‘Fish and chips’ receipts spark new look at discrimination faced by Indigenous Peoples

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By Ravin Singh

Indigenous peoples in Guyana continue to face discrimination and are routinely referred to in derogatory terms.

Just recently, a popular restaurant known for its “fish and chips” came under fire on social media after its employees, on two separate occasions, used a derogatory term to describe the country’s first people. The terms were written on the bill by the cashiers, as a way of identifying the customers by ethnicity.

The first incident occurred on the evening of November 14.  Clyde Edwards had just returned from Jamaica and stopped to get something to eat.

“So, the cashier took my order and when the other person delivered my food, I asked her for my receipt. When I asked her, she looked frustrated; she didn’t look hospitable,” he recalled.

Edwards, who is a Tourism Officer at the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), said he decided to explain that as a Government employee he needed to provide receipts for every purchase he makes.

He said that the woman went to the back and when she returned to the counter, he was told that the receipt was in his bag.

“After she said it was in the bag, I took it out and checked it. Then I saw ‘B**k boy’ written on it. Because it was midnight and I was tired, I just smiled and left,” he told the News Room.

Less than a week later, on November 19, another Indigenous person was met with the same treatment at the business place. The person, who spoke under the condition of anonymity said that on that day, she decided to buy food from the establishment.

After paying the cashier, she went to the washroom and returned after a few minutes. When she returned, the woman said she collected her change and receipt and placed them in her pocket without checking.

“I collected the change and I put it in my pocket; I didn’t (examine) the bill because the change was correct,” he said.

She said that when she got home, and was emptying her pockets, she noticed the receipt had writings on it and decided to check it.

“When I checked the bill I saw ‘B**k oman’ written on it,” she recalled, feeling very disappointed. 

The woman, who is from the village of Imbaimadai in Region Seven, said that her experience is not one she would wish for any Indigenous person to face, and it has affected the way she views the entity. 

“That thing make I don’t want to go back there to buy food,” she told the News Room. 

The receipts of both customers were shared on Facebook more than 100 times each in total.

Edwards, who belongs to the Patamuna nation, said he decided to make his experience public because there is a need for citizens and businesses to recognize that it is unacceptable to use derogatory terms to describe any ethnic group.

“The term… is often used to marginalize indigenous people as inferior, not intelligent, uncivilized or of low social standing. So when someone calls you that, this is what they mean. We know very well what they mean when they call us that,” he said.

Jean La Rose, an Indigenous rights activist, agrees with him. She notes that Indigenous people being referred to as “B**k” in Georgetown has become a norm.

“It may not happen to every Indigenous person, it may not happen all the time, but it happens, especially in attempts to belittle who we are,” she said.  

To erase this culture, the activist noted that people must first learn to respect themselves. Secondly, she believes that citizens of other ethnic groups need to learn to respect Indigenous people and the fact that it is a different culture.

“They must understand that though we may live a different way of life, it is equally valuable to the Guyanese society as they are,” she stated.

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