Letter: We cannot fix racism in society if we do not first fix it within ourselves

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Dear Editor,

The recent reports in the media about the alleged incident between Attorney-at-Law Mr. Nirvan Singh and Ms. Shawnette Bollers, security guard assigned to former Chancellor Justice Carl Singh’s home, seem to have struck a chord within the Guyanese public.

The ensuing outrage, while understandable, is concurrently revealing of a couple of things:
Firstly, we, as a society, seem to have done away with the concept of an accused person’s innocence until proven guilty. Without any material proof of the alleged racist allegations; without knowing this young man personally or having ever physically encountered him; without any interaction with him on a professional level; we are ready to condemn him as a racist, and question his ability to represent Afro-Guyanese in his capacity as an Attorney-at-Law.

A recording has been circulated in the media which purports to be evidence of the alleged racist and physical assaults; yet, no racial epithet, slur, or insult is heard in this recording, nor do the male or female voices heard on the recording indicate that a physical assault (the alleged spitting) took place.

The fact that we are willing to condemn Mr. Singh without evidence is consequently revealing of our own individual and communal internalised racism. Racism is so entrenched in our collective psyche as Guyanese people that we automatically believe that a successful Indo-Guyanese man would treat an Afro-Guyanese woman of lower socio-economic status with racial contempt, without any evidence whatsoever of the alleged racism.

There is no denying that racism exists in Guyana, but we also need to leave room for the fact that not everyone is racist. If you are reading this, ask yourself right now, “Am I racist?”. The answer is no, I’m sure. So then why are you so quick to believe that Mr. Nirvan Singh is? Again, we judge our counterparts by our own standards. Maybe it is time for us to face our own hypocrisy and address our internalised racism on an individual level.

We cannot fix racism in society if we do not first fix it within ourselves. Race cannot, and should not, be imputed in every situation involving persons of different races. Automatically believing that everything is always about race will keep us all in a perpetually racist mindset, which is counterproductive to us as a nation.

There are many other facets of this issue which may be explored, but I will conclude here. In the present forum, I am not advocating for Mr. Nirvan Singh’s innocence, nor am I accusing Ms. Bollers of lying; I am pointing out that every accused person is innocent until proven guilty. I am sure that you, as a non-racist, would want the protection of this maxim to be applied to you, were you in the instant situation.

Regards,
Name withheld