Many a bottom house raja and rani have told me that there is no race problem here in Guyana. They must really think that my belly is too full of that grassroots thing for me to not notice the hate, anger and bitterness that simmer just under the skin of my country men and women; men and women whose minds have been chronically abused by the racial politics of our land.
Yesterday, I stood before hundreds of students at St. Stanislaus College and broke my silence on the abuse I suffered as a child, teenager and young woman. I broke my silence and shared my secrets hoping that I would awaken their minds. I looked at their young faces, I saw what I once was and I could not stifle the fear I felt for these children, my children, our children. Are they yet infected with the hate, anger and bitterness that consume their elders?
It is the same hope I have for those of you who read my words. I hope that every time I speak of my fear, every time I speak of things which I once dutifully ignored, I hope that I can reach you and inspire you to break your silence too. When I write, I write for you because there’s not much else I can do just yet.
And this brings us to why I write today. I write because racism does not anger me. It breaks my heart. While binging on fast food at Royal Castle, Vreed-en-hoop yesterday I was confronted directly with the hate, anger and bitterness that leap forth with the slightest provocation.
As my friend and I ate, we played a game of cards. A woman, I average she is in her early 50s or there about, was highly offended at this. “Cards is fuh wake house,” she shouted. I sat silently and when the security guard, at the woman’s insistence, asked us to stop playing, I told him that management at the Georgetown branches had never objected to us playing and requested to see the manager to determine whether we were actually breaking house rules. I should add that I found it ridiculous that a game of cards between two young people as they ate would anger this woman in such a manner.
Upon hearing my words her anger leapt forth with greater force: “You letting she tell you how fuh do yuh wuk? She wan’ see supervisor? Dem always want see somebody. You feel a black man could come in here and do that? Is only dem could do that.” Her words hit me where it hurts the most and with my own frustration evident all I could tell her was “Madam, you’re being racist. Why would you say that just because I’m playing cards? Do you have children? Is this what you teach them?” Of course, I was treated to a good cussing after that and the cards lay forgotten as I stared at her and tried to understand her intense anger.
I didn’t need to think long because I’ve always understood that sort of anger. I grew up witnessing my own family and friends have similar out bursts. Everything is always the fault of the Black man or the Indian man. With this woman, it was a classic case of political branding.
When she looks at me, she does not see a young woman who could be her daughter, she does not see me at all. All that she sees is an Indian, the symbol of a corrupt government, and I must suffer for sins I have not committed or condoned. This is what that grassroots thing has done to me and my generation. Our identities are overlooked, we are branded politically because of our skin colour and condemned to suffer for crimes of those bottom house rajas and ranis and their equivalents.
You and I, we are like a pack of cards. They play us and when the hate, anger and bitterness erupt we lay forgotten, cast aside, meaningless. They have blinded us so that it is hard to look at a man and see just a man and not a symbol, a card in some politician’s hand.
Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.