COLOUR IN CONTEXT
WRITING on the eve of the 182nd year of Emancipation, in the context of black oppression, leading communications strategist, Imran Khan, warned about “a clear and present danger” of our people of African descent being returned to the “hardships and brutality” of the past.
The Khan whom I have come to know over several years, does not mince words. He speaks boldly, intimately and with authority when he said:
“I am married to a black woman. My wife is not an uptown black woman. She is from Linden – the epicentre of Jagdeo’s oppression of black people. She is not a high-colour black woman. My wife is black, beautiful, intelligent and highly educated”.
I can say “amen” to that as Tamara Khan, an attorney-at-law, is the President of the Women for Change (WFC) movement; and she has been the Human Rights and Legislative Affairs Coordinator at the Office of the Prime Minister.
That Facebook post by Imran Khan seemed to be a reaction to the political and racist responses against “Black Lives Matter” murals at the Square of the Revolution in the Capital and in other towns predominantly populated by blacks. It also jolted my mind back to the “black power” struggles in the United States and the Caribbean.
The initial racist response came shortly after the battle-chant “Black Lives Matter” ignited like a fire of fury in the United States and around the world, following the brutal murder of George Floyd. One Indo-Guyanese “chutney” singer mockingly posted on Facebook that his life as a brown “coolie babu” mattered. The post was taken down in a jiffy after a hurricane of objections erupted that the remark was both racist and insensitive.
That race hate was then directed inwards against leaders of Indian descent in the multi-ethnic Coalition Government. “Spit-on-dem” was a low-life, dirty form of inverse racist violence that has been propagated by another so-called “Chutney Babu”, who is aligned with the PPP.
No one has said that the lives of other peoples do not matter. I am a Guyanese of Indian descent. But I understand the peculiar context in which the “Black Lives Matter” movement has developed in the United States, after three centuries of systemic inhumanity, oppression and exploitation of which Blacks have been the main victims. It is distasteful for anyone to ignore this context in the fight against mindless racism, blatant discrimination, extra-judicial killings and naked police brutality.
I recall that context in which the slogan “Black is Beautiful” had emerged in the United States during the late 60s. It was embraced by the Black Power movement of which the fire-brand, Trinidad-born Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) was a leader.
It might appear unlikely that I should have made acquaintance during the 60s with Stokeley Carmichael and, almost simultaneously, with my life-long charismatic comrade, Rosie Douglas of Dominica. Although I did not accept their definition of imperialism as “white”, I embraced “Black Power” as a liberation ideology in the Caribbean. In our context, Black includes Brown and Yellow, and all other marginalised and oppressed peoples to whose just causes we had committed ourselves.
The iconic revolutionary sister, Angela Davis, speaking about her America, once remarked famously that “racism is embedded in the fabric of this society”. I saw her then as a powerful voice and presence among the “prophetic minority” that would bring about a revolution in race empowerment.
It was by choice upon her release from jail in 1972, that Sita and I named our eldest daughter, Angela – after Angela Davis.
For me, it has been and still is self-evident that the struggles in the United States against racism and apartheid (under Jim Crowism and “separate but equal” doctrine) and for justice, respect, protection and equality under law had become the cause of our own peoples in Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean.
While the erudite writer-preacher, Michael Dyson, in his book “Race Rules” examined racism from the black-and-white angle, radical nationalists such as Eric Williams (“Capitalism and Slavery”) and Cheddi Jagan (“Race, Class and Nationhood”) had given a class distinction to racism as a weapon of imperialist domination.
That latter perspective was incorporated in the original preamble of the 1980 Constitution of Guyana which referred to the “epic struggles” of our forefathers who displayed “relentless hostility to imperialist and colonial domination and all other forms and manifestations of oppression”.
Today, it is such a shame that there are elements in our midst who not only use racism in their bid to grab power, but have abandoned all nationalist credentials in a cheap sell-out to foreign interests and domination.
BRING BACK BETTER
We cannot return to the distant or recent past. We should, to borrow the slogan of US Presidential Hopeful, Joe Biden: Bring Back Better!
The APNU+AFC Coalition of six parties had brought back better in Guyana after taking office in 2015. There is evidence everywhere that under the Coalition all lives mattered.
We brought an end to extra-judicial killings that were executed by the dreaded Death or Phantom Squads for which former senior government officials, including a Minister of Home Affairs, were cited. Their American visas were revoked.
The Coalition vigorously combatted the illicit drug trade, and almost ended piracy and smuggling under which the crippling under-ground economy had flourished. Guyana was elevated to Tier 1 category for its fight against human trafficking.
The Coalition brought back better when the nation’s children were assisted to attend school with the provision transport facilities such as boats, buses and bicycles; and they were also given breakfast, books, boots and bags. Many teachers and children benefitted from free lap tops, tablets and internet connections.
The economy grew steadily. The lives of workers, farmers, women, students and pensioners were improved. Business thrived whether in banking, mining, construction etc..
There was no visible strain in race relations. This is the Guyana for which “our heroes of yore” had fought, many suffered martyrdom. We must not allow hate-mongers to set us up against each other, or to pull us apart