THE world has its eyes on us, so when The Gleaner headline of October 20, 2013 screams 'J'cans branded serial sexual harassers', take notice. It is alleged that some farm workers sexually harass women in Canada, so my spirits fell. What the hell, we do it here too?! True or false, we are in the wrong place at the wrong time too often. Then I got a phone call: "Are you sorry you didn't write about my ordeal?" Wow! She had been harassed a few times, but it was not news here, so I forgot. I missed that boat.
We say garm worker, Canada is kind and says guest worker — same thing. For a poor, black, independent, ex-British, ex-slave nation, is farm work for white men our goal? We send our men to farm the white man's land as our slaver brethren did to our forefathers. The rationale for overseas farm work is the same as for slavery — to do the man's commercial farming. Africa had land to do estate farming and slaves, but did not. Why have black people always been on the wrong side of progress? The irony is, while a group is suing for reparations, another is airlifting men to do the man's farm work just as African slavers centuries ago.
The MP who sent the most men into farm work servitude is top dog and, like slavers, he wants bigger markets for black flesh. Paradox? No wonder our people are screwed up. We send randy young men on trips of enforced celibacy to do farm work; might they sexually harass men? Women? Our men won't go into work camps to rehab Montpelier citrus or build infrastructure as "dem ave dem ooman an pickney fi look afta," yet they manage in barracks for months to do the man's farm work. Is this what Independence is for? Our manifest destiny: Jamaica, land we love!
Farm workers are usually from the 5th quintile; they are not diplomats. The allegations by Canadian friends who gave them jobs year after year are not trivial. We heard of incidents before, but they were mum because they need cheap labour and we need jobs — a conspiracy of silence? Our Cabinet, rights groups, Opposition, all silent. They were activists in the Myrie case long before the facts were in, but this is not Barbados — don't mess around with white men in Leamington. This is a town of 30,000, founded a century ago by Germans, Italians and others, but it could trigger the end of farm work for us. It is "tomato town", home of Heinz ketchup and the largest hive of greenhouses (2,000 acres or so) on the continent. Jamaican farm workers are few and after work they "hol' a fresh" — not to go to this small town of 10 schools for night classes. This latest broadside, true or false, comes on the heels of our affront in foreign fields. Police have no reports, but here we say, "If it nuh guh suh, it almos' guh suh." This may be like my white friends who do not report harassment to Mats Corner police because they know the drill: "Lady, whe di bwoy dem duh yuh? Dem lick yuh or touch yuh? Ef dem jus trow wud, den wi cyaan duh nutten till dem rape yuh." They live in the area, so she sees their baleful looks and fears reprisal. The police must end shallow talk about doing "their best"; we expect "I will do my duty."
Mayor Patterson runs a diverse town, so why did he go public? As this was not a one-off incident, and his daughter was with the women offended, what was his option? White men are always nervous about black men around their women, and we shall be judged by some in whose gift our FDI, tourism, farm work and remittances lie. We run fast but we are losing friends faster. Jamaica, no problem?
Cash reparations are being asked from British buyers of slaves, but what about the sellers? Buyers were paid-out for their lost property in 1833. Africans compensated to the people they sold and are not being asked now either. I want reparations, and like Mau Mau survivors I want British and African cash. Don't give my share to the government! Many black men feel entitled to sexual reparations and, in the UK, some extract sex from white women as payback. What sacrifice! Should our women also get sexual reparations off white men? How did this entitlement arise? These men were not slaves, so how? Do gay men get sex as payback off white men? Do black men not want black women to get the sexual reparations they do? Ladies, you can only get cash, not sex. Entitlement is a male sin.
Racism in Jamaica
I live in a society where, if you aid an abused woman — black or white — the terrorist asks, "Ah wah dat yuh a duh, yuh ah police?" The notion that only the police can call evil men to account is wrong. Mark Golding must strengthen the hand of citizens in local disputes. Society is not helped if we stand back until the JCF arrives. In my neighbourhood, "Back off, big man, mi a talk to di wite ooman, nat yuh. Afta yuh a nuh police?" is current.
Bad men and police who intimidate locals cause good men to back off. Cops, you are on your own! Intimidation wins. The racism in our daily intercourse is frightening. Words, allusions, attitudes which would be criminal in the UK or America are laughed off here. Do we prepare farm workers for living in nations where all men are equal?
We need race hate laws to sanitise speech, conduct so we treat all people well and know about equality laws before we get on the plane. Black people trace Chinese shopkeepers in the most racist argot. No Chinese or Indian Jamaican dare utter the same words about a black man here — war! Canada, USA and the UK should suspend aid until we pass equality laws such as our diaspora enjoy in those countries. In a bar near the Embassy, losers cuss the "ugly white ooman" for refusing them. Here's the thing; if you smoke they arrest you, but if you mouth corrosive racist drivel you stay and drink. Minister Golding, close these gaps in the law!
My white friend asked me to write, but she did not want any more racist pressure. Comments about her body as she walks by destroy her spirit. She volunteered for Jamaica, but it is hell. Imagine women told to walk in groups for safety in Jamaica, land we love? We may have a perfect tourism product but zero tourists unless we get a grip. We need to start a conversation about how we treat each other and the minorities among us. You say ignore it and it goes away?
Our men do not go to Africa and extract sex as reparations of those who sold our forefathers into slavery. Why? They would get castrated or a flaming tyre on their butts! Our fatherland is not soft as the mother country. I will accept an African gold mine, but we dare not ask Africa for reparations. The story about our farm workers may not be so. But think, my white friends are afraid to walk in my community near to two campuses. This is unacceptable! They have been propositioned to death, are under virtual house arrest, and some just want to serve their time and go. Rights? Mark, we need equality laws. Stay conscious!
Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. email@example.com