Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jamaica's troubles

I see Small Dead Animals and its mouth-breathing commenters are race bating again. This time, it's Jamaicans they're on about.
Jamaicans, they imply, are inherently violent people who used their idle time to commit murder.
Of course, and as usual, the truth is much more complex.
As you can see in this article, Jamaica and Jamaicans have a crime problem.
There are many reasons for it: the lack of mandatory schooling and post-elementary educational opportunities; a local recession; lousy and corrupt government; a steady flow of guns and drugs into the country; and an inept judiciary.
The biggest problem, however, is buried way down: Jamaica was divided into two armed camps in the 1970s by Edward Siega's rightists Jamaica National Party (which is now in power) and Michael Manley's Marxist Jamaica Labour Party. Both sides armed their followers, who fought running gun battles in the street as Siega pried Manley out of power.
That was quite an opportunity for Jamaica's gangsters. Both sides needed money to finance this little civil war. Fortunately, Jamaica not only produced drugs, but was also along the main cocaine trafficking route.
This fight gave a real hand-up to anyone who wanted to be a paramilitary thug. When the election was over, the politicians publicly washed their hands of involvement but the gang structures survived for the past two generations, as did the domestic and foreign drug and arms connections.
These gangs were recreated in the Jamaican enclaves that have arisen in London, New York and Toronto. They have sometimes been grafted onto American gang structures. Why? Because they give young men the best chance they'll get to acquire money and personal power. Gang activity is hell on the nuclear family, and Jamaican women have been left to raise kids who are likely to continue the pattern.
To hear fascists tell it, there's something wrong with black people. But in islands where there is a decent tax base, education opportunities and jobs, this gang activity is not a problem.
In Jamaica, there's no expectation of real change, so nothing will happen. Staying out of a gang is difficult for the great mass of poor young men. Meanwhile, those with government connections continue to pull in most of the country's wealth.
But not every Jamaican is a gangster. Jamaican gang activity has been a convenient took for racists to paint all Jamaicans as bad people. And what do people do when they are marginalized? What would any of us do if we were dirt poor and were the focus of hatred and suspicion? Maybe find some sympathetic friends, especially if they could provide jobs, protection and a chance for a better life.
The gangs may not be able to deliver on thses things, but right now they're about the only game in town.
So, why do Jamaicans run so fast? Because it beats joining a gang.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

But you go to New York City and blacks of Jamaican descent and other West Indians are seen as paragons of industry and ambition i.e. Colin Powell.
MalcolmGladwell wrote about this a few years back.

http://www.gladwell.com/1996/1996_04_29_a_black.htm

Ottawa Watch said...

I wonder what the difference is? Maybe New York has a longer history of integrating black people and has given them more opportunity.

JA Goneaux said...

Well, you should at least note that the original article that SDA was quoting from was from the Caribbean Net News, and it was a letter to the editor from someone from Barbados.

The Caribbean Net News and the letter writer may very well be the Caribbean equivalent of the Heritage Front, but I doubt it.

You raise a good point about the modern history of Jamaica (and don't forget, this was the Cold War and was very much a proxy battle with the CIA arming one side and the Cubans/USSR the other. Something has to explain why Jamaica has twice the murder rate of even Guyana, which is a pretty scary place if my co-workers from there are being honest with me.

But just ask any non-Jamaican Caribbean what he or she things about Jamaica. You'll probably get nothing less than what the letter write said.

And lately, you seem to be trying to out-Warren Warren...

Anonymous said...

Such commentary from Barbados is common, mostly because they have a large expat Jamacian population. At least that's what my bartender, Sam the Jamacian, at the Southern Palms, St.Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, Barbados tells me. But Hey He was wearing a brown shirt that day and was likely going to the Barbados Union of Facists meeting after work...

Yeah, you need to lay off the Shit from Hell for a while....

Ottawa Watch said...

I don't have a problem with the letter writer. I agree that Jamaica has a serious crime problem. I wanted to explain why. I'm just sick of the SDA crowd dredging up anything they can find that puts black people and Muslims in a bad light. Along with the old racist cartoons, there's an obvious pattern of race bating at that site.

Anonymous said...

Gladwell sees it as more complex.

...After I had moved to the United States, I puzzled over this seeming contradiction--how West Indians celebrated in New York for their industry and drive could represent, just five hundred miles northwest, crime and dissipation. Didn't Torontonians see what was special and different in West Indian culture? But that was a naïve question. The West Indians were the first significant brush with blackness that white, smug, comfortable Torontonians had ever had. They had no bad blacks to contrast with the newcomers, no African-Americans to serve as a safety valve for their prejudices, no way to perform America's crude racial triage....

Ottawa Watch said...

When I was a kid, Canadians were very smug about the fact there were no race riots here, while in the States the country was agonizing over civil rights and race riots. We thought we were somehow better than them, not bothering to consider our own treatment of Native Canadians, "DPs" and others who did not fit in to Canada's very class-bound society.
In many ways, the attitude is still there, especially when it comes to providing services to immigrants to bring them into nthe mainstream. Governemnts can hide behind multiculturalism to neglect important services like ESL. As well, we learned nothing from the failures of 1960s public housing projects.

Anonymous said...

Everything else aside, that was my first trip to Small Dead Animals ... and last. There are already enough right-wing nutbars hogging band width, airwaves and print without my looking for further stress. What a little shit ...