Dr Randy Persaud: By now most readers would have encountered a notion called the ‘East Indian Mind’ in a Kaieteur News column. I am shocked that in 2010 that anyone, literally anyone, would have the audacity to employ such a construct in the name of political mobilization. I am even more shocked that all the folks who complain about racialized narratives are silent on this issue.
The notion of the East Indian Mind is backward, divisive, hateful, inflammatory, brutish, and most of all, cowardly. More than that, usage of the construct ‘East Indian Mind’ is tantamount to inciting ethnic strife of the worst kind. It is a violation of every protocol on ethnic relations and would not be tolerated by any group, in any country. A formulation such as this would not and should not be tolerated here in Guyana by any other ethnic group. It is a patently fascist.
Yet, if any person were to object to the use of this cowardly construct he/she would be pounced upon by the likes of Kissoon (the original author) and GHK Lall who happens to be the new ethno-political buddy of Kissoon.
I must ask forthwith - where are the voices of learned men and women like David Hinds, Eric Phillips, Abu Bakr, Ogunseye, Alissa Trotz, Andaiye, and Dennis Wiggins, all of whom have (rightfully) protested against ethnic pandering?
Let me be clear about my problem with the construct ‘East Indian Mind’. You can’t attribute properties or propensities of judgment, conscience, intelligence, behavior, feelings, dispositions, and so on, to a group or to a ‘people’, where each member of the category is assumed to have the said (identical) properties or propensities. More than that, you cannot take social behavior and formulate them as if they are genetic in nature.
Statements about specific patterns of behavior can be made but must be substantiated by (a) the empirical methodology employed in the research; (b) an overview of the relevant literature on the subject matter; and (c) the theoretical framework employed in the analysis.
General statements about any group of ‘people’ outside of the above are nothing other than conjecture, speculation, guess-work, or outright mischief. The construct ‘East Indian Mind’ falls within the ‘outright mischief’ category. In a society that is dealing with the remnants of racialized colonial divide-and-rule strategies, the use of ethnic caricature is especially dangerous.
More than that, it is specifically political in so far as ridicules people who are of Indian ancestry to vote in a certain way, failing which, they are further ridiculed.
The Kaieteur News column that uses the language of the ‘East Indian Mind’ apparently wants to make a grand division between two types of East Indians. On the one hand there are the good East Indians. These are East Indians like GHK Lall, Tarron Khemraj, Christopher Ram, Glen Lall, Winston Murray, Khemraj Ramjattan, Janet Bulkan, S. Beharry, Anand Dalgeet, Mike Persaud, Cammie Ramsaroop, Rajendra Bisessar, Peter R. Ramsaroop, Sasenarine Singh, and Mr. Frederick Kissoon (who is ashamed to be an Indian). The list also includes the 10,000 East Indians who voted for the AFC, all East Indians who had supported and now support the PNC and WPA.
All other East Indians are bad, myopic, irrational, and blind. According to the East Indian Mind construct, they are all racists. I repeat here, to attribute properties to an entire group is a tactic of fascism.
The East Indian Mind construct has another element. All East Indians, this time including the ‘Good Indians’, are capitalist by NATURE. Education, family background, religion, career choice etc. do not matter; Indians are capitalists, according to the author of the East Mind construct. The foolishness of this idea means that women from the weeding gangs and the shovel men who work for Guysuco are identical to Peter R. Ramsaroop or GHK Lall. The single mother from Golden Grove who lives on social assistance is the same as Winston Murray or Toolsie Persaud in the East Indian Mind idea.
This is not only unadulterated nonsense, but a veritable product of fascist thinking. It lumps together persons of vastly different backgrounds, abilities, achievements, and social classes, into one undifferentiated mass of capitalist exploiters. The author makes no bones about who are the exploited ones; a move that is nothing sort of racialized incitement.
Incidentally, I am one hundred percent certain that people like Murray, Ramsaroop, and Ram do not accept the East Indian Mind trash. They are probably silent because if they dare speak out, they know they will be pummeled for months.
More than a hundred years ago officials such as Des Voeux and H.V.P. Bronkhurst made representations on behalf of East Indians on the sugar plantations. In doing so, however, they unwittingly constructed the East Indian as devious, stingy, untruthful, clannish, sneaky, and superstitious.
That was more than a hundred years ago and those men, after all, were products of empire. It is so sad, so disappointing, and so patently backward that we now have our own manufacturer of ethnic drivel. How ironic it is that the (anti) East Indian Mind tonic is manufactured by an ashamed Indian and distributed by a Good East Indian capitalist.