OPINION: The international politics of race – the case of Guyana

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 November 2023, 6:41 by Denis Chabrol

By Dr. Randy Persaud, Professor Emeritus

Two signature events occurred in Guyana’s international politics recently, and both involved race as the central articulating issue. The first event took place in Washington DC from September 27-28, 2023, in the form of a conference under the theme “Promoting Inclusive Governance and Economic Growth, Equal Justice, Social Equality & Sustainable Development for All Guyanese in The Era of Oil and Gas.” As was widely reported, the meetings had nothing to do with any aspect contained in the themes advertised. Rather, several Members of Parliament went to Washington to participate in a festival of innuendoes and misrepresentations grounded in that bastard principle called race.

The second event was partly driven by the first. In this case, a team from New York State came to Guyana to investigate race relations in this country. The delegation spent several days here and met with a wide cross-section of individuals, community groups, and with representatives of the main political parties. For the sake of transparency, I acknowledge that I attended the official luncheon at State House.

On October 28, the Guyana Standard reported that another delegation is coming here “to investigate claims by the political opposition of racial discrimination and human rights violations.” This delegation is much boarder than the one from New York State. It will be led by Dee Dawkins-Haigler and John King III. Ms. Dawkins-Haigler is a Democrat and was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives representing the state’s 91st district from 2008 until 2017. Mr. King is a former Chair of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus and currently serves as 2nd Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He is also the At-Large member of the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures.

Readers will recall that back in August 2021, a similar delegation traveled to Guyana for the Socio-Economic Emancipation 2021.

These delegations from the United States have a common source and, a common purpose. They are all based on complaints about race discrimination by members of the opposition and their supporters in the diaspora, the majority of whom are Afro-Guyanese. To date, no delegation, and certainly no independent source has yet been able to find credible evidence of race discrimination against Afro-Guyanese or any other group.

The question is this – why is the PPPC government is Guyana under such constant surveillance by politicians from the United States? Further, why must a sovereign nation be subjected to persistent inspection by visitors who know extraordinarily little about this country, but who have extraordinary power to make decisions that will affect the internal dynamics of this society. Why didn’t any delegation from the United States visit Guyana during the tenure of President David Granger despite widespread complaints of undemocratic governance.

The answer is to be found in the international politics of race. Consider the following observations.

Firstly, Americans can come in an inspect Guyana (an invasive affair) simply because they have the power to do so. The US has far greater racism against, and marginalization of, African Americans than any kind of discrimination against any group in Guyana and the Caribbean. The data on Human Development of African Americans shows that all other ethnic groups, excepting Native Americans, are ahead in the critical areas of education, health, income, wealth. The data on the disproportionate arrests and imprisonment of Black people in the US is widely known. The data on Black criminalization and anti-Black police brutality is among the worst in the world. In 247 years, the United States has had one Black (mixed-race) president. Guyana has had a Black Executive Prime Minister or President (under PNC-APNU) for 31 of the 57 years we have been independent. Guyana, with less than a million souls has probably had more people of African descent in positions of political power than the United States with 41 million African Americans. This is especially the case if you do not count Black immigrants to the US. In all of its history, the US has managed to elect only one, yes one, Black Governor, and that was just recently in the fair state of Maryland.

Secondly, while most readers may be familiar with the small-state security dilemma, the extent to which the politics of race figures in this dilemma is not sufficiently appreciated. Simply put the dilemma is this – Guyana is dependent on international law and international institutions to sanctify and reproduce its national sovereignty. Yet, as all realists know, international institutions are notoriously unreliable in protecting the survival of small states. We are dependent on the Great Powers. This dependence has opened the gate for the type of inspections noted above. Transnational Black Solidarity, while a good thing, is being viciously exploited by the APNU-AFC-WPA and their instruments in the diaspora.

Third, and most ironically, the PPP, not APNU and AFC, has been dependent on the ABCE countries to ensure free and fair elections in Guyana. The very people who make the complaints against the PPP, are the historic riggers of elections and perpetrators of election-cycle violence in Guyana. This is the reason US Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch is a monumental figure in the Guyanese imagination. She is widely seen as persona non grata by the same folks who have invited the several US delegations here.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to invite a delegation from the ABCE countries to come to Guyana and investigate why the PNCR-APNU-AFC-WPA are so welded to election theft. This is a serious invitation and I hope Guyanese in the diaspora will go to their parliamentarians and Congressional representatives to get them interested in this possibility. Allow me to extend a warm welcome to the next delegation.

Dr. Randy Persaud is Adviser, Office of the President, Guyana.