by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 30 May 2006)
There are so many factors that have contributed to Guyana’s ongoing development struggle. Inept governments, corrupt leaders, international economic crises, the severe lack of an effective national economic strategy – as well as so many other attributes that were present from the first day of the nation’s independence until now.
If we wanted to point fingers and place blame, there would be fingers pointing in every possible direction. However there is one factor that supersedes all other factors that has not only contributed to Guyana’s ongoing development struggle, but also constantly feeds all other factors that prevent substantial progress.
That one omnipresent factor is the racial divide. This issue was present before the British left and has incessantly plagued the nation in every single aspect of life. If an Indo-Guyanese wrote this article, it is possible that a large portion of the Afro-Guyanese would dismiss the content as biased and partial. Likewise, if I were Afro-Guyanese, it would be likely that a large portion of the Indo-Guyanese would mark this article off as being insincere.
In fact, there have been a healthy number of mavericks from both sides of the racial divide who have attempted to bridge the gap between the two major races in Guyana, but have made little or no advancement on the issue. However, I am neither of these races and hope my words will somehow persuade some Guyanese to understand how important it is to unify as a people.
Although an outside force created this problem long before Guyana received its independence, there is no point in beating a dead horse by cursing an influence that has long been absent from the country’s social framework. Though the British are the ones who initially created the racial conflict, it is the Guyanese who keep the discord alive.
The ever-present undercurrent of this contempt for the other race, which often seems to be initiated within the political sphere, has so permeated society that it is highly probable that if one race-based governing party calls a piece of paper green, the other race’s party will then insist that it is red and the two parties will subsequently waste enormous amounts of time, energy and money just to argue this point.
If this world were about nothing more than choosing one side of an argument and debating that stance until infinity, then perhaps Guyana’s ongoing racial division would not have such dire consequences. Instead, as the rest of world progresses at lightning speed, Guyana stands still in time while the people are consumed with bickering and arguing with each other.
However, in daily life, most Guyanese live harmoniously regardless of race. My husband told me he didn’t even know there was a difference between the races until at seven years old he told his father he wanted a hair cut like an Afro-Guyanese. How is it this type of same harmony is locked out of the political arena?
While the nation’s infrastructure crumbles, the educational system fails, the economy continues to decline and crime overtakes the streets, Guyana’s politicians cannot agree on even simple matters that would enhance the nation and help the people. One party cannot let the other party have even a small victory because that would mean the other race might have just a little bit of intelligence.
This constant racial strife and bickering has been the ultimate downfall of Guyana. If as a Guyanese you want to know what happened to the beautiful streets you once had, they were lost to racism. If you want to know why Guyana cannot seem to ever find a way out of poverty, it is because of racism. If you want to know how the drug lords were able to take over the nation so easily, it is because of racism.
Every bad thing that has ever happened to Guyana is because of this racial divide. Likewise, every good thing that has been withheld from Guyana is because of this despicable situation.
If you do not believe what I am saying, all you need to do is examine the political and social incidents of just the last year and you will see the how the race issue has been the underlying factor every time development has been stymied.
If the World Cup does not come to Guyana next year, we can blame it on the crime and on the lack of resources, but the ultimate reason will be because the racially appointed political parties could not work together long enough or hold each other accountable enough to make the event a success.
In other words, Guyana will only continue its decline until the Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese find a way to join together as one force of good.
This predicament is not like a marriage where the two parties can choose to go their separate ways if they cannot find a means by which to resolve their problems. Therefore, there is one and only one solution; the opposing races must find a way to unite for their own good.
There is absolutely no way Guyana will ever see significant development until her two major races unite as one people. When the people of Guyana begin to cast their votes based on real issues such as economic development instead of race, that is when the political parties will start focusing on bettering the country.
The people will continue to establish the direction of this situation. If they continue to focus on race, their politicians will continue to follow their lead. Likewise, if they demand unity, their leaders will again follow suit – and those who do not will find themselves on the loosing end of the polls. In short, Guyana’s future – or the lack thereof - is in the hands of the people.