Jun 18, 2017 Features, My Column by adam harris, kaieteur news

Racism is something that one should not promote. Indeed it exists in every country where there is an agglomeration of different ethnicities. I have seen it at work in the land of my birth and I have seen it in some of the countries I happened to visit.
It only rears its head when one group feels threatened by others. The United States is a classic example. The blacks and the Hispanics make up a sizeable portion of the population and they are there competing for jobs that the dominant race wants. Indeed, in many cities there is a growing tolerance and an increasing move at harmonization.
In my native Guyana, where the two major races need each other, from time to time there are these racial outbreaks rooted in distrust. The violence sparked by the clash of the two groups is long gone, thanks to the active efforts of the people who recognized that each ethnic group has a contribution to make.

However, every now and then someone seeks to highlight something that seems to smack of racism. The most recent involved a letter that suggested that the government is racist in its appointment of its administrators. I saw the list of names and I immediately concluded that something was horribly wrong. For starters, all the people listed as Permanent Secretaries were not black people.
I asked Minister of State Joseph Harmon to comment on this situation and he did. He said that the letter writer contended that once the name was not Indian in origin the person had to be black. But there was more, nearly all of the Permanent Secretaries in place were appointed by the previous administration. The new administration therefore inherited them.
In one case where the letter writer, Sasenarine Singh, identified Geoffrey Vaughn as a Permanent Secretary, something that I did not know, I concluded that it could have only been a case of upward mobility. The previous Permanent Secretary was Balraj Balram. Perhaps he resigned.
At the Ministry of Finance where the Secretary of Finance is Hector Butts, there was Tarchand Balgobin, who to my mind is the Permanent Secretary, him being the person who is there to administer every cent allocated for projects, whether the money is from the Public Treasury or from a foreign funding agency. The Budget planner is Sonya Roopnauth.
I know that the drive is to professionalise the public service, so there would be no political appointees serving as Permanent Secretary. That was the case prior to 1992 when Dr Cheddi Jagan demanded that most of the Permanent Secretaries resign.
He then appointed politicians or people of his choosing. Two of them were recently implicated in a corruption probe and are before the courts. Their replacements were their deputies.

It saddens me when people attempt to put a racial spin to everything. I remember the call to make the police and the army more racially balanced. After nearly three decades the Guyana Police Force is still predominantly black, and it is not that any government prevented people of any ethnic group from becoming members of the force.
It is the same with the Guyana Defence Force. That too is predominantly black, because simply more blacks respond to the call to join these institutions.
There was a time when employees of the commercial banks were of one ethnic group. They were handpicked by the owners. Today that has changed to the point where in nearly all the large banks the staff happens to be black. That has nothing to do with ethnic selection.
Way back when, most of the teachers were black, and there was a reason for that. They were the people who responded to the call to join the education system. Today there is a mix of people of different ethnicities, because increasingly, more people are responding to the call.

People gravitate to the source of the greater pay cheque. People of Indian ancestry dominate the business landscape. They form the bulk of the accountants and correspondingly, the bulk of the private sector.
There was a time when the artisans were almost all black. Today most of the contractors are of Indian ancestry, because they are the people who could have afforded the startup money, either through a massive co-operative effort or because or inheritance.
There are people who would gravitate to an activity. History says that rice came to Guyana with Africans. Today most of the rice farmers are of Indian ancestry. This has nothing to do with race; it has to do with people doing what they think they are best suited to do.
When I was a boy, black people thought that they had to emulate the white masters. The result is that they gravitated to academics. They became the lawyers, the engineers and the teachers before the other ethnic groups.
Indeed, we can find racism in anything we see. Our dislike for anything different is always going to drive us and destroy us if we allow it to. Mr. Singh saw this in Permanent Secretaries when Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar did not.