Indo-Guyanese Americans and people of South Asian descent rallied against racism earlier this month in Richmond Hill, Queens, the center point of the Indo-Guyanese and Punjabi communities. The Richmond Hill rally condemned police violence against minorities (people of color) that drew global attention following the police killing of Black American George Floyd in Minneapolis; several Indo-Caribbeans reside in that city. There is a moral commitment to support against racism and injustice.
The anti-racism rally at Independence Square, Liberty Avenue in front of the famous Sybil’s Restaurant, drew a small crowd of Indo-Guyanese, Trinis, and Punjabis. It supported the struggle of “Black Lives Matter” movement. It was organized by community advocate Vishnu Mahadeo of the New York-based Guyana Diaspora Council.
In Richmond Hill, people from different groups were brought together under one umbrella thanks to the work and leadership of Vishnu Mahadeo and others. These different ethnic groups perceive each other positively and they cooperate and interact with one another with the hope of upliftment of lives in the community. They organizers and speakers spoke out against police violence because they feel obligated to do so on an issue of human value in which people are killed senselessly by some police officers whose lives were not under threat.The George Floyd Protests have evolved into a movement against racism and police brutality against people of colour all across America. Speakers feel a similar movement is needed to demand equality of Indians.
The Richmond Hill program began with prayers from the Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, and Christian faiths; all the spiritual figures prayed for peace as well as an end to violence relating to the Floyd protests that were violently interspersed with looting, arson, and vandalism. Many properties, including thriving businesses, belonging to Indians, Blacks, and other minorities were destroyed by looters. While praising those who were involved in protest rallies against racism in America and supported the struggle for racial equality, Vishnu Mahadeo and others speakers condemned the violence. He also appealed for support from the Indo-Caribbean community in America in the struggle against racism and violence perpetrated by law enforcement. Members of the community need to speak out and join the movement against racism.
Vishnu Mahadeo, Dhanpaul Narine, and other speakers were strong in their condemnation of racism in America. They urge the Indo-Caribbean community to be sensitive to and support the intense feelings regarding the police killings of people of color. They called for just policing, an end to racial prejudice and racial disparities that exist throughout institutions in America. The killing of Floyd and several other use of force by police against minorities, including an Indian American in the South, have sparked conversations among Americans and even internationally on police use of force especially against minorities in the US. Protests all over the US and the one in Richmond Hill called for a just society devoid of prejudice. There is institutional or state sanctioned racism in America in which all people of color are victims; even some people of color are racist towards other people of color. Indians, for example, are the target of attacks of Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks.
Vishnu explained why it was important for Guyanese living in the US, along with other immigrants, to show support for the current wave of “Black Lives Matter” protests against racism and the police killings of black Americans. He commented: “We came to the US and we are enjoying the liberty and quality of life…so we cannot just sit back and allow this to happen without giving our solidarity and support”.
Dr Dhanpaul Narine, who is also Guyanese, expressed similar sentiments during a meeting with the participants of the picketing exercise. “We’ve seen on television too many times this seeming replay, where people are abusing the Afro-American community…but enough is enough, there comes a time when it has to stop,” Dr Narine stated.
Government has not been able to successfully redress the negative feelings, perceptions, thoughts, beliefs of groups of people against others particularly immigrants of color like Indians. Fundamentally changes to tackling systemic racism is needed but Indo-Caribbeans need to join the coalition against it. Indo-Caribbeans, for example, are denied a legislative seat (in the Council, Assembly, Senate, Congress) in Queens because of gerrymandering practiced by other ethnic groups that make deals amongst themselves to exclude powerless Indo-Caribbeans and Punjabis. The politicians of other ethnic groups in charge of drawing up electoral seat boundaries and as such they divide the Indian communities into five or six seats diluting the power of their vote to deny them any chance of being elected in any seat. The Floyd killing and response to it has created a perfect storm to raise issues pertaining to Indians. There is a growing sense of commonality among victims of racism and the recognition that this must change. But Indo-Caribbeans and Punjabis must immerse themselves in the struggle. Indo-Caribbeans must support justice, civil rights, people rights, and human rights.Vishnu Mahadeo is applauded for his work. More Indo-Caribbeans and South Asians must join this movement for equality.