Letters to the Editor

Don't beat a man for aspiring to being young, gifted and black, Roper, Bunting

Thursday, March 08, 2018

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Dear Editor,

“You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason...You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity.” — James Baldwin , black American novelist and social critic

I've been asked several times: What really sets young Jamaicans apart from the rest of the world?

Unfailingly, I answer, “We dare to dream!” Thereafter, I quote the sentiments of Caribbean poet Martin Carter, who stated that we do not go to bed to rest, but sleep to dream to change the world. In Jamaica, we dream to live comfortably, to be financially independent, and most importantly to become the best that we can be. We dream within the context that, as black Jamaicans, one generation or two ago we were all in the same socio-economic bracket and the only vehicle of upward mobility which we all used, and continue to use, is education.

For the generation before mine, the opportunity to not only dream realistically about achieving this coveted education was provided by Norman Washington Manley who ensured that poor people's children got a chance to go to high school through the scholarship programme. Many of us stand upon this foundation as beneficiaries of that scholarship programme. It is for this reason that I am baffled and mind-boggled by the comments of People's National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament Peter Bunting and staunch supporter Reverend Garnett Roper.

A strange exchange developed in Bunting's own online Probe Series in the heat of the by-election between the Jamaica Labour Party's Nigel Clarke and the PNP's Keisha Hayle. Spurred on by Reverend Garnett Roper, who employed almost a reverse black- on-black prejudice in asking: “There is a part of us that likes a Nigel Clarke...son of a judge, son of a teacher, who then became children's advocate, scholar, bright. I'm not sure if he will succeed as much as his reputation has, very British-esque in his persona...What do you think are his strengths or weaknesses?”

Bunting replied: “In a sense he reminds me of the black Englishman of colonial times...who sort of aspired to be black royalty...the esquire type...great English, British education and, in a sense, mimicking the values and the affectations of the former colonial masters...the classical music appreciation...very much culturally contrasting with the rural down-to -earth ethos of a Keisha Hayle.”

Indeed, if anything is British-esque it is not Nigel Clarke's background, education or appreciation of classical music; it is the British-esque colonial tool of divide and rule which was used for such a long time to keep the black population under control, thereby feeding the crab-in-a barrel mentality. This mentality regrettably rears its ugly head even today, as seen in this exchange. Why would we have to tear down anyone's accomplishments to highlight the accomplishments of another? They are both equally to be lauded in their own right. It is only through a melding of talents and backgrounds of all kinds that we will strengthen this country.

Don't beat a man for striving to be better than the generation before him, for uplifting himself and his country through education. Don't beat a man for aspiring to being young, gifted and black as Percival James Patterson told us and showed us that we could be. Don't beat a man for being an example for the people of the country, especially the youth, many of whom need an exemplar regardless of whether or not that exemplar is partial to dancehall or classical music.

Let reggae music speak its truth: “To divide and rule, is their only plan.../ But I anuh fool to let them overcome/ 'Cause I and I are king in this jungle/ Seated up so high, and so humble.” — Jah Cure & Sizzla Kalonji

Ashley-Ann Foster





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