‘A web of weird black peo­ple’

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Garth Rat­tray is med­i­cal doc­tor with a fam­ily prac­tice. Email feed­back to columns@glean­erjm.com and garthrat­tray@gamil.com.

AVERY close friend and col­league of mine who op­er­ates in Kingston was sched­uled to see a fe­male pa­tient for a biopsy. When the pa­tient was called to con­firm the ap­point­ment, she claimed that the doc­tor’s of­fice for­got to in­form her about the method of pay­ment that they ac­cepted. The staff apol­o­gised, where­upon the pa­tient de­clared that she for­got that she was deal­ing with “... a web of weird black peo­ple”.

The pa­tient turned up for her ap­point­ment and com­plained that it took her 10 min­utes to find the of­fice. My friend asked her if she had in­deed re­marked that she for­got that she was deal­ing with a web of weird black peo­ple and she, un­abashed, replied in the af­fir­ma­tive.

My friend told her that even if her staff made an er­ror of omis­sion, her re­sponse was rude, below the belt and in­ap­pro­pri­ate. She went on to tell her that, as a black woman, she was of­fended.

The pa­tient’s face reg­is­tered shock as my friend stood up, opened the door and asked her to leave her of­fice. She re­fused to see the rude bigot and re­peated her re­quest for her to leave. Af­ter leav­ing in dis­grace, the of­fen­sive woman had the temer­ity to com­plain to the re­fer­ring physi­cian who shut her down be­cause he was alerted about her racist re­mark.

Just for the record, this fe­male is ter­tiar­ily ed­u­cated with an MBA, is un­mar­ried, about 5’ 8”, av­er­age body habi­tus, cropped, black hair, works in the tourism in­dus­try and, most im­por­tant, pos­sesses an am­ple sup­ply of melanin-pro­duc­ing skin cells. I think that if she were from a dif­fer­ent so­cial stra­tum, she would have bleached the hell out of her skin.

The real mes­sage in all of this is that there are a lot of peo­ple, right here in Ja­maica, who think ex­actly as she does but keep their opin­ions clos­eted. Some­times their prej­u­dices and self-hate slither to the sur­face and they make that kind of dis­gust­ing re­mark, or they say things like, “Nutt’n too black nuh good.” I’ve ac­tu­ally heard some­one tell an­other that he was “black like John Crow”. I’ve of­ten heard peo­ple shout, “Guweh, yuh black lakka what.” All this from peo­ple with my nice-nice, choco­late-brown com­plex­ion. SMH.

We have to give the Devil his due. The brain­wash­ing from the Euro­peans was de­tailed and has lasted for many gen­er­a­tions. There was a time when the African race was re­gal and in­flu­en­tial, but, with the scourge of slav­ery, peo­ple of African back­ground have been looked down upon and treated like in­fe­rior hu­man be­ings. Slav­ery rep­re­sented the epit­ome of ig­nominy and cast a shame­ful shadow on both the Euro­peans and the African na­tions that fa­cil­i­tated and prof­ited from the cruel prac­tice.


We have a nasty habit of dis­re­spect­ing our own peo­ple and, there­fore, our­selves. This has con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the per­va­sive ag­gres­sion and vi­o­lence that we see through­out the coun­try.

I’ve been the vic­tim of the neg­a­tive so­cio-racial sick­ness that af­fects so many of our ci­ti­zens. Once, I or­dered a kitchen cabi­net, and the job was so poorly done that I re­marked that it looked like a pri­mary-school project gone wrong. Just for the heck of it, I asked the sup­plier if he would have given that kind of work to some­one like Butch Ste­wart. He was hon­est enough to say that he would not do that.

A sim­i­lar thing hap­pened with a mason who failed to com­plete the job af­ter beg­ging for the re­main­der of the money up­front. I put the iden­ti­cal ques­tion to him and he also said that he would not treat some­one like Butch Ste­wart like that. If I had lacked con­fi­dence in who and what I am, if I had any crack in my pride as an ‘Afro­genic’ hu­man be­ing, I would have been to­tally dev­as­tated.

I re­main staunchly con­vinced that the be­hav­iour that we see on the streets and a lot of the crime that we ex­pe­ri­ence have to do with a lack of self-re­spect and a lack of re­spect for oth­ers. As long as we re­tain the men­tal­ity that holds fast to the no­tion that peo­ple of African de­scent are an in­fe­rior race, we will re­main un­der­de­vel­oped, rid­dled with crime, and be­holden to richer na­tions for our sur­vival.

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