Americans who are now the owners of the word, and presumably are permitted to use it, “it’s like a knife.” Words of racist abuse feel the same way to every race and they do reflect a ‘personal philosophy.’
Issues relating to race, racial language and racial incitement are never far from our social and political processes.
The last two occasions when they gained great public attention were when Dr Roger Luncheon, then Head of the Presidential Secretariat, said in evidence in 2011 in a libel case brought by then President Jagdeo, that there were no Guyanese ambassadors of African descent, except Mrs Elizabeth Harper, because no African Guyanese was qualified to be appointed. There was a huge outcry, of course, and the then government was roundly accused by the APNU and other groups of racism.
The second occasion was during the last election campaign when the opposition alleged that certain statements used by Mr Bharrat Jagdeo constituted racial incitement. Mr Jagdeo’s statements, as well as some made by the opposition, were also criticized by the Carter Center. In an earlier period, Guyanese were aghast when Mr Desmond Hoyte reminded the security forces in 2002 that the rioting and disorderly people in