Promoting racial harmony
By Naziah Williams
Guyana Chronicle
December 13, 2002

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Rights of Children (ROC)
RACIAL insecurity pervades all aspects of life in Guyana at present encouraging suspicion and distrust among the population. Racial tension generates suspicion of motives of people of other races and engenders doubts about our capacity to live together in a dignified harmonious way.

Everyday, forms of discrimination rooted in separation, exclusion, ignorance and prejudice, which challenge the younger generation, are a threat to friendships. Race imposes barriers, limits choices and access to our multi-cultural richness. Due to the effects of violence and demonstrations impacting on inter-racial friendships between young people, ROC launched several campaigns since November 1999, firstly, as a means of providing opportunities for people to demonstrate their commitment to racial harmony and secondly, to promote diversity as our richest asset.

While ROC respects the adult response in relation to laws and policies, as young people we believe that in order to ensure racial harmony we must direct our energies toward improving the way people of all races relate to one another on an everyday basis.

ROC's other major concern is to promote diversity as an asset rather than as a liability. ROC's understanding of diversity is rooted in the coming together of our different origins into one common Guyanese heritage. We all share one common heritage - we are all GUYANESE! Moving forward together in Guyana requires seeing ourselves as one people rather than six races. All six races have brought assets to share in our Guyanese society and we will only truly have the right to call ourselves multi-racial when we are able to celebrate our diverse origins and cultures. If on the other hand, we are complacent about these assets, then just like personal talents, they will deteriorate unless cultivated.

At present ROC is conducting a race-free chain campaign involving distribution of race-free chain cards. The campaign encourages us to reach out to people of other races.

ROC has made a special effort to involve high school students in the campaign. This interaction has involved discussions with some 50 high schools from Regions Two, Three, Four, Six and Ten. As a result of discussions, the following points were brought to light about the kind of racial issues existing in our family, our community, and our school.

With respect to the family, the following concerns were identified:

Parents not wanting their children to interact with friends of other races and definitely opposing inter-racial relationships.
Parents influence their offspring by 'bringing down' other cultures
Relatives create racial tensions because of hair texture.

The following concerns were identified with the community:

Neighbours speak out when they observe inter-racial relationships.
Community lacks socialisation with other races.
Minorities are made to feel unwelcome.

Finally, the following were identified in schools:

Children not wanting to lend their personal possessions to persons of another race.
Children being taunted if they associate with persons of other races.
Small children learn to dislike their colour after a short time in nursery school.
Name-talking within various racial groupings.
Teachers show racism by favouritism and by ignoring persons of another race.

These findings not only provide ROC with a valuable insight into the racial problem in Guyana, but they serve to re-affirm the need for a much wider range of activities that bring people together in ways which celebrate each other's culture. In this way, we can eradicate inappropriate values and traditional prejudice. While ROC is dedicated to continuing its work toward promoting racial harmony, it is evident that a number of organisations in the business, religious and academic sector can assist us by ensuring that their members join our campaign against the prejudice and obstacles which continue to hinder racial harmony in Guyana.

Every achievement comes after hard work and ROC intends to achieve its goal of making Guyana 'A Race-Free Zone'. In order to live in a united, multi-racial nation, the calypsonian ‘Gypsy’ sings: It's gonna take love, it's gonna take trust, it's gonna take you, it's gonna take me, it's gonna take all of us".

We dare you to be different. Come celebrate diversity with ROC.

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