Today, Guyana and many parts of the world will be celebrating the 185th anniversary of Emancipation. It was a long and difficult road to freedom for the slaves, who were forced into bondage and made to endure inhumane conditions. They were resilient even in the face of unimaginable atrocities unleashed upon them.
In the end, freedom came with the expectation that the mental and economic shackles would be banished forever. Unfortunately, it hasn’t, and race has been infused, thereby creating many difficulties for humanity in general.
Renowned human rights activist Malcom X said, “If the emancipation proclamation was authentic, you wouldn’t have a race problem”. It’s a profound statement, with relevance even after some nineteen decades after emancipation. Today, sadly, the issue of race continues to haunt, discriminate and even displace.
In the land considered to be the beacon of hope for humanity and the leader of the free world, racism seems to have risen above the surface. There are, of course, various arguments as to whether it’s deliberately being peddled, and for what specific purpose. What many seem to agree on is that the effects are causing particular groups to be targeted and alienated, even in the land of the free.
In the process, human endeavours to free themselves from the bondage of poverty are seemingly disallowed, thereby exacerbating their dire circumstances. Not ambiguous within all of that are the perceived attempts to elevate one group over others. From all appearances, it is done without remorse or even consideration for those yearning for a better life. Frightening is how these attempts are gaining traction in other parts.
It seems as if some parts of the world are somehow rewinding to a dark and despicable period of human history. While the physical shackles may be absent, the mental bondage seems evident in every story. It’s unbelievable that even thoughts, such as the denial of humans to seek a better life, and the fact that it is actually been manifested in many ways, are occurring in this now modern and connected world.
Of course there is resistance, as people are pushing back. Heartening is the fact that the resistance is not just from the groups targeted, but also from many who look like those accused of trampling on freedom. It shows that humanity as a whole will not succumb to the atrocities of the powerful.
This modern-day assault on freedom brings some relevance to an aspect of Malcolm X’s quote, for the shackles of slavery are manifesting themselves differently. Many are still being forced into situations that enchain them from opportunities for advancement; primarily, in many instances, based upon how they look.
Clearly, it can never be compared to the dreadful and cruel blot on humanity that slavery was, but when people are told to leave simply because of how they look, it furthers the belief of a preference of one over others.
While it will be naïve to even contemplate that racism somehow disappeared with emancipation, or with subsequent civil rights’ triumphs and agreements, there may not have been an expectation of what currently unfolds in some parts of the world. Some may even brand that expectation as naïve too.
Clearly, there is a race issue, and it seems to be growing. Here in Guyana, a cursory glance at the comments on social media would reveal the vile and hated being posted from people of various ethnicities. One could argue that the problem was always there, but raises its head at various times with varying magnitude. The existence of the Ethnic Relations Commission underscores the presence of the problem.
Just after the 2015 elections, some two thousand Amerindian Community Workers were relieved of their jobs, as thousands of sugar workers were so relieved following the closure of some estates. Those actions, reportedly without any proper social impact assessment and contingency plan, have plunged many Guyanese further into poverty. Many remain convinced that such actions may be premised on race, which has been denied.
That and what’s happening in some parts of the world speak to the reality that those endeavouring to try and scale the walls of poverty have suddenly found shackles on their being. Many are now trapped, naturally bringing humiliation as their dignity evaporates.
Here, in Guyana, it demonstrates the fact that the atrocities of mass firing of Guyanese may have been preventable through a more prudent, humane and bipartisan approach to policy making.
While advancing humanity must not be toyed with, the unfortunate reality is that it is being used by some for preferential purposes. When protectionism and an imposition of one over others are factored in, an already bad situation worsens. This, unfortunately, and possibly deliberately, results in undesirable situations, including modern slavery.
It begs the questions: Were lessons learnt from history? Are some deliberately rewinding it for self-gratification? Are some trying to emulate historical figures? A simple answer could be that history lessons are being ignored. With race now seemingly foremost, Malcolm X could be right: the emancipation proclamation may not be authentic.