Published in the (African) Village Voice of Guyana
Vassan Ramracha’s intellectual presumptuousness of the African reality By Lincoln Lewis
A major challenge of the African community-be it Africa, Europe, the Americas and Caribbean- has always been one where every time an agenda and programme is being developed, some from other groups believe they have a right, not to join and support the African pursuit, but to tell them what they must be their agenda. In the United States (U.S) where some whites seek to do, this is called White Privilege, because only those who think they are privileged would think it is OK to say anything to another or seek to dictate the agenda for another.
Vassan Ramracha, whose correspondence about global Black leaders and the African race, in a letter that I’ve read in Kaieteur News, “Black leaders need to emphasise capitalism” is not white but East Indian. But his thinking is no different than the arrogant whites with their misplaced sense of superiority, and false notion that they can define for Africans what their problems are and tell them what to do to correct them.
The essence of his letter is not that of someone that empathises with the challenges of the African community the U.S and Guyana, but one where he seeks to cite instances of corrupt practices in some societies and examples of some Black leaders’ admonition to their race as evidence of a capitalist problem. Thereafter he proposed the “Question-do you think-Dr. Walter Rodney had he lived wouldn’t have written a book on how Black leaders underdeveloped Black people today.”
He who derisively speaks of Blacks and the Welfare System in the U.S, ignored that East Indians Guyanese residing in the U.S have been a major beneficiary of said system. They are also benefitting from the Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Fair Housing Rights, Equal Employment Opportunities, and everything African Americas fought for and have been laws, policies and programmes. Now he perches from his arrogant position, not having to do the initial heavy lifting, to now decry a people. His letter was an attempt to insult and denigrate the African community.
He needs not talk about governmental corruption in Africa and its deleterious impact on the development of Africa without speaking about India. According to Transparency International “Asia is one of the largest, most detailed surveys of people’s views and experiences of corruption and bribery in Asia.” In the 2020 Report, India has slipped six places among 180 countries on the corruption index. If he truly cares about corruption and its destructive impact on development let him speak to deprivation of his East Indian brothers and sisters living in India.
He could also intimately speak to corruption here and its underdevelopment to Guyana. For years Transparency International has ranked Guyana the most corrupt English-speaking country in the Caribbean. These were years under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic stewardship, an East Indian led and mainly supported government. We must wonder, Rodney, who fought for the working class and equality in the system had he lived wouldn’t he have written a book on how East Indian leaders underdeveloped the working class and ordinary African, East Indian, Amerindian and people of races in the society. Let him speak to that.
Ramracha is being contemptuous and disrespectful to Africans. When it comes to capitalism (wealth creation) in Guyana, the African community, as a single group, stands out. It is the only community that has established an economy, in under 25 years and after centuries of chattel slavery, built on pooling their resources. The Village Movement of Guyana, where African pooled their pennies, moved them through the roads and dams of post slavery society to purchase plantations that they converted into villages remains unmatched.
History tells, including Rodney, the efforts made by the Whites, former slave masters, to undermine the African system of wealth creation and self-determination. It is instructive, though not surprising, Ramracha ignores this, equally as he ignores U.S Civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, statement that “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” He, a newcomer to the American society, wants to speak to the realities of others, selectively pulling quoting or paraphrasing others, minus a full understanding of the totality of those people’s experiences. This is what you call intellectual presumptuousness.
In the continued national efforts by some to beat Africans down, it is being ignored the efforts by the Jagdeo/Ali regime to further undermine and erode the cooperative sector, which has historically been the major economic mainstay of the African community. It is being ignored the wanton dismissals, without due process or cause of African workers in the public sector which will have harmful effects on their self-economy and their dependents. The banking system discriminates against Africans. Terrence Campbell, of Church’s Chicken, recently did an interview with Village Voice speaking about the challenges Africans are facing in accessing business loans comparatively to other groups. I can personally speak to workers who have faced similar challenges to get a loan to purchase land or a home.
There are problems that need urgent attention in the African community. Some of these problems are systemic. Some are institutional and denial of access. And some are a flagrant disregard for the rights and freedoms of the African community to cultural, economic, social and political self-determination as enshrined in Constitution and Laws of Guyana, universal declarations and international conventions. Africans don’t want anyone lording it down on them. Those who care about African welfare could join them in pursuing same or removing the barriers that hinder same.
Africans are not afraid to hold their leaders accountable. In fact, Africans are harsher on their own leaders than any other group, which is borne from a high level of intolerance for discrimination and marginalisation. Africans know their problems and are capable of fixing them without Ramchara insults and cynicism, and if thinkers like him take their knee off our neck. Our problems are no different from other groups, though at times they may be different in nature. Let him concentrate on the problems in his own community and see where the dysfunctionalism and hinderance come from.