Who is Amer­ica?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

IN RE­SPONSE to last Sun­day’s col­umn, ‘Tribal war in Amer­ica’, I got a ram­bling email from an an­gry woman who gave me a piece of her mind. She was so vexed that the piece of her mind she kept for her­self didn’t seem to be work­ing so well. I’ve edited her email to make it more co­her­ent. I didn’t quite catch the mean­ing of the third sen­tence:

“Why don’t you keep out of the Amer­i­can elec­tions and con­cen­trate on Ja­maica’s prob­lem of how peo­ple in Ja­maica are dy­ing daily? The peo­ple of Amer­ica have made their choice. Talk about how the Repub­li­can Party freed slaves with the democ­racy was power back then. And if truth be told, they were white. You have a prob­lem with white peo­ple. A judge in Amer­ica made a state­ment to im­mi­grants swear­ing to be­come Amer­i­can cit­i­zens that if they have a prob­lem with their pres­i­dent go back home where they came from. Be care­ful you do not put your mouth in Amer­ica’s busi­ness. Ja­maica has enough prob­lems with­out you adding to it.”

I was happy to see that this woman un­der­stood the col­umn writ­ten in Ja­maican. So many Ja­maicans take such pride in not be­ing lit­er­ate in our lan­guage. It seems to be a badge of hon­our to be able to say, “I just can’t read that.”

Last week, there were the usual hos­tile re­sponses to the Ja­maican lan­guage in com­ments on The Gleaner’s web­site. Some­one who goes by the name ‘re­turn of the re­pressed’ made an ap­pro­pri­ately re­pressed com­ment: “Gib­ber­ish.” The com­ment by ‘Sam­my­dread’ was equally in­hib­ited: “sounds like the wran­glings of an id­iot.” Is a good thing my back broad!


I’ve edited T Arthur 1’s sen­si­ble re­sponse to both of them: “I un­der­stand that pa­tois can be a dif­fi­cult read; we don’t have in our mem­ory banks data on the spelling of many of the words which yields au­to­matic un­der­stand­ing of a sen­tence or a phrase. Nev­er­the­less, with an open mind and a lit­tle ef­fort, the mean­ing is eas­ily trans­lated to English. Don’t al­low our prej­u­dices to blind us from the ex­cel­lent con­tents of the piece.”

T Arthur 1 is right. Most Ja­maicans haven’t been taught to be lit­er­ate in our lan­guage. Thank God for the In­ter­net, where lots of us write and read Ja­maican all the time! Just think of all those jokes that cir­cu­late. Most of us make up our own writ­ing sys­tem. It would be so much eas­ier if we all used the writ­ing sys­tem de­signed by the lin­guists Frederic Cas­sidy and Robert LePage.

That’s go­ing to be a long time com­ing. Our Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion doesn’t take the Ja­maican lan­guage se­ri­ously. Stu­dents are not taught to read and write in Ja­maican. As a na­tion, we are still trapped in men­tal slav­ery. We can­not eman­ci­pate our­selves from the in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex that makes us de­value the lan­guage cre­ated by our African an­ces­tors and which has been passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion.


What is truly alarm­ing about that an­gry woman’s email is its con­fir­ma­tion of the dread that is con­sum­ing the US in the af­ter­math of Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion vic­tory. I don’t know if this woman lives in the US or not. She fear­fully as­sumes that an ar­ti­cle on racial con­flict in the US, pub­lished in a Ja­maican news­pa­per, is go­ing to cause prob­lems for Ja­maica. This is ab­surd. I sup­pose she’s wor­ried that Ja­maicans will no longer get US visas.

It is true that there has been a brazen as­ser­tion of white su­prem­a­cist power across the US since the elec­tions. For ex­am­ple, Richard Spencer, pres­i­dent of the in­no­centsound­ing Na­tional Pol­icy In­sti­tute, made a most re­veal­ing speech two week­ends ago in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Here’s an ex­cerpt:

“To be white is to be a striver, a cru­sader, an ex­plorer and a con­queror. We build, we pro­duce, we go up­ward. And we recog­nise the cen­tral lie of Amer­i­can race re­la­tions. We don’t ex­ploit other groups. We don’t gain any­thing from their pres­ence. They need us, and not the other way around. Within the very blood in our veins as chil­dren of the sun lies the po­ten­tial for great­ness. That is the great strug­gle we are called to.

“We are not meant to live in shame and weak­ness and dis­grace. We were not meant to beg for moral val­i­da­tion from some of the most de­spi­ca­ble crea­tures to ever pop­u­late the planet. We were meant to over­come, over­come all of it, be­cause that is nat­u­ral and nor­mal for us . . . . Amer­ica was, un­til this past gen­er­a­tion, a white coun­try, de­signed for our­selves and our pos­ter­ity. It is our cre­ation, it is our in­her­i­tance, and it be­longs to us.”

Mr Spencer hasn’t stud­ied Amer­i­can his­tory? He doesn’t know that Amer­ica ac­tu­ally be­longs to the in­dige­nous peo­ple who have been bru­tally ex­ploited by ex­plor­ers and con­querors? The Mex­i­cans who are sup­posed to pay for Trump’s wall of ex­clu­sion are ac­tu­ally North Amer­i­cans. Mr Spencer doesn’t know that en­slaved Africans cre­ated wealth for plan­ta­tion own­ers in the South­ern states?

We share a com­mon his­tory in this hemi­sphere. Peo­ple of good­will in the Amer­i­cas (plu­ral) must stand up to­gether against the white su­prem­a­cist forces that are threat­en­ing to an­ni­hi­late “de­spi­ca­ble crea­tures”. I have to put my mouth in Amer­ica’s busi­ness. It is also ours.

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