Politics Will Not Decide Who I am

When I was 7 or 8, I lived along Craig Sideline Dam at my grandparents’ farm house. I farmed my own little plot of cash crops to help buy my school books and I spent hours stooping in slushy mud, between pakchoy and lettuce banks, picking snails and weeds from among the healthy, thriving plants. This is something I haven’t very often shared about myself.

I have milked cows, sold fruits and vegetables on the road side and cleaned out chicken pens. During my teenage years, I stood behind the counter of my uncle’s shop in Craig Old Road selling into the night. I fetched cases of rum, bags of sugar and rice and occasionally bunches of plantains from the boat by the Craig trench landing to our house.

Most of my immediate family are traditional PPP supporters. My maternal grandfather was a cane cutter and farmer. His wife, was a seamstress and market vendor. On my father’s side, they were rice farmers from Essequibo and later moved to the East Coast of Demerara. These are things about myself I used to be afraid to share because I was afraid that I would be shamed.

I became politically aware during my early 20s. I realized then that everyone stereotyped me. Because I looked Indian, because I was of Indian ancestry, it was automatically assumed that I was PPP. And guess how we stereotype PPP supporters? PPP supporters are painted as backward cane cutters, as lacking intellectual capacity, as being dishonest, as being evil, as being the people responsible for the state of Guyana.

So when some people look at my face or any face like mine, this is what they think of us. This is the product of identity politics in Guyana. It has robbed us of the right to be and to be proud of who we are and where we came from. It has robbed us of the opportunity to really see our parents and grandparents, to truly value what they have brought to this nation. My grandfather died without me ever recognizing what an extraordinary man he was and how hard he worked for his country. I never got a chance to look him in the eyes and tell him how much he meant to me. You see, before he died I didn’t realize that he was a victim of a system that he couldn’t control.

I do not for a second believe that my experience is unique to me or to young people of Indian ancestry. I believe this is something that is experienced by all of us, no matter what we look like or where we come from. Our political culture has blinded us. We don’t see each other. We see the political stereotypes that have been painted of us for decades.

For a while, I hated looking in the mirror. I hated seeing my own face and what I believed it represented. Since then, I’ve realized that my ancestral history is so much more than the politics that has hijacked it.

And the worst part by far is that I cannot even speak up for my identity without having my voice politicised. If I speak for the Indian identity, for my right to this part of my culture and heritage, then I will be labelled as a pro-PPP racist. Most people don’t care for my independence, they only see what I look like and the stereotype that is attached to my features.

Yes, I am Guyanese and part of what makes any of us Guyanese is our unique sub-cultures and heritage. These differences give the Guyanese identity value. To attempt to take away any one facet of any of our identity, is to rob our country of part of its history and part of what makes it what it is.

We cannot have a Guyana without any of its people. We cannot have a Guyana without PPP supporters and they will never join us unless we stop demonizing them, stop crucifying them for their political beliefs, stop making them afraid to be among us. These people are our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, our friends.

The PPP alone is not responsible for the crisis of identity politics in Guyana. The PNC, now under the unity umbrella of the APNU-AFC Coalition, is equally responsible. I say this not to cast blame on either party, but to acknowledge that identity politics has been a weapon of both our major political factions. And until Guyanese begin to see what identity politics has taken from them, we will always be shamed for being who we are.

7 thoughts on “Politics Will Not Decide Who I am

  1. Sad that you should feel this way
    about Guyana after such a beautiful upbringing in de father/motherland.
    I share your sentiments but
    not your pessimism.
    Guyana will change
    Must change
    As die it will in its
    own ignorance.
    Our world is changing and Guyana will be influenced by
    those changes….hopefully for
    a better Guyana.
    Time will tell
    Forever the optimist

    Ps enjoyed reading your story
    Almost duplicate of my memories
    of my country of birth and breed.
    Better to live in hope than die in despair my grandmother used to say..,…indentured illiterate from
    Madeira who was born in enmore
    ECD in 1880 died 1973 buried in
    Cove and John cemetery.
    Life goes on in memories even after our passing.

    Compton de Castro UK
    doncomdecastro@gmail.com

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Sara. I share your viewpoint and conviction, so well expressed in the following excerpt.

    “Our political culture has blinded us. We don’t see each other. We see the political stereotypes that have been painted of us for decades.”

    The people of Guyana continue to do so at their own peril. A divided nation is easy prey for giant corporations that exploit Guyana’s rich natural resources.

    1. Rosaliene! Sending good vibes and blessings your way. I am hopeful that we won’t remain divided for too much longer. I expect to see good things during the rest of my life, god spare the years.

  3. You have touched on the Bull’s eye. Yes it is so and IS being used by many for their self interest. We all have to be proud of our individual and sub-cultural background and the contributions made to Guyana’s success story.

  4. Great thought. I hope this when those the feed on identity politics see how monumental the damage they do to us as a people and to Guyana our beloved Country.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s