A case can be made for marginalisation without the use of statistics
Stabroek News, April 24, 2008
I have been following the discussion about marginalisation of African-Guyanese in the newspapers and the claims of Dr Prem Misir that statistical evidence is needed to argue marginalisation. Statistical evidence is not always required if we look at one major act of marginalisation and two consequences of being on the margins. The first is the act of naming for the names you are called tells you what your fate is going to be. Letters appear in the print media, particularly the state owned Chronicle, defining Africans by hateful, degrading and persecutory labels such as criminals, murderers, rapists, lawless, two-faced, untrustworthy, violent, only interested in sex and drugs etc. Not only has there been the relentless criminalisation of Africans as a group, but there has been the relentless criminalisation of the entire village of Buxton. We do not see letters of this kind being applied to East Indians as a group so that the message that is conveyed is one of East Indian supremacy.
To make it worse, these letters, more often than not, have non-East Indian signatories so the letters are aimed at inculcating self-loathing. Africans are being taught, through the print media, to accept their own inferiority and the negative consequences of being African, but at the same time, it gives the alleged East Indian writers the justification for their own superior position with respect to Africans. The racist speech therefore creates a social reality in which Africans have to function by constraining their liberty. Since the life opportunities of Africans are limited, the use of violent language to construct a meaning of inferiority makes racist speech an act of marginalisation.
A consequence of racist speech is that Africans are in a weakened position since they have been pushed to the margins of society, which means that discriminatory state policies can be put in place with the intention of deepening social divisions. The fact that these letters appear primarily in the state-owned Chronicle means that the state is active in promoting divisions and the consequential violence in the society.
The effect of racist language that is encouraged by the state is the attempt to destroy institutions that are associated with Africans. Very recently, there has been the withholding of funds from Critchlow Labour College, to not only destroy the college, but the Guyana Labour Union, which historically is associated with Africans.
The second, and even worse act of the consequence of marginalisation, has been the systematic killing of Africans, particularly African men. These acts are carried out by the state’s police force, and more recently, the army. The fact that the African-dominated police force and army are being used to kill Africans again illustrates the promotion of self-loathing. In 2002, at the height of killings by the Black Clothes and rogue elements in the police force, the President congratulated the police force for “its excellent work” (Guyana Review, April 2002), but he has consistently refused to have any investigations into extra-judicial killings by the police. He explained his reluctance by stating “I do not want to put policemen on trial because they are the good guys; they are not the bad ones” (Guyana Review, June 2003). Thus not only does the President make sense of the world by dividing it into neat camps of good and bad, but the killings are just. Therefore, from the President’s perspective, there is no need for investigations. More recently, at the Christmas celebration in December 2007, the President stated that he was pleased with the army’s recent performance and the way it has collaborated with the police and other divisions to fight crime. The army was given a monetary reward for allegedly torturing citizens, particularly those of Buxton. The co-opting of the army into the domestic sphere shows that the intention is not just simply to control crime and alleged criminals, but to kill anyone. The systematic killing of Africans and the attempt to destroy Buxton is what happens to all those who have been pushed to the margins.
Therefore, this rather short letter shows that it is very easy to discuss African marginalisation without all of the statistical information that Dr Misir is requesting. Of course, it is relatively easy to collect the official number of Africans vis-a-vis other ethnic groups who have been murdered by the state or its agents since the PPP came to power in 1992.
The violence in the society will not come to an end, for the marginalised always fight back, until the state comes out of denial and accepts that dividing the society along racial lines is destructive. It is imperative that every citizen be regarded as a human being and consequently has the right to life.