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Faces, faces, faces, faces
Everywhere you turn
The more you learn
There is no real difference among races.
Excerpt of Poem, “Faces” from if only the gods were awake
by Guyanese-American Poet Gary Girdhari
On 13 July 2013, the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin not only raised concerns about Stand Your Ground laws in America, but also reminded us that the election of a black president did not mark the end of racism.
As defined in the Encyclopedia Britannica, racism is any action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview—the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races,” that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral features, and that some races are innately superior to others. (The emphasis is mine.)
There is ample historical evidence that all peoples share the same human intelligence. The BBC series, The Lost Kingdoms of Africa, were an eye-opener for me. The great achievements of ancient African kingdoms were not “lost.” They were hidden from us to perpetuate belief in African inferiority.
The documentary film, Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey, astounded me even more. Based on research of human genetic markers on the Y-chromosome conducted by Spencer Wells, an American geneticist and anthropologist, the documentary traces the geographical dispersal of early human populations back to our origin in Africa. In other words, each racial group carries the genetic marker of the same African ancestor. Given the theoretical nature of some of his scientific methods, these findings will no doubt be refuted by those seeking to maintain racial inferiority.
The more we learn about ourselves and our origin, the more it will become clear that the division of our species into several races, ranging from white supremacy to black inferiority, is a fallacy of the rulers of empires past and present. Their intentions were and remain the division, subjugation, and exploitation of those peoples defined as inferior.
In my upcoming three-part series, I will tackle the diverse, overt and covert manifestations of racism in Guyana, Brazil, and the United States. Though differing vastly in size and economic development, these three nation states share one thing in common. Situated in the Americas, formerly known as the New World, they were all colonized by European powers of the time. The imported African slave labor force was crucial to their expansion and economic development.
We have come a long way since the emancipation of black slaves. But Zimmerman’s acquittal reminds us that the entrenchment of racial profiling and racial stereotypes will take many more generations to be eradicated from our society. Until then, the specter of race will continue to threaten the lives of those of us who are not white or cannot pass for white.