Can Guyanese Youth Bridge the Racial Divide? – An Indo-Guyanese Perspective

PART TWO: Can Guyana’s youth bridge the racial divide? Part One: Race Relations from an Indo-Guyanese Perspective

Guyana’s racial climate gets quite tense at times. There’s no arguing with that. An often overlooked aspect when engaging in discourse about race is that there is a dynamic of power held by two majority groups, Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese, that is unparalleled. The absence of this consideration leads many to assume that minority groups and majority groups are all on equal footage and that racial micro-aggressions have similar weighting.

Indo-Guyanese people account for 39 percent of the Guyanese Population, according to the 2012 Housing and Population Census; the largest demographic by ethnicity. Kaieteur News interviewed two Indo-Guyanese youth on how they perceive and navigate racial issues in Guyana. Anthony Rachpaul is a student at the University of Guyana. Faudia Ramjohn is a production supervisor, at 20, for Sterling Products Ltd.  

Anthony Rachpaul (19)

Asked how he perceives the current state of race relations in Guyana, University Student, Anthony Rachpaul (19) said, “I think that we are way behind, and we’re not exactly doing our best. When you look at communities where the majority are Indian or Black, there’s always some sort of tension between them and the minority. It’s like we’re conditioned to believe that our race is better than the other by our relatives.”

Rachpaul has some interesting views on the current perception of racism.

“When you look at it, racism is not [treated as] a big issue in Guyana. It’s not really mentioned. It’s an underlying issue. You’d notice it but it’s not really talked about. People always like to say “I’m not racist,” but when you look at their actions and the things they say, they clearly are.”

Rachpaul believes that people experience a cognitive dissonance where they perpetuate racism, by even commonly making racist statements and micro-aggressions against fellow Guyanese, but still find a difficulty seeing themselves as racists because people know that racism is bad, and don’t see themselves identifying with that sort of stigma.

Rachpaul said that answering the question of whether someone is racist is not as absolute as “Yes” or “No”, but it is about identifying whether they actively judge persons based on common identifiers of their ethnicity. A person could not want to be racist but still perpetuate racist attitudes, according to Rachpaul.

He said that, to solve racism, persons should try to explore different cultures and talk to different people; that it would help to deepen appreciation for other people, and the challenges they face as a race. He further said that persons are quick to make assumptions about persons based on what they look like, and shouldn’t do so because it is not constructive to assume who someone is from just the colour of their skin.

Faudia Ramjohn (20)

Ramjohn recalled seeing comments regularly on social media from, typically, older Guyanese folks trading insults across the racial divide, on political news articles. She said, “[Politics] is definitely the main contributing factor. I remember Indo-Guyanese solely voting for the PPP/C in the last election because [the coalition] has an [Afro-Guyanese] president. I remember Afro-Guyanese people condemning the PPP/C, not for their policies and their questionable political decisions, but because they perceive them as ‘coolie’…it’s solely based on race.”

She said that, when any political party is in power, many people see that party as representative of the power of their ethnic group. So when the APNU/AFC Coalition won the last General Election, some Afro-Guyanese people were heard making remarks like “We run things now” to Indo-Guyanese. She also recalled similar sentiments being expressed by Indo-Guyanese during the PPP/C’s time in power.

“The government does a poor job of hiding their prejudice,” she said, recalling Minister Nicolette Henry’s controversial statement a year ago.

Referring to her personal issues with racial micro-aggressions, she said “I was once told that I dress too “coolie, coolie” and that I need to stop. It’s not that big of a deal compared to what other people face but, when it happens, I would say things like ‘And so what? What’s wrong with that? It shouldn’t bother you’ or I just wouldn’t answer.

Ramjohn said, “I think the most important thing is to speak up when certain things happen. Tolerance [of racism] is the main reason discrimination and race-related issues still thrive.”

She said that persons have a responsibility to not be bystanders because, then, that makes them complicit in injustice.

“People need to stop tolerating it, ignoring it or pretending it’s not there. Somebody’s being racist? Tell them. Let them know that it’s not okay. Don’t let it slide.”

– Kaieteur News – December 17, 2018.


PART 1: Can Guyana’s youth bridge the racial divide? Part One: Race Relations from an Afro-Guyanese Perspective

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  • Dave Martoms  On 12/29/2018 at 8:37 pm

    This is self-serving and even devious to suggest that politicians create the racial discord. Certainly politicians use it, but they didn’t create it; rather they recognised the advantage of using something in the society that gave them leverage with their followers. The divide is there, created largely in the two dominant racial groups in Guyana; the British, in an earlier time, and Guyanese politicians in this time, see the divide and manipulate it for their own ends. To end it will require committed effort by Guyanese by send the message to all who are listening that we are turning our backs on racist positions. Unless we do that, the divisions will remain because aspiring politicians will inevitably seeing as a lever they can pull to gain votes among their followers/ We must make the change, it will not come from the politicians unless we make it clear that we are opposed to that position..

    • Trevor  On 12/30/2018 at 10:52 pm

      I don’t have anything against West Indians, but the British did allow millions of indentured servants and also wealthy Indians to migrate to the Caribbean and dilute the population and divide us using CIA tactics.

  • Trevor  On 12/30/2018 at 10:51 pm

    We have bigger problems once Europeans return to Guyana for our oil:

  • Ron Saywack  On 12/31/2018 at 7:03 am

    First of all, it is time to expunge from our lexicon, once and for all, the counterproductive propensity for assuming, and foolishly accepting, a hyphenated nationality if we are ever going to make inroads into bridging the bitter ‘racial divide’ in our emerging nation.

    This racial divide, as my fellow learned countrymen and countrywomen are well aware of, is the ugly legacy of the British and Americans and we must now cross this jagged Rubicon onto the plateau of a peaceful, harmonious society where mutual respect for one another is the norm.

    We are, first and foremost, Guyanese! Not Indo-Guyanese or Afro-Guyanese or Amerindian-Guyanese or whatever Guyanese.

    Best wishes to all as we celebrate the end of one year and welcome the beginning of another! Peace!

    Ron Saywack.

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