ROAR of Ravi Dev 9-3-20
Last week, David Hinds informed me he had formed a new organization. “Society for African Guyanese Empowerment” (SAGE), and invited me to a panel discussion on “Race, Power and Peaceful Co-existence in Guyana” with himself and Vincent Alexander. I told him that unfortunately, I couldn’t make it since I had a prior commitment on another Webinar (on the same theme, not so coincidentally) but I was committed to a “national conversation” on race.
I later viewed the Webinar and saw that David and Vincent had been joined by Eric Phillips of ACDA. There was much that I agreed with in the ensuing discussion but unfortunately just as much that I disagreed with. It was as good an illustration of the “African Guyanese Narrative” that diverges so significantly from the Indian-Guyanese and Indigenous Peoples’ narratives. It only re-emphasized the need for that “National Conversation”, which Nigel Hughes had broached to me more than a year ago; but which ironically never came off because of the quickened political crisis it was supposed to help head off. We have to weave a “Guyanese Narrative” that equitably includes our famed “six peoples”.
I will discuss one aspect of the discussion I agreed with – anti-African racism and will deal with my differences on this topic later. I offer one summary which I put forward as recently as June 28– in the midst of the attempted elections rigging -when I recuperated writings from 2008, where I had discussed “African marginalization”.
“In our estimation, the African experience in the “New World” defines the word “marginalization”. Following the demonstrated inability of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas to withstand the labour demands and diseases of the Spaniards (evidenced by ninety percent of then dying off in the Caribbean within decades of Columbus’s arrival) the Christian Church recommended the importation of Africans as slaves. Unlike with Amerindians, they could discern no sign of a soul in the latter, and deemed them beyond salvation. They were fair game for slavery – or extermination, for that matter.
Defined and treated as “chattel”, the appallingly barbaric treatment, which included physical brutalization, destruction of families, wrenching away of languages and cultures etc., demanded the creation of some sort of rationalization, since Europeans were supposed to be “civilized” while doing all of this. “In the beginning, slaves who worked alongside white European indentured slaves were simply defined as “heathens” and could be kept on the margins as such. It was when they started to convert to Christianity that colour became the marker to distinguish them from the “mainstream”. “Race” as a classification was created and transmuted into racist practice that relegated and maintained Africans to the margins of society, especially in the 18th century.”
In 1993, I noted, “Race and racism, as we know them today, are very modern constructs arising out of a European discourse that ran parallel with the European conquest of the rest of the world, and especially with the justification of African slavery. Other “races”, like Indians and Chinese, were fitted by Europeans within this White-Black dipole along the Christian “Great Chain of Being” ranging from God to rocks. Race and racism are part and parcel of the “Western
Enlightenment,” exported as one weapon in the European arsenal of imperialistic conquest, but which undergirds the “education” that the entire modern world consumes.
The vaunted education purveyed by the Christian Church after Emancipation was redolent of this racist ideology and basically hegemonized the ex-slaves and their descendants to accept its premises. Creole Culture created a mental slavery for them – as exposed by Black Power exponents like Walter Rodney. To a predominantly African audience with the attendance of most of their leadership in 2004 at the Square of the Revolution and again in 2005 at the funeral of Ronald Waddell, I called for African leadership not to ignore the specific problems of African Guyanese that plague them because of the trauma of slavery and its aftermath.
In the discussion between Hinds, Alexander and Phillips, I was surprised as they beat up on Indian Guyanese being “racists” against African Guyanese, they did not note that if that world – Chinese, Russians, Japanese, Arabs etc are also racist against Africans, then there are deeper structural factors at work that the Indian “caste system” mentioned.
A variable – Indian culture – cannot explain a constant – anti-African racism.
(Haresh Singh will be buried today: his killers and those Joel and Isaiah Henry must be identified.)