Dear Editor, I am different. I am not a «black» as the ERC seems to describe persons like my husband who is of African ancestry. My four precious children are different too. They are bi-racial and tonight I wonder the kind of Society they will have to grow up and live in.
Will they be described by Constitutional agencies as «black» and «afro» or «dougla» and «indo»? Will they ever be free to embrace and be recognized by their true identitiesâ» children of African-East Indian Guyanese ancestry? I once read that «difference is as natural as breathingâ¦ Civilised society has a duty to accommodate suitable differences among human beings. Only in this manner can we give due respect to everyoneâs humanity.»- per Saunders J. in McEwan v the AG of Guyana (2018) CCJ.
Ethnic identities in Guyana are different and varying. Descriptions of these ethnic identities are powerful. Such description can express or reinforce a positive social identity or standing. Descriptions can also incite the diminishing of oneâs identity and activate racial hostility and grave social conflict. The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) to this end is clothed with the high responsibility under the Constitution of Guyana, to ensure that ethnic identities, albeit naturally different as breathing, are treated with equivalent respect and are properly described. Mr. Editor, I note with extreme concern, a distasteful and impeachable act of high crime and a gross abdication of Constitutional duty committed by the ERC.
Cristian Abreu Hidalgo
On June 17, 2020, the Commission issued a Statement RE: Ethnic Relations Commission meets with «Guyanese Critic» on racial Statements made. The Commission at lines 8 through 12 found favour with the choice of words «black» and «Afro». I am of the view that the author intended to say «persons of African ancestry» or «African Guyanese«
I refuse to conclude that these two derogatory choice of words were intentionally done by the Commissioners of the ERC. Instead, I accept that it is pure historical ignorance on their part. History and social scientists involved in the study of race relations have concluded that the word «black» derived from Spanish «negro» or «negra» was used as a replacement of «negro» at a time the US Federal government adopted measures to eradicate the use of Spanish «negro» in official government documents. The word «afro» was intentionally used to replace «Africa» or «African» in an effort to remove the identity of persons of «African ancestry». The removal of this identity was essential during colonialism, in that the «Afro» people, or the «slave» or «enslaved» or «negro» would not feel connected to the civilization of «Africa» or the cultural identity of being «African«
This systematic racism and alienation of the dignity of persons of «African ancestry» was echoed on this day, by the very institution, endowed by the supreme law, with the ostensible authority to protect the identity of all Guyanese from any form of racial attack. Mr. Editor, I beg your indulgence to raise one final point. The ERC is clothed with the jurisdiction to commence the process leading to criminal charges being filed where a person allegedly commits a racially hostile act
I note with extreme concern the policy of the ERC, or permit me to correct myself, the legitimate expectation created by this Constitutional agency that if a citizen does the kind of act done by Kester Dean or Mikhail Rodrigues, they will be summoned to a meeting and thereafter be allowed to apologise
I am aware that every citizen is entitled to be treated equally under the law. If Dean, Rodrigues and others were allowed to apologize for their purported breach of the law, then the Commissioners leave it open for persons to assume that it is their legitimate expectation to be treated in like manner under the law as the Constitution guarantees under the equal rights provision. These observations are an indictment on the utility of the ERC and reflects that Commissionâs abysmal failure to execute the simple mandate under the constitution to encourage a more harmonious society
The ERC Commissioners owe all persons of African ancestry an apology. The Commission is urged to desist immediately from describing persons of African ancestry or African Guyanese as «black» and «afro». The Commission is further asked to remove such references from its Social Media platforms
Respectfully, Karishna Seecharran-Munroe