It’s time to address the chip (it’s a mite not a chip but whatever) in our own eye. When this was first published online I faced major backlash from within. I know I’ll face it again.
I tried to talk about the complexity of Jamaican racism. How unconscious it is. I tried to use hair as a metaphor and a yardstick for human value. I tried to talk about how shadism was racism by another name. I was accused of denigrating the memory of my grandparents. I have apologised for that because it wasn’t my intention. I loved my grandparents and they were truly wonderful people.
But. There is a but and it’s apparently a but I’m not allowed to explore but I’m compelled to explore it. But. They, me, and all of us here in post colonial Jamaica are also products of and victims of a system. It is as inescapable as the sun searing on a summer day. That historical system shaped us, our belief systems, our value systems, our actions. It is rooted in a terrible thing. The trans Atlantic slave trade we can all agree was a terrible terrible thing whose consequences span generations.
Anyway. Here again is Coppertone. One small thread in the myriad that make up our story. Forgive me those who feel I am being unkind. I don’t mean to be unkind. We need to talk about the chip (it’s a mite Manley. A mite!) in our own eye. I must honestly in that talk about myself. I’m not posting it for attention as one quarter accused me of, I don’t want attention, the subject needs attention. Here. In our Jamaican experience. Here, in Uptownia. Anyway. Anyway.
I was born in Kingston Jamaica in 1967 and I have lived there for most of my life. I have worked for 25 years in the film and television industry and am currently the studio production manager at Television Jamaica. Writing mostly for a limited audience on social media, writing for Pree is my first deliberate attempt at publication to a wider audience.
I too share a similar experience with my family. Their colour consciouness still rears its head in seemingly harmless conversations where they congratulate themselves and their offspring being the right colour. Though the older generation has passed on, the younger ones, now middle aged still bask in their privilege and sense of superiority. While growing up, I had to learn to accept the snide remarks and actions of family members, the shrieks of horror of a mother viewing my several shades darkened skin after returning from a midday swim and learn to ignore these aggressions. Out in society, I faced another type of aggression, directed at my appearance of being Indian. As a child and
teenager I faced constant verbal abuse when I took the bus and walked to and from my after school activities with degrading comments directed at my Indianess. This was the most disturbing as it usually came from adult men and had an element of misogyny.
The legacies of colonialism live on because for a long time in our history, having the ‘right colour’ determined one’s success in life. Those deemed to be at the bottom of society received scorn from others, including those who also suffered under colonialism, hence the disdain showed towards Indians (descendants of indendured labourers) by many blacks
at the time I grew up. As a result, some of us don’t feel like we quite fit in anywhere. Not identifying with the colour of privilege nor showing the markings of society’s definition of success and not accepted as black by the majority, with one’s attempt at asserting blackness coming across as condescending. I am just one product of this complex dynamic of race, colour and society. I would like to think that things have somewhat changed or are evolving, especially amongst the younger generation who are less influenced by the past. However, my experience has shaped me and is my truth.
Thanks Diane. This is an eloquent testament to the lasting power of racism, classism and ethnic rivalry. Many thanks for your comment.