September 30, 2016

We need to find a solution to our race problem

Dear Editor,
Reference is made to Rajendranauth Singh in another media calling for censorship of my views because I write on race. My response was not published by the said media. David Hinds, Kwayana, Ogunseye, Phillips write on race but Singh has not called on that media to ban them.
Does Singh actually exist or is he using a convenient fictitious ethnic name? Freddie Kissoon (new KN editor of letters) also stated unabashedly to ban Bisram and Indian intellectuals from publishing in KN.
As he did with two letters published (out of 15 sent to the media since December), Freddie severely edit/butchered my response because he is opposed to competing intellectual views. Singh is yet to dispute any of the claims (facts) I made that were substantiated with evidence. Singh seeks freedom of press (to pen falsities, misinterpretations, and inaccuracies as exposed in his two letters) but not for people like me or Prof Lomarsh Roopnarine, Ramharack or other Indian intellectuals to pen facts.
Contrary to what Singh pens, I do not have a hidden agenda as my views on various issues are publicly stated unlike, the secretive Singh. I don’t mix words and I don’t bury Guyana’s race problem under the carpet as Singh instructs. I have a public agenda to elucidate issues using facts, not innuendoes or name calling as Singh and Freddie do.
What is the problem if someone writes on race? It is an important and relevant paradigm. The Afro-centric Cornwell West writes almost exclusively on race as do Tacuma Ogunseye, David Hinds, Eusi Kwayana, Eric Phillips, and other Afro-centrists.
Instead of engaging in name calling, why does Singh not focus on finding a solution to racism in Guyana? An example of an unapologetic racist is someone who refuses to admit a group of people was persecuted on account of their race as happened in South Africa, US, Guyana, etc. The secretive Singh, not me, fits that definition.
With regards to race issues, in which land is Singh living? Almost every issue is viewed through the prism of race as many scholars penned. What issue in Guyana is not about race? Aren’t slavery, indentureship, banning of goods, rape, crime, firing of workers, elections, prison fire, etc all about race?
Indians and Amerindians felt they were fired from government jobs because of race. Chinese feel they are violently attacked because of race. Portuguese feel they are marginalised because of race. In my travels in Guyana over the last two weeks, I heard endless complaints all pertaining to race.
Several individuals (of different races) were given traffic tickets and they all attributed it to race even though race may not have had anything to do with the issuance of the tickets. That is the nature of our and all multiethnic societies. The same holds true of the US and Canada. For example, when people don’t get promotion at their jobs, they cry race even when race has nothing to do with an action.
American elections are also about race. Haven’t you been paying attention to the Presidential primaries in both parties? Donald Trump uses race in his campaign message. Wasn’t the struggle for Guyana’s independence or decolonisation in general about race?
Why hasn’t the non-existent Singh criticised Freddie Kissoon or Afro-centric writers who write perennially on race? Singh seems very confused writing “Everything in Guyana is not about race”, but he then concedes “Guyana’s main problem is race”. What kind of contradictory comment is that?
Singh claims his family moved to the US because of a racial conflict and attacks on Indians. Is that not about race? And then he tells us that he and his family have moved on.
NB David Hinds (KN Mar 8) said we must not move on from the abuses of the past and we must hold the abusers to account. Why didn’t Singh take Hinds to task for not moving on?
The literature in the mass media, including the Barbados-based (now defunct) Caribbean Contact, and reports from various commissions of inquiries and journals state that the overwhelming majority of Indo-Guyanese who migrated to the US and Canada did so to escape racial persecution – job discrimination and marginalisation, physical attack by kick-down-the-door bandits, physical beatings, ban on ethnic foods, thuggery, election rigging, etc. Freddie Kissoon claimed he wrote a monograph and it was all on race. Singh did not take him to task.
With regards to his appeal to Adam Harris (NB: Freddie Kissoon is letters editor) for censorship of Bisram (rest assured Freddie will not publish this response uncensored), is that what the US media are doing to Donald Trump. Singh claims to be writing from the US. Is he honest? Since he is so concerned about race, has Singh written to the US media to censure Trump for his commentaries on race and for wanting to deport all immigrants (including the fictitious Singh and family). Dr Martin Luther King’s appeal was entirely on race?
Should he have been banned by the media?  And how about Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other civic rights leaders all of whose appeals were exclusively on race, should they have been censured also? If Jagan or Kwayana had not taken up race, would democracy have been restored to Guyana?
I have been fighting racism internationally (including in the US and against apartheid South Africa and Ian Smith’s Rhodesia) and for equity and justice among all humans regardless of race. I also fought to restore democracy in Guyana that now benefits Singh to pen his view in the media that was previously banned and granting him the freedom to call for my ban in KN. What has been Singh’s contribution on these fronts?
I write on race (and other issues) because I want to see a better Guyana and this can only come about when the race problem (which Singh claims is “Guyana’s main problem”) is faced squarely and discussed in the open. David Hinds and Eusi Kwayana also say that is their agenda. We all must work towards a solution; that has been my consistent position ever since I started commenting on political issues. We must discuss race openly and not sotto voce as Singh advises.
We must not bury race under the carpet as Singh and Freddie are advocating.
I care about my country and race has been destroying it. We must find a solution to equitable sharing of resources and decision-making among the varied ethnic groups. Airing this dirty linen in the public to embarrass the politicians, as Hinds has been doing, is the way to go to find a solution to it.
I urge whoever uses pseudonym Singh don’t hide behind a fictitious ethnic name. It seems my commentaries on race have had the benefit of getting Singh to openly take a stand – a good thing although he does not agree with me. Democracy depends on open debate and differences, not censorship. And Singh does not have to worry about censorship of my letters as Freddie will severely edit this response.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram

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