May 8, 2021

Guyana Guardian

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In the last couple of months, Guyanese Blacks support for the Black Lives Matter movement that started in North America increased almost as much as it had in the preceding seven years in other regions of the world.

While Black Lives Matter can primarily be understood as a decentralized social movement it can also be advocated for various other policy changes considered to be related to black liberation. 

This movement is getting increasingly popular in Guyana due to the recent incident with George Floyd who was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Guyana like no other country in the world is made up of six different races with about 39.8% of the population being of Indian origin, 30% African, 19.9% multiracial(dougla/Mix), 10.5% Amerindian and 0.5% of the others, mostly Chinese, Europeans and Portuguese. 

With one of the most diverse nations in the world, there is bound to be racial tension amongst the people and the leaders have been fighting against such virus for many years. The 3rd Executive President of Guyana Cheddi Jagan once said that “Racism is the greatest curse of our land … anyone who spread racial propaganda must be severely dealt with. Such a person is an enemy to himself and his country.”

Guyanese can relate on all levels with the Black Live Matters movement since the early colonists in Guyana started the policing system aimed at controlling the labor and population of emancipated slaves and indentured servants. Violent force against black and brown bodies was legitimized as necessary to bring about law and order. Modern-day policing has not significantly changed from this model and sees officers still performing the racist and capitalist-driven work of the colonial state while under the motto “Service and Protection”.

Quite frankly the phrase police brutality and extrajudicial killings have frequently been in the headlines in Guyana and when these cases are confirmed as true, they are usually disregarded as being due to the stubbornness of a bad cop or two or as being necessary to cleanse the criminal elements from society.

The insurgence of police brutality and extrajudicial killings became a thing since the 1970s and despite the administration being that of the PPP/C an Indo-Guyanese dominated party or PNC which is now a coalition called APNU+AFC an Afro-Guyanese dominated party which has now been evolved to a multi-racial party, despite year and time, this has continued but we saw a great decline in the last decade.

One justification given by those who support the merge of essentially Black-directed criminal violence and pseudo-politics emanating from a section of besieged villages is that this “resistance” is partially fueled in opposition to police extra-judicial killings. Whether this is right or not, what is unquestionably right is that everyone regardless of race should oppose all forms of extra-judicial killings.

Now that Guyana has experienced such we are on the verge of breaking away from Black-directed criminal violence. Guyanese has been given the platform to speak out on these issues and not like a couple decades ago Guyanese don’t have to afraid to speak out and wonder if their family’s doors would be kicked down by Black Clothes Police or even be a victim of extra-judicial killing.

With the current ongoing crisis that is happening in North America, Guyanese as found it fit to embrace and support the movement due to the history of such in our Country Guyana. A group of Guyanese has ventured into painting murals that says “BLACK LIVES MATTER” across the length and breadth of Guyana, one such can be found at the Square of the Revolution where the Cuffy 1763 Slavery Rebellion Monument can be found.

The actions of this group of Guyanese have shown great support for the ongoing fight for systematic oppression against black people all over the world. While that support comes with strong stands and so many positive remarks like North America came the negative ones. Right away some sections from the Indo-Guyanese Community went bizarre on social media. The question was asked by some Indo-Guyanese and some Afro-Guyanese “why All Lives can’t matter since our Motto says One People One Nation One Destiny.”

The phrase “All Lives Matter” sprang up as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, shortly after the movement gained national attention. Several notable individuals have supported All Lives Matter. Its proponents include Bibi Shadick a PPP/C elections commissioner who made a social media post on Facebook saying “LIVES MATTER Anyone who wants to put a word in front of that is RACIST.” Former Education Minister Priya Manickchand who allegedly stated that she supports the BLACK LIVES MATTER even before the George Floyd killing retaliated to the mural being painted in front of Cuffy saying it to be one of political nature given the time.

Many may agree with me that “All Lives Matter” reflects a view of “racial dismissal, ignoring, and denial”. All Lives Matter” promotes the” erasure of structural anti-black racism and black social death in the name of formal and ideological equality and post-racial colorblindness”.

Founders have responded to criticism of the movement’s exclusivity, saying, “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important – it means that black lives, which are seen without value within white supremacy, are important to your liberation.”

Despite the positives and the somewhat negative feedback blacks are not standing down. While the justification is made that citizens don’t interact with the police in a respectful way it often leads to being assaulted and killed, we often justify police violence, rather than analyzing whether or not there is something fundamentally wrong with our policing system. Police violence and murders won’t stop if only we teach our children how to talk and act around officers; it stops when we hold officers accountable and significantly change the attitudes and values within the police force.

The First Executive President of Guyana L.F.S Burnham once said “We can only go forward as a people only if we are Guyanese first, Guyanese second and Guyanese third.”

BLACK LIVES MATTER is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.

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