Race: Pres­i­dent Granger has the power in his hands

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

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

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