Spurious explanation for racial domination
Perspective BY PREM MISIR, Ph.D.
August 27, 2003
Racial oppression conjures up images of African Americans in the Deep
South prior to the ending of segregation in education through the U.S.
Supreme Court's decision in the Brown v. Board of Education 1954 case,
Africans in South Africa during Apartheid, Africans in Ian Smith's
Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), the genocide in Rwanda, genocide against
Native American Indians, and Hitler's assault on Jews, among others. Some significant forms of racial domination are genocide, involuntary
population transfer, assimilation, internal colonialism, and segregation.
The oppressed rapidly experience a sustained social and economic disadvantage and stigma, following their dispossession of all meaningful resources. The rewards of society, driving social status upwardly, are denied to the oppressed, producing a low socioeconomic status (SES) for them.
The SES is a measure of a person's combined score on education, occupational status, and income. The score determines a person's class position and assumes a continuum of inequality between classes. SES is directly correlated with class. Clearly, then, East Indians and Africans can be high on education, occupational status, and income, and indeed, some moderate, low, and zero on these, as well.
A social class is a group of people who holds a similar position in the economic system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services in society. Most societies have a class structure that (i) incorporates the entire society and (ii) where each ethnic group has its own class structure.
A recent book "The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana" by Kean Gibson claims that East Indians oppress Africans in Guyana through the Hinducaste system. The oppression, she noted, is motivated through East Indians' desire to secure and sustain power. A justification for oppression, according to Gibson, is the use of the dualism of good and evil where Hindus see themselves as good, and see Africans as evil. The book indicts Hinduism as legitimizing racism. In fact, Gibson believes that the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has an agenda to create a racial state based on racial criteria, resulting in the extermination of Africans in the same way that Hitler attempted to eliminate Jews in Germany. What are we to make of these sweeping statements? Let's review the book.
Dualism, class, and caste Gibson's use of dualism, on its own, as a theoretical framework, to provide explanations of racial oppression is inadequate. Why? This pernicious dualism of good and evil is seen as two separate extreme options. These options are not allowed to draw from each other because they are seen as two separate sides. In fact, those East Indians who see themselves as good also may see other East Indians and other ethnics as evil, and which may have nothing to do with the caste system. Both East Indians and Africans seen as evil, theoretically, can occupy any caste position. The lowest caste is not the only bearer of evil; other castes also are carriers. Further, numerous East Indians may be classified as evil, without experiencing exploitation. Why? Only those East Indians and Africans in positions of power will have the capacity to exploit those East Indians and Africans without power, notwithstanding the fact the latter may both be perceived simultaneously as good and evil. This capacity is determined by a person's class position in society, that is, whether the person is located in the upper, middle or lower classes.
Evidently, then, occupancy of a caste and an 'evil' typecast are not sufficient preconditions to dominate another group. This argument seriously undermines Gibson's use of caste as an explanation of domination against Africans.
Do all East Indians in the various social classes also exploit all Africans categorized as evil? Keep in mind working and lower classes of any racial group, by definition, will not have the power to dominate any other group. If any East Indian oppression of Africans occurs, then it will have to emanate from those East Indians in the higher social classes. Using this line of argument, only lower class Africans may experience domination. The lower classes of any group will have limited resources to resist exploitation or even to direct oppression at any group or individual. Indeed, this perspective demonstrates that Africans with appropriate resources also could dominate other ethnic groups.
Clearly, the group's capacity is a stronger precondition to dominate than caste and 'evil' projection, further deflating the explanatory value of Gibson's cycle of racial oppression.
Do upper class East Indians see their African upper class counterparts as evil? Research findings suggest that classes at the same level, even from different racial groups, tend to support and effect greater interaction with each other. People with resources can see others as both simultaneously good and evil and still oppress them. The motivation for domination is not whether a racial group is seen as good or evil, but whether the racial group has something that the power-holding group wants. The need to dominate may have a lot more to do with exploiting any means to achieve profit maximization. A class analysis, therefore, dissipates the potency of Gibson's dualism of good and evil in justifying domination.
Good and evil in dualism are presented in terms of either one option or another and one of these options is generally presented as the proper option, as exemplified in Gibson's work. But options presented as competing alternatives are not necessarily in opposition because good and evil are recursive in social life and together, they constantly adjust in accordance with the social class dynamics of behavioral demands. Therefore, good and evil, simultaneously, can be found in any group and be integral to that group's behavior. Undoubtedly, Gibson's quest to make East Indians the architect of evil in a multiethnic society erroneously ignores the simultaneous presence of good and evil in group behavior, a simultaneity well accepted today as a cultural universal.
Further, we have established that Guyana has upper and middle-class Africans who are unlikely to be victims of East Indian domination.
Indeed, these Africans through their high socioeconomic status, cannot belong to Gibson's Sudra caste (lowest caste), as this caste, by definition, only will comprise people with low to zero socioeconomic status. Caste as a type of closed structured inequality, is relatively fixed, and allows no social mobility. Clearly, upper and middle-class Africans in Guyana are upwardly mobile and, therefore, are a manifest contradiction to any 'low caste' placement of Africans, as used by Gibson.
The major ethnic groups in Guyana are well represented among the SSEE (Secondary Schools Entrance Examination) passes as well as among the CXC Examination successes. In this year's SSEE results, 40 out of the top 104 candidates are Africans. Generally, the SES for both Africans and East Indians is relatively comparable. A review of both groups' education, occupational status, and income will demonstrate their spectacular achievements and successes.
Unconvincing Sources Gibson's book is punctuated with numerous unauthentic sources.
Referencing Sidney King's (now Eusi Kwayana) booklet "Next Witness", Gibson describes the vulgarities perpetrated against Africans by East Indians during the 1961 PPP victory motorcade. Gibson then makes the quantum leap, suggesting that these emotional expressions against Africans pertain to the Hindu definition and treatment of the lowest caste. Surely, many East Indians in the victory march were not all Hindus, as participants would also have included East Indian Muslims And East Indian Christians. Muslims and Christians do not accept the caste system. Here goes another Gibson goof!!
The composition of State Boards is based on racial criteria, another claim that should have been verified. Africans dominate the State Boards in Education. In a review of 27 other State Boards, Africans are in a majority on 13, East Indians in a majority on 12, and two have equal numbers from these two ethnic groups. Gibson goofs again!!
The Guyana Defense Force (GDF) is not in a state of preparedness because the current Government has made no budgetary allocation since 1992, another erroneous Gibson remark. The table below shows the true story.
GUYANA DEFENCE FORCE EXPENDITURE 1990 - 2003
CURRENT (GM$000) CAPITAL (GM$000)
1990 185.2 0.3
1991 322.4 0.7
1992 599.3 7
1993 709.4 11
1994 973 50.5
1995 1,457.80 79.9
1996 1,246.80 88.3
1997 1,325.90 69.2
1998 1,378.40 90.7
1999 1,538.00 112.4
2000 1,954.30 472
2001 2,291.147 42
2002 2,624.857 42
2003 2,737.68 43
TOTAL 19,344.186 1109
Today, the GDF's current expenditure is almost $3 billion and the capital expenditure is $43 million compared to measly pre-1993 budgetary allocations. The GDF has had a consistent increase in budgetary allocations in the PPP/C years.
It's far from the truth to suggest that the PPP/C Government destroyed the Guyana National Service (GNS), again another inaccurate Gibson remark. Several GNS Centers were set up in the early 1970s and 1980s.
But early closures started in 1984 and declining enrolment commenced just after 1980. Limited enrolment and financial problems accounted for the closures. It was the People's National Congress (PNC) Party in government at the time, not the PPP.
These are some of the many examples of allegations and sources not authenticated, as is normally required in serious academic research.
We, therefore, can only surmise that the book is a symbolism of racial acrimony and provides a spurious explanation for any racism prevailing in this country.