I like to brag about Jamaica to my American friends and relatives. I tell them the racism that plagues American society does not exist in Jamaica, that the color of a person’s skin is not as important in my native island as the person’s character.
As you can see from the picture of me that webmaster Xavier Murphy includes with this blog, I am light skinned – “Jamaica white.” But my relatives include just about every shade and ethnic derivation in Jamaica. As my wife, Sandra, observed when she attended a cousin’s wedding in Miami some years ago, “This is like the United Nations.”
By blood or by marriage, I am related to Europeans, Americans (white and black), Canadians (and African-Canadians), African-Jamaicans, Chinese -Jamaicans, Lebanese-Jamaicans, Jewish-Jamaicans, East Indian-Jamaicans… My family has been in Jamaica for a very long time, and is inevitably very mixed. And to me, this is a badge of honor.
I see Jamaica’s acceptance of diversity as a beacon of enlightenment for the world.
So when I receive news that Jamaican residents of any ethnic background are being targeted, I am deeply disappointed.
And that’s just what arrived in my in-box this morning. An email from Martine Chin provided a link to an article in the Jamaica Observer detailing a sad saga of persecution of the Chinese community.
The headline proclaims:
Chinese under siege – Criminals, cops extort, rob businessmen at will.
The Observer is a respected newspaper, and I have to accept its report as accurate. It is a troubling report.
The article sums up the situation this way:
On the one hand, thieves and extortionists have been having a field day with Chinese businessmen, particularly expatriates, fleecing them of millions of dollars.
On the other hand, some of the people who swore to serve, reassure and protect, are themselves puting their hands in the till, oftentimes going away with hefty sums of money, as reward for an extended extortion scheme.
After reading the article, I am not sure the robberies are racially motivated. They could be motivated more by ignorance and envy than by ethnic hostility. But, in any case, the lack of police protection is horrifying.
All Jamaicans – and all residents of Jamaica – deserve equal protection under the law, and I would be ashamed if the Jamaican police are failing in their duty to protect any members of the public because of ethnicity.
Jamaica’s motto, after all, is “out of many, one people.”
How can I “hold up my head” in America if Jamaica’s police don’t live up to that ideal?