by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 17 October 2007)
A few years ago I felt good about the direction humans were going as it seemed various forms of hatred toward other humans was on the decline. I watched as those around me found it easier to accept my bi-racial marriage and my children of several different races.
It seemed as if humans were finally finding ways to celebrate racial and religious diversity instead of using these differences between us to create fear and mistrust. I had hope that wars would become less frequent and I saw whole nations as moving toward a more tolerant approach when dealing with other nations and cultures.
However, the last few days have made it clear to me that my dreams of a more tolerant approach to each other is now further away than a decade ago.
I was browsing a Guyanese Website over the past weekend and saw a comment that caught my interest. A writer said he felt the letter pages of the Guyana daily newspapers was demonstrating a trend of drawing distinct lines along a racial divide.
I do notice these types of letters from time to time, but to be honest, I seldom read them. In my own life, when I come across a person who makes racial distinctions in a negative manner, I take quick steps to remove that person from my life. Likewise, I give no time to racially charged letters either.
It is not that am blind to reality, but I simply see no point in allowing any type of hatred to fester in me. I have faced plenty of racial remarks because of my diverse family and could easily fall into the trap of stereotyping every single race that has ever acted badly toward me – which would be every single race.
Yet I would rather believe that if I have the capacity to see a person for who they really are and celebrate their racial and cultural makeup, so can everyone else. This was the positive direction America was moving until 9/11. Now there is fear and mistrust around every corner again.
There are stories in the news about racial conflict in Louisiana, Middle-Easterners in America cannot board a flight without being watched carefully, and the fear and mistrust of 9/11 has many wanting to take drastic measures to close the borders. There are now even raids to find illegal immigrants and send them back to their homeland.
This is all nonsense to me. A person’s race is no determinant for whether she or he has strong moral character and a good heart. Just like there are good people of all skin colours, there are also bad people of all skin colours. It is ridiculous to pick out a couple bad eggs and subsequently pronounce that all people from that country or that race cannot be trusted.
This is what happens every time I write about Buxton, too. There has not been one time that I have written about the plight of those in Buxton that I have not been told that I am wasting my time. I refuse to succumb to such blind hatred simply because others live with that darkness in their hearts.
Last Sunday I wrote on three women who are some of the richest people in the world. One was an heiress from China, one was an author from England and one was a television host from America. I mentioned that the television host, Oprah, made it big regardless of the fact that she was “not overly aesthetically pleasing.”
This statement upset some who read my column and it was somehow misconstrued that my statement was because she was of African decent when in fact my statement was because she was the only one I wrote about who was in the entertainment business, which is known for only wanting the most beautiful women in front of a camera.
My point was that Oprah made it big using her brains and despite a constant fight with her weight. Oprah is no Halle Berry, but she made her mark despite the superficial expectations placed on all women in the entertainment business. This opens doors for more women to follow in her footsteps.
That my remark was somehow twisted to be a racial insult is beyond me. I simply do not think that way at all. I believe there is beauty to be found in every race. In fact, by my own standards, Oprah is drop dead gorgeous because she is a strong woman with a generous heart who is not afraid to put her intelligence on proud display.
Like Oprah, I will never be a size two. I have a round face – not that square face that Hollywood loves so much. However, I am a strong woman with a generous heart who is not afraid of being intelligent.
It seems there are some who cannot comprehend that race does not factor into the thinking of certain people. One reader who emailed me suggested that I should be more sensitive to the racially charged atmosphere in Guyana. While I understand this person’s point, I also believe my racial blindness could help others better accept each other.
What good does it do to react to a racist with more racism? At the end of the day there is just more entrenched hatred. If we shun such actions and walk away from those who are racists, surely at the end of the day goodwill and acceptance will overshadow the hatred.
Moreover, what good does it do to focus on those things that make us different and separate us? I prefer to focus on those things that bring us together and to celebrate our beautiful diversity.
I do not focus on racial differences because it simply does not factor into my determination of a person’s character. When humanity as a whole can reach beyond its differences – be it racial, religious, geographical, gender or financial – that is when we can focus on the truly important things in life.