By The Piper
First of all, Guyana had only the Amerindians (more likely ‘Buck-man’). When the White- man came here they decided to grow sugar but the Amerindians didn’t like that kind of work and so they ran away.
What the White-man did next was to bring in the Africans (more likely ‘Black-man’), and they worked for a long time, but they did not want to work anymore. After the African refuse to do the work, they brought the Portuguese (likely ‘Pataghee’) and because they are whitish they did not manage the work; so then they bring the Chinese (likely ‘Chinee’) and they were too weak to do they work.
After all of them fail, then they bring the Indians (likely ‘Coolie-man’), and it is the ‘Coolie-man’ that build not only the sugar industry but also the rice industry. More middle-class versions of the above are expressed in the claim that indentureship was just like slavery, a second slavery.
The layman’s story of Guyanese history is balderdash, but even balderdash needs to be understood, rather than simply dismissed; or worst yet deemed racist. The more productive thing to do is ask why so many quite normal people, decent people, responsible people, would repeat a near identical version of history.
The charge of ignorance is often offered up as an explanation but one must be careful with that position. To be ignorant is to ignore that which you really do know, in order to construct a desired narrative, the latter itself, geared towards some kind of cultural claim, or even political legitimacy. But I don’t think this is the case.
I am confident that, in fact, Indians really do not have even an elementary knowledge of slavery in Guyana. Most of what they do know about the subject comes from Hollywood and American television shows. Guyanese Indians believe that real slavery happened mostly in the US.
One can legitimately challenge the claim that Guyanese Indians do not know. Fair enough, but it might be more accurate to say that they have heard something about it. Most of the things they have heard likely came from other people who heard. In other words, knowledge of slavery in Guyana, apart from preparing for history exams, has come predominantly through rumours. All of the rumours are contaminated with current political conflicts with the result that slavery, is simply dismissed as something that happened so long ago, that it has no current relevance.
The tragedy persists because there are hardly any credible public intellectuals who have taken up the challenge of meaningfully educating our people (in this case Indians) about slavery, not only in terms of production, but in terms of real life under slavery, and the life-world of slaves.
It is imperative that young Guyanese Indians (and others, of course) deepen their understanding of the long term consequences of enslavement. Lacking credible public intellectuals (on this subject) as we do, the Ministry of Education in Guyana should take up the task and immediately contract a film-maker to produce a world-class documentary on slavery in Guyana. That of course, would be just an installment in a much more comprehensive project.