Columns

How quickly we have forgotten

BY MICHAEL DINGWALL

Wednesday, July 02, 2014    

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SUNDAY, June 30, 2014 will go down as one of the darkest days in Jamaica's history. On this day, the church in Jamaica, along with a few other members of our society, demonstrated its strong support for our continued discrimination against the homosexual minority.

Why is it that so many of us find it so easy to forget what discrimination feels like?

I am afraid that I must start with our Rastafarians, as they were very vocal about their disgust with gays at the event. It's interesting that Rastafarians should even present themselves at any pro-discriminatory event, considering their own recent history.

Interestingly, on the day of the event, IRIE-FM carried a Rastafarian lecture on its Running African programme that reminded us about what Rastafarians were going through in the recent past.

According to the lecture, then Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante asserted that "this evil must be exterminated". The "evil" was Rastafari. We were also told that then Chief Minister Norman Manley prophesied in the 1950s that as Rastafari wasn't around 30 years before, it wouldn't be around 30 years from now.

Rastas have also seemingly forgotten about what happened to them in Coral Gardens or how they were treated like scum by many sections of our society.

The news reports also featured a young man on that church platform -- a black man.

There was a time, not so far back, when our banks and many other organisations would not hire black people in positions that required customer interfacing as they felt that their customers would be scared away.

The Jamaica Information Service routinely features a memorial to some of our World War Two pilots who faithfully served the empire during the war. One veteran related how, while he was in Britain, a young white woman saw him on the street and began running away from him, screaming that she was afraid of "it!, it!, it!"

Young black men, like that young man, could not enter many establishments -- just because of their skin colour.

Several women were also urging laws that discriminated against gays should be kept. How little do they remember the days when the church itself thought that a woman's place was in the home! Women were denied leadership positions in the church, organisations and politics.

Did you know, for instance, that the church was busy rooting out unmarried female teachers from schools who got pregnant while unmarried fathers were ignored? It's a pity that those women on that platform didn't know that if the church had had its way then, they wouldn't even have had the chance to incite discrimination.

We seem to have forgotten that had our Rastafarians been allowed the right to live their lives in the past, reggae, and thus Jamaica, perhaps would have been the stronger for it. We have forgotten that had our society allowed blacks and women equal opportunities in the very recent past, Jamaica would have been the stronger for it today.

These groups had (and still have) vast reserves of potential that were suppressed then. Why must we do the same thing now for gay people? Have we forgotten how retarding discrimination can be?

It is true that humans need to evolve to be better and that human evolution is a learning process. As such, I suppose we must first create these experiences before we are able to learn and thus evolve. But why is it that we have to be learning from the same experiences so often? Why is it so easy for us to forget so fast?

One last point: I know that our pastors wield enormous power over their congregations. However, I would urge our church members to stop allowing their church leaders to think for them. Please, church member, you have a brain -- use it!

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