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By Vincent Alexander
I am certain that Minister Ramson`s recent statement about the need for ‘black youths’ (youths of African descent) to have role models in and from their communities for them to inculcate the culture of generating wealth was unwittingly said. It revealed his state of mind. He was stereotyping youths of African descent and being prejudicial about them.
That he singled out youths of African descent that way is evidence of the plurality of the society that we live in, notwithstanding the denial of the Minister and his ilk when directly confronted with that proposition. He purported to identify a problem that’s peculiar to youths of African descent. He further contended that the problem requires the attention of the African Guyanese community. He did not see his Ministry or the school system as having a role to play in rectifying the purported problem. I am in no way trumpeting the problem as articulated by the Minister. I am exposing his state of mind and disposition. If there is such a problem doesn’t the State and his Ministry in particular have a responsibility to confront the problem rather than merely seeing it as a weakness in, and of, the African Guyanese community that denigrates people of African descent? Where is his mind on the mantra of One Guyana that the President trumpets?
I do believe that we have a plural society built on our different origins, religious beliefs, and value systems. In fact, the Minister`s disposition to wealth may well be one of those values that set us apart. Our plurality has also been fueled by the State (colonial and post-colonial) in the matter in which it has historically treated people of African descent when compared to others. It therefore behooves a progressive state to address the purported degeneration of African Guyanese youth as an issue not of the African Guyanese community but of the society, which has fashioned or facilitated the fashioning of each group by the desperate and sometimes discriminatory treatment meted out to one group as opposed to the other. This started with slavery and progressed through indentureship unto today. African Guyanese power and mobility were curtailed by indentureship and other policies such as trading licenses for the Portuguese and exclusion for the people of African descent. African Guyanese were forced to find refuge in the public sector and are now told that they must make room for others without any reciprocal making of room for them.
In the meantime, the likes of Hits and Jams socializes the youths of African descent to the worst of dancehall music and the acquisition of loans for clothing to attend Jam Zone and the likes thus contributing to the potential denigration of the youths of African descent, even as they join in applauding those who seek to denigrate people of African descent as was recently done by Minister Ramson.
Amid all of this, it is the people of African descent, mainly, who for decades manned our social services, including our health care and education systems, in the spirit of One Guyana. They were and are still role models for the nation at large. Rather than denigrating the people of African descent the Government owes those people an understanding of their evolution in this hostile environment and the creation of a public policy environment that is reparative. That is what reparations must mean to the President and his ilk when they prattle the term.