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By Dr Mellissa Ifill
It appears as if Mr. Freddie Kissoon has developed a rather unhealthy obsession with a number of Guyanese of African descent and that long list includes me. I initially opted to not respond for three reasons: First, I hardly read Mr. Kissoon’s columns since they don’t entertain me or intellectually inform and stimulate me. I therefore had no idea, what he was writing – either about me or anyone else unless it was brought to my attention. Second, I was mindful of our previous association. I had considered him an ally and my preferred approach to disagreements with persons I consider allies is direct personal engagement to see if any breeches could be repaired. Third, I am aware that responses to his baseless contentions simply give fuel to Mr. Kissoon’s imaginary fire. However, following a recent chance encounter during which I sought to engage him in person but he cowardly scurried away to retreat behind his computer to predictably pontificate his piffle, I decided that since he is desperately seeking a public response, the least I could do is pen one response, provide content for another 15-20 of his daily articles and thereby assist him to earn a clearly needed pay.
I must confess though, that I have no desire to descend to the level and type of discourse in which Mr. Freddie Kissoon seems most comfortable. It is anti-intellectual, shallow, self-indulgent, self-absorbed and repetitive to the point of inanity. He revels in slander and character assassination from behind a computer screen even though his irrational musings have long lost their value- if they ever had any.
For an assumed intellectual, Mr. Kissoon seems curiously unable to understand the structural and relational theories and analytical tools offered by intersectionality and multiple dimensional identity. I am of African descent. I am black. I am a woman. I am feminist. I am Guyanese. I am West Indian/Caribbean. These identities don’t contradict each other, nor do they cancel each other. They intersect and they shape my experiences in Guyana and the world. That Mr. Kissoon failed in our past association to recognise my blackness and my feminism is his conundrum, not mine. These are identities that I have always embraced, including when I fought for his right to be treated with dignity and respect and led marches in the hot sun on his behalf when his contract as a lecturer at the University of Guyana was unceremoniously terminated and when I vehemently condemned the hurling of faeces in his face. That Mr. Kissoon is incapable of appreciating the contextual nuances of identify formation is a manifestation of his intellectual deficit. If he is interested, I will point him in the direction of multiple excellent sources to aid in his understanding.
Moreover, Mr. Kissoon is either intellectually dishonest or he is being manipulated and used to further someone’s unknown agenda as his focus is interestingly selective. Apart from expressing my identity as a black woman, in one Facebook post that he distorts, I also articulated other identities and noted my resolve to fight for the working class and the exploited. That Mr. Kissoon seems preoccupied solely with the issue of my blackness is more likely a reflection of his thought processes about blackness and black people, not mine. Please allow me to produce verbatim for the readers’ consumption, the first part of the post I made on April 12, 2020. These are views that I will forever embrace:
“I am unapologetically black – always was and always will be! I am unapologetically feminist – always will be! I march through this life and world as a black woman.
There is a systemic situational position characterised by oppression that this dual identity – black and woman – engenders. I understand that the issues I confront are intertwined in the dynamics of race, gender and class. I will therefore forever fight against racism. I will fight against any system/structure – local or global – that kills, exploits and/or relegates people of African descent to the margins, to second class citizenship. I will also forever fight for gender equality and the elimination of unequal gendered power relations wherever and however they manifest themselves. I will forever fight for the rights of the working class, the underclass, the exploited, the marginalised and the forgotten. I will always be an ally and a supporter of any group that seeks and fights for equality and justice in their particular spaces.”
Precisely because of my comprehension of the multiple sources of structural oppression that employ intersecting identity markers, I state unequivocally, that there is no individual – dead or alive – who can point to any occasion when I acted in a discriminatory manner against anyone or any group or when I failed to treat someone who approached me in a personal or professional capacity with anything less than decency, equality and respect. I treat everyone the same, irrespective of their ethnicity, gender, class, religion, nationality or sexuality. I trust that Mr. Kissoon can unequivocally state the same.
I’d further like to advise Mr. Kissoon that my Facebook page is public. All my views are available for anyone to peruse, including my views on the rigging of the March 2, 2020 elections and my considered opinion on how the ethnic insecurity and conflict that have overwhelmed our country and its democratic processes could be addressed – incidentally, the subject of my successfully defended PhD thesis from the University of Sussex, UK. Prior to the March 2nd election, I wrote the following within a longer post [February 29th], “For me, not voting has never been an option. I don’t think voting is the ‘be all and end all’ of democracy. In fact, I don’t believe that this minimalist liberal democracy serves our multi-ethnic context at all. It is however the system that we have and until it changes to one that facilitates genuine inclusion of all groups (for which I continue to advocate), I will participate to try to steer the electoral outcome in a direction that I believe is better for Guyana.” My reading of history tells me that both major political parties have historically manipulated their internal and the national electoral systems and structures to greater and lesser degrees to generate particular electoral outcomes. Nonetheless, on March 5, 2020, I wrote the following (again extracted from a longer post), “APNU/AFC – If yuh lose, yuh lose. Give up, recalibrate and live to fight another day.” I repeated this comment on June 7, 2020 when the recount totals were revealed. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Kissoon’s Facebook spies seemed to have conveniently missed those comments.
Since Mr. Kissoon seems so fascinated by my views, he really ought to join Facebook to view for himself. As a self-described historian, he must be aware of the cardinal rule that one must go directly to the source rather than relying on truncated, second-hand information as he is wont to do via screen shots. Alternatively, he can email or call me and ask me to send the text of any of my posts to him. I’d be most willing to do so.
Finally, let me say this about Mr. Kissoon. As one who obeyed when his boss instructed him regarding the untouchable subjects and individuals about whom he cannot offer an opinion, he has absolutely no legitimacy to speak about anyone’s silence on any matter. As one who fails to call out those who assisted him in building his home, or who gave him free legal services, he has absolutely no legitimacy to speak out on anyone’s silence on any matter. As one who publicly begged for jobs for himself and spouse from the political elite and then lashed out when they did not respond to his shameless appeals, he has absolutely no legitimacy to speak to anyone’s character, integrity or decency. Mr. Kissoon’s self-described greatness, integrity and intellectual prowess exist only in his narcissistic and bullying mind.
Thank you, dear Editor, for allowing this sole response to Mr. Kissoon. I wish Mr. Kissoon good luck in what appears to be his current desperate angling for relevance, friends, allies and earnings.