OUT OF ONE, WE ARE MANY MASSES
I have a soapbox, but most times it remains tucked away until something really pushes me to haul it from its hiding place. One such event was a section of the speech made by my prime minister at the People’s National Party’s conference last week.
Let me be clear about one thing – my father has been a member of the opposing Jamaica Labour Party for many years. Let me be clear again – my father has always encouraged me to make my own political decisions. Therefore, when the various parties are making their rants and their speeches, I listen. I listen because on the day that I place my ‘X’ on that ballot form, I want my decision to have been based on serious and rational thought about the future of my country. You see, on the day that I became a mother, I no longer thought of election time as the frivolous pumping of fists, ringing of bells, and the nyammin’ of a curry goat here and there, but as the legacy I would be leaving for my children. Which is why I was so frightened by my prime minister’s aggressive reference to the fact that she looked and acted like the ‘masses’.
Pray tell…what do the masses of Jamaica look and act like? And can you go further and explain to me …does that mean that those who don’t look and act like the masses are to be scorned?
I am frightened because when I looked in the mirror and compared myself to the prime minister, I thought I looked like her. Based on her speech, I hoped I looked like her -
· * Woman (check)
· * Cocoa brown shade (check)
· * Outspoken (check)
· * Ambitious (check)
· * Passionately in love with Jamaica (check)
BUT THEN, I realized –
My mother does not look like the prime minister (she is much lighter in skin colour)
My daughters do not look like the prime minister (one is lighter, one is darker)
My cousin does not look like the prime minister (light skinned, green eyes)
Another cousin does not look like the prime minister (Down’s Syndrome)
Another cousin does not look like the prime minister (Chinese)
Another cousin does not look like the prime minister (Indian)
One of my closest friends does not look like the prime minister (White skinned)
But these people I have just described are all JAMAICANS!! They are all passionately in love with this country and all make great sacrifices and contributions to this nation. What then do you have to say to them when they walk into somewhere dominated by the ‘masses’ and are aggressively demeaned because they don’t look like them? What do you do for my young daughter who drives up to a stoplight and is verbally abused because she’s ‘brown’?
I am so proud that we have a woman as leader of Jamaica. I have tried to build a small landscaping business for many years, and so many times I want to give up because of the overwhelming challenges, so when I see a woman in such a position, I know the hurdles she has faced, and I am proud that she has overcome them. Well, with that overcoming, look behind at those struggling and raise them up too – don’t step on their heads as they try to build families and businesses by singling them out and separating them. I would plead with my prime minister that as Jamaicans, we finally mature as leaders and leave the divisiveness behind. There are so many issues ahead of us - high crime rate, dire financial challenges, devastating international wars and global warming. Please, please do not drag us into the irresponsible trap of prejudice that is spewing from the campaign stages abroad. These are the little hints, the seeds that are planted into the minds of the young that lead to the forests of racism and hate in later years. I want to hear what the plans are to carry this country through, to carry my young children through, to carry my business through these times ahead. I am frightened, Madame Prime Minister, and I am listening for your guidance because my ‘X’ is waiting in the wings.
I now stand hurt and disappointed that a woman who has the power to protect would deliberately seek to cause discord. None of us can change the history of Jamaica, and instead of moaning about it, we have embraced it with our motto, ‘Out of many, we are one.’ It is not a motto to be taken lightly – it was coined to counteract the very speech that was made about the ‘masses’.
My family is mixed – some of us are lucky enough to look like the prime minister, while some of us do not. But we would like to stay together. We do not want to have to choose by someone else’s definition, who is more deserving to be ‘Jamaican’ and therefore more important.
In these hard economic times that are ahead for us as a nation and a world, we are going to have to tighten our belts and ride it outtogether. Think of how much more tolerable the ride will be when we are united and willing to break our last slice of bread with our hungry neighbour, regardless of the way they look.
***Delve further into the innate prejudice toward colour, gender and ‘looks’ that lies beneath the surface of Jamaican culture in my novel, ‘DEW ANGELS’. Many of the events were derived from actual occurrences in people’s lives, and represent so many of the fractures in our society that hamper much of our growth as a nation.