RACISM & NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS | NEWS/COMMENTARY


Bajans, Guyanese and the Politics of Hate – Randy Persaud
rodneyjagan

Walter Rodney (left) and Cheddi Jagan (right).

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( Dated Piece – 26 July 2008 )

DEAR EDITOR,

It is finally happening. Guyanese immigrants in Barbados are now being murdered.

The attack in which Christopher Griffith was killed, and Seelochanie Samuels wounded, was not merely the work of bandits.

It was an anti-immigrant political killing. Apparently, Griffith was an advocate for the Guyanese community.

For many Guyanese this might be a surprise, because, after all, we are all West Indians, and on top of that, Barbados has this image of being an island Paradise.

Political violence is not supposed to happen there. Barbados is supposed to be the Singapore of the Caribbean – highly globalized, high per capita GDP, and outranked only by the OECD countries in the UNDP’s Human Development Index.

But something ominous and enormously complicated is occurring in Barbados. There is an unbelievable level of hatred against Guyanese in general and Indo-Guyanese in particular.

The magnitude and depth of hatred against the Guyanese is now bordering on neo-fascism.

In this short letter I am arguing that the developments in Barbados have direct linkages to the campaign to construct the Government of Guyana as racist.

By ‘construct’ I mean that in contradistinction to objective reality, a platoon of opposition elements have been using various media (TV, daily columns, letters to the editor, blogs etc) to give the impression that the PPP government is deliberately victimizing the Afro-Guyanese population.

This particular racialized construction of the political climate in Guyana, I submit, is linked to the vitriol against Guyanese in Barbados.

I am also suggesting that the murder of Christopher Griffith and the wounding of Seelochnie Samuels are linked to the said campaign. Now let me develop the arguments with evidence.

Several months ago I happened upon an internet news source call “Barbados Underground” (hereafter, BU). I was shocked by the contents. Writers openly called for mass deportation of all Guyanese. Others called for the annihilation of Indians.

Yet another commentator suggested that only Guyanese who had proven themselves should remain in the country. In this commentator’s view only one Guyanese met the qualification – Dr. Kean Gibson.

It so happens that Kean Gibson is the lead writer on the BU blog dealing with a topic labeled “Indian Racism Against Afro Guyanese in Guyana.”

Sister Gibson, as she is lovingly called by some of her followers, penned the opening act under the title “Racism and the degeneration of Guyana”.

She promised to follow that up with Part II in which she stated “I will look at the response of the people to the violence that is being inflicted on them by the state.”

I am confident when she does, it will be a defense of the insurgents who have been destroying innocent lives in Guyana. Prove me wrong.

Gibson’s views are well known, and her BU article is a simple continuation of the predictable. Here are some quotations from her:

(1) “If the word “discrimination” is a poor choice for the experiences of African-Guyanese since racism is not legal in Guyana, then a more apt word is “victimization” where a group of people are singled out for cruel and unjust treatment”;

(2) “…Africans are victims of what is in the hearts of East Indians…”;

(3) The racism, and thus inequality, that is promoted in the Hindu sacred texts is a valuable resource which bestows benefits, rights and duties to a group of people and thus must be maintained at all costs and by any means necessary”; and finally (4) “We see that one set of laws and behaviors that apply to a particular group, do not apply to another.

Young African men and the poor in the society are summarily executed while surrendering, or killed without firing at police…” Gibson goes on to say that white collar crimes go unpunished, in part because the state has “been reconstituted to become a criminal enterprise.” Now here are some commentaries inspired by “Sister Gibson” followers.

A blogger who goes by the name Anonymous writes “I hope after this article by a respected researcher from the UWI Dr. Kean Gibson that I don’t hear no damn foolishness from those seeking to push their evil agenda under disguise…” The writer is admonishing someone who is calling for calm and reason.

He continues – “Bajans deserve everything that could happen to them here in Barbados with this influx of these Indians…” (sic).

Once he found his length and line, Anonymous became nagging. “Barbados will become like Guyana or Trinidad UNLESS DAVID THOMPSON TAKES A BOLD STAND AND START REPATRIATING THESE PEOPLE BACK TO GUYANA” (emphasis in the original). He continues – “It is like a homeowner given a small pit-bull puppy as a pet, it seems all fluffy and nice for the first 6 months because after all it depends on you to feed it and protect it since it is unable to fend for itself in this strange new environment.

However as soon as this puppy becomes a dog and is confident enough, well then, the fangs come out, and you see the real viciousness of the animal.”

He closes off this particular installment with – “Remember Dr. Kean Gibson instructed us that this mindset has been laid down for them (i.e. Guyanese Indians) in their teachings.

Another writer hiding under the name Bimbro is even more fascistic than his other Sister Gibson follower. Here he is: “Doan give them nuh exotic name…That’ll only make the bastards feel more important than they should be!! Call the shits what they are and let’s hurry and bring them to justice”.

“As far as I’m concerned, ANYBODY who attempts to highjack our democracy, deserves just one solution!! The Final One” “Get my drift?!!!!”

Another person writing under the name Analyst praises Kean Gibson’s research and then states the following – “The pit bull analogy given by Anonymous hits right home.

East Indians became a real problem in Guyana only after DDT cut malaria and reduced their infant mortality in the 1940’s and 1950’s and their population increased exponentially.

Then the PPP asserted itself…now there is a democratic dictatorship in Guyana that controls every facet of life.”

The Kaieteur columnist Frederick Kissoon’s name also pops up on the website. The just mentioned Analyst circulated Mr. Kissoon’s February 2 article “War of the Flea” and stated that the article “…gives insight as to WHY the bloody massacres in Guyana underly (sic) a guerrilla war…” (emphasis in the original).

I want to be fair to Kissoon here. I am not linking him with Gibson. Kissoon, after all, has been critical of her.

I point to the circulation of the flea article because it has in fact been used by the nativist elements in BU to bolster their xenophobia against Guyanese in Barbados.

I am confident Mr. Kissoon would not be happy that his work is being used to justify vitriol against fellow Guyanese overseas. I urge him to write to the BU editor and clarify his position.

Rickford Burke, the New York based writer who consistently characterizes the PPP as a race-based party is also quoted by Gibson’s followers as an authoritative source.

His work is also used to justify assaults against Guyanese immigrants in general, and Indians in particular.

Last month, while in Colombia for the Caribbean Studies Association Annual Convention I had the good fortune of watching the film On the Map – produced and directed by Annalee Davis, a Barbadian.

The film depicts the despicable treatment of Guyanese in the once lovely Caribbean island.

I sat beside Dr. David Hinds and we were both moved by what our fellow Guyanese are enduring in Barbados.

Annalee Davis told us that, of recent, there has been a surge of resentment against all Guyanese, but especially Indians.

She mentioned that she has reports of Guyanese being forced into the back of buses, just like old times in the Southern United States.

On other occasions, Guyanese have to get up and give their seats to Bajans, all through which they are verbally assaulted.

The point of this article should not be lost. I claim here that the hatred of, and creeping violence against Guyanese has two central elements. Firstly, there is a form of generalized resentment against all Guyanese.

This aspect of the anti-immigrant outbursts is actually (believe it or not) quite ‘normal’ in societies that go through rapid demographic, social and cultural change associated with immigration.

I argue that the second element, namely, the anti-Indian dimension, has links to the ways in which opposition elements have been painting Guyana as a bastion of victimization against Africans.

In closing, I should let you know that about three months ago, I wrote to BU and pleaded with them not to allow its pages to be used as a site for anti-immigrants hatred. I hope the descent into physical violence will now force them to think about this.

To date, BU’s official position is that they have found nothing offensive on their site. Kean Gibson’s article is still there as the lead off piece.

I know that President Jagdeo and the Guyanese Ambassador to Barbados have been trying to help Guyanese in Barbados in what ever way they can.

Those efforts must both be applauded and re-doubled. I also urge President Jagdeo to send a special team to investigate and document the treatment of Guyanese immigrants to Barbados. If On the Map has not been aired in Guyana yet, it should be.

Dr. Randy Persaud

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