When a person has committed himself or herself to a certain way of behaving and over time has become calcified in displaying that behaviour, it is very difficult to hold out any hope that such an individual will effect any meaningful change in that pattern. Said person will make outrageous statements, which will offend the sensibilities of those who would not dare say those things, but who will, nevertheless, expect that to be par for the course and may just set it aside with a shrug, a hiss of the teeth, or a temporary outburst of rage against the offender.
Two such individuals spring readily to mind: Donald Trump, former US president, and Everald Warmington, Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Western since 2002. When either person says outrageous things, in a sense, we do not expect better from them. We may be more surprised if their statements were clothed with civility than the incivility to which we have become accustomed. We may be tempted to dismiss them as just being who they are — men whose utterances should not be taken seriously.
I wish it were that simple. This would be acceptable if the gentlemen in question did not wield enormous power and influence — Trump's more expansive than Warmington's, but influence nonetheless — over the lives of fawning constituents. Trump's egregious behaviour has been well documented so there is hardly any sense in rehashing it here.
But Warmington's statement recently at a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) event that, as a white man, Opposition Leader Mark Golding will never become prime minister of Jamaica should be condemned by all well-thinking Jamaicans who want to put behind them the kind of racism that has held us back as a people.
It is true that years of slavery and colonialism has done enough to poison the minds of too many Jamaicans and made it difficult for us to have the sense of brotherhood and togetherness that civilised living demands. Politicians, on both sides of the political fence, have been the snake oil salesmen of this poison. I have been around social commentary in this country too long not to know the extent to which racism has been used as a route to political power. I remember well the demonisation of Edward Seaga, of white ancestry, by his political opponents. Behind every criticism of Seaga lurked the dark shadow of racism. If he presided over any legislation, it was difficult for his opponents to not find even a scintilla of racism, or his hatred for black people, behind it.
People's National Party (PNP) propaganda no doubt convinced many that, as a white man, he would not enter the hallowed walls of Jamaica House, but, surprisingly, he did. "My leader born ya" was more than a subtle portrayal by the Manley regime of the indigenous credentials of Michael Manley vis-a-vis Seaga's. Never mind that Manley was the son of a white woman. Fundamentally, it was a song meant to vilify Seaga and to portray him to the Jamaican people of dominant black ancestry that he did not qualify to lead them.
But Seaga gave back some of what he got by describing P J Patterson as a black scandal bag to ridicule him on the political stumps. So this latest iteration of racist vituperative language from "Warmy" is not new, but part of a sordid trajectory of racism, a demon that we would do well to hasten its exorcism from our national life.
I do not believe that Warmy loves Jamaica any more than Golding. I believe the people of Jamaica are politically wise enough to see through the facade of trying to win power by making racist comments. They will not be fooled.
In the meantime, remarks like Warmington's put his prime minister, Andrew Holness, in a bit of quandary. His hands are full with the affairs of State, and now he has to contend with another intemperate outburst from the irascible Warmy. He is not only doing a disservice to his prime minister, whom he avers to respect, but also his constituents, many of whom probably agree with him (if Warmy says it then it ought to be true). Should the prime minister take up precious State time to address the matter? No. I believe he knows well that Warmington's bona fides in putting his foot in his mouth have been well established to not waste precious time commenting on it. This is perhaps why, to the best of my knowledge, he has not said a word on the issue. Public punditry seems to have been seized of this fact. Since he has announced that he will be leaving representative politics, it might be best to let him depart in peace. Amen.
AN ANATOMY OF LAWLESSNESS
I am glad the Government did not bow to the public passenger vehicle (PPV) operators who thought they could force its hands to give them an amnesty for outstanding tickets they justly incurred. To have done this would have been to bow to lawlessness. It is their own reckless behaviour on the roads, which has resulted in multiple crashes and loss of lives, that caused them to incur these tickets. Now they have the temerity to demand that the Government "give them a bly".
Hats off to those who did not participate in this farce. The leadership of these operators leaves a lot to be desired by aiding and abetting this lawlessness. There is no way any self-respecting Government should countenance such bad behaviour.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life's Storm, Your Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life, and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.