OPINION: Guyanese of African Descent (Indian Descent): is somebody kidding?

Last Updated on Saturday, 8 June 2024, 16:53 by Writer

by GHK Lall

It is strange, the curious twists and turns that almost all issues devolve within this town. Take this matter of a name for a race – a slur, a profane expression, make no mistake – and Guyanese are treated to a political science, history, and sociology lesson. I murmur a silent prayer that the realms of biology and anthropology were not visited. Officialdom may have reveled in slamming the PNC, the Black (my apologies, outspoken African Guyanese) activists, but why that was necessary is beyond me. The explanation is that every development, all communications, is an opportunity for propaganda, and twisting the knife into never healing wounds. This is a sick place, with still sicker people, chronically and intensive-care-unit so. Now with a big hand to the cabinet, and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, the air has been cleared about what is out, what is in, and what is left hanging. Given the majestic lady (I hope that is not antifeminist) in charge, there is appreciation as to why both parliamentary affairs and governance under the PPP are in the deplorable state that they are.

What started out as righteous wrath, and rightfully so, about the appearance from the Guyana Police Force of “Negro” in the instance of Mr. Kadackie Amsterdam, then went on a political run that was both a marathon and a stunt. Guyanese of African descent is now officially chic. It is right, it is overdue, and it is, I dare to say, fit and proper. If matters had stopped there, I think that everyone would have been satisfied, put back the dusty history books, and have good reason to return to the real business of living in Guyana. However, since the PPP brain trust has never been one to let a juicy full toss go abegging, its members just could not resist taking a swipe and a cross-bat heave. To manifest its commitment to equal standing (under the law?) and universal appeal, the PPP Government threw out the old, and it is now in with the new. To begin with, Guyanese of African descent could and should have been Afro-Guyanese to save on ink and paper space. Time and breath, too. I can’t see anybody objecting, other than those wishing to make a mountain out of an anthill. Surely, there cannot be African Guyanese or Black Guyanese of Scandinavian or Oriental descent? I could be wrong, but seriously doubt it. The more things are changed, the more the gross stupidity of the people at the helm of this country is revealed. Surely, there could be no trouble with Afro- or African-Guyanese. Nor, to stretch the rubber band, Black Guyanese, for all those constructions are nothing but safe, satisfying ground. Now me being me cannot help being ornery, contrarian, and rambunctious. I urge my fellow sisters and brothers (to soften up sentiments a bit) to brace themselves.

East Indian is a term of insult? Since when? And by whose grand intellect, superior wisdom? I will make the argument that our people came from the east, hence the cardinal point is well fixed, and settled. This is an insult to my ancestors to deny them the admission and recognition of their point of origins. How does that rise to racial sacrilege, could ever be such?

Considering my own freewheeling forms of expression, and known distaste for political incorrectness, I am shocked that the Ethnic Relations Commission, the Cybercrimes vigilantes, and the Crime Chief haven’t hauled me in for the third degree. Again, why not Indo-Guyanese? What is so wrong about that hyphenated one-word construction? Is there such a child as Indian Guyanese of Pakistani descent? My word! That would cause such a seismic upheaval over there by the Himalayas. Or to get too clever by half, how about Indian Guyanese of Indigenous Descent, all duly capitalized? The ministry did introduce some flexibility with Guyanese Amerindian and so forth.

Now that I have ventured into the native world, I must continue. It boggles the mind that after this laborious mental effort, the best that the Cabinet could come up with was Guyanese of Amerindian Descent. Amerindian was conjured by Europeans in their exploitation mode and exploitative haste to label the people who have been around this area for an eternity. I think it would be healthy and thoughtful to take a clean break from the European past. Be done with Amerindian. If I were of indigenous origins, a strong protest would be mounted in the face of the people responsible for this wrong, this cop-out. Yes, I know that I took the easy way out. But how could anybody with their wits about them get that muddled?

In closing, notwithstanding what I interpret to be holes in this scrabble exercise, a word of commendation is still owed to the PPP Government. It goes to show how expansive and comprehensive the people charting the way could be when they put their minds to a matter. Even the Chinese and Portuguese, both nationalities, came in for special mention. Now if the same energy and vitality could be brought to bear on big things like oil and corruption and serial stalking, there is no limit to how far this Guyana of ours could advance.