These are times when the United States is led by a President who is clearly a product of Miscegenation, which is described in Webster’s dictionary as a mixture of races: a marriage or cohabitation between a white person and a member of another race or it can also be reproduction by parents of different races.
Historically the term has been used to refer to interracial marriage or interracial sex as well and has found itself unwittingly peppered in various laws enacted over the world intended to ban the aforementioned relationships, as ‘anti-miscegenation laws’. Be it in Japan, China, South Africa or even the United States.
Guyana, like its Caribbean neighbor, Trinidad and Tobago, with over 43% Indian origin people, has also produced a unique miscegenation of its own, in what is referred to as the ‘Dougla’. The Dougla, it appears, has many connotations in Guyana.
It is a word used extensively by people of the West Indies as in Guyana, to describe people who are a product of African and Indian descent. It is reputed to have originated from the Bhojpuri word, ‘doogala’(दुगला), which literally means ‘two necks’. A word which would be considered highly offensive in Bihar or other regions of North India where its connotations are negative and refer to mixed caste or half breed.
I have been reading this interesting article by Dr. Sheila Rampersad, on the ‘Dougla’ in the West Indies. She contends that: “It is in the Trinidad context, that the provocative figure of the dougla, the mixed offspring of Indian and African parents, finds its most expansive and progressive expression. The dougla exists in Trinidad between two poles of cultural value. Within the logic of conservative racialist ideology, the dougla is repudiated as a racial/ethnic dilution and impurity; is abhorred as racially and culturally impure; is a mutant, mongrel species that will occasion the extinction of the pure race. In the logic of nation-building discourses, the dougla is the panacea for problems associated with a history of troubled relations between Indians and Africans; is regarded as a symbol of ‘real’ unity and, as such, the population is advised to “Be Wise: Douglarise.” While dougla identity has, in many ways, remained moored to its biological origins, it has been additionally invested with significant metaphorical and cultural value. Dougla identity and aesthetics are encoded in Trinidad’s literature, music, and art, encouraging its ethical potential.”
It is indeed troubling that in the recent aftermath of the Linden Massacre, racial animosity has also been rearing its ugly head in Guyana. Despite the negative connotations of the word, which has only been arrived at through various prejudices harbored by persons of both races, miscegenation and interracial cohabitation is truly the way forward. It is unnatural that in current times, when we are all citizens of the world, there can be such negativity surrounding unions across race.
Perhaps that’s why Clatis Ali, self-proclaimed ‘Mighty Dougla’, lamented back in 1961 in his witty Calypso, that they would have to ‘split me in two’ if ever the two races decided to go their two separate ways .