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I write in response to a letter by Mr. Kit Nascimento published in the April 1 edition of some newspapers. In that missive, Mr. Nascimento sought to characterise Rickford Burke, Tacuma Ogunseye and myself as “dangerous” men who preach “Race Hate.” He quoted from and paraphrased comments I made on my Social Media/TV program, Politics 101. Hence my response.
According to Mr. Nascimento, Ogunseye “propose that our security forces turn their guns against a duly elected government to support a mass uprising to overthrow the government.” This is not an actual quotation from Ogunseye, because he never uttered those words. It is Mr. Nascimento’s interpretation of what he said. The question here is what constitutes “overthrowing” a government? For example, does the slogan “Oppose, Expose and Depose” made popular by the founder-leader of Mr. Nascimento’s party, the United Force, amount to advocacy of overthrowing the government?
Mr. Nascimento goes on to accuse us of Race Hate, purportedly against Indian Guyanese. His evidence is my call on African Guyanese to purchase items produced in their community as a first resort—a call for self-reliance. Mr. Nascimento must be aware of the “buy local” concept, which is a major strand of economic thought. He, therefore, must explain how my advocacy of it amounts to Race Hate. Did Mr. Burnham’s Buy Local call or the more recent call on Guyanese to buy Banks Beer instead of Trinidadian beer amount to Insularity? In any case, Mr. Nascimento in his haste to brand me a racist omitted a crucial part of my advocacy. I advised African Guyanese that when they buy outside of their community, they must patronize Indian Guyanese small businesses. Nascimento must say whether that is Race hate.
Mr. Nascimento continued in the same vein of misrepresentation when he accused be of threatening the Stabroek News for “not covering the news from a WPA perspective and accusing the newspaper of kowtowing to the government.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I accused the Stabroek News of not giving coverage to the WPA—the newspaper does not report on the party’s press releases. That is a fact. Further, Mr. Nascimento considers my announcement that we are documenting the instances of “condemnation” of Ogunseye a threat.
My reminder that there is life after the PPP is also considered Race Hate by Nascimento. Let me say the following. I know something about Race Hate and Racism. As an African, I experience it every day, I study and teach them—they are grounded in notions Racial Superiority and Inferiority and the use of Institutional Power to actualise those notions.
But, in Guyana there is a twisted definition of Race Hate and Racism which Mr. Nascimento evidently subscribes to. In Guyana, he or she who advocates for Racial pride, self-love, self-reliance, dignity and equality is branded a Racist, –a case of the victims of Racism being charged with Racism. There is a logic behind that formulation. It’s called Racial Denial and Racial Amnesia—a denial that our history, which is heavily influenced by the grim experience of slavery, has generated institutions and attitudes with particular assumptions of Blackness. It is these assumptions which makes it so easy to consciously and unconsciously mischaracterize Black rebuke of the State and Society as “dangerous”, “racist” and “seditious.”
Finally, Mr. Nascimento endorses Mr. Ali’s quest to “banish Racism.” I offer the following advice. To banish racism, one must first comprehend its origins, linkages and human consequences. Second, one must become an Anti-Racist in a humane sense. Third, one must be willing to banish the institutional and social privileges that are accrued from Racism. Fourth, one must be willing to banish obstacles to Non-Racism such as Racial Inequality and Inequitability in the distributive institutions of State and Government and the Racial Value-Gap that renders some human lives more expendable than others.