Tue | Apr 25, 2017

Human rights, American style

Published:Sunday | June 21, 2015 | 6:00 AM

I find it repugnant that the Government of the United States would have the relatively new ambassador, Luis Moreno, begin his term of office championing pressure on Jamaica to change its laws and culture in this regard. The US government further sent its agents, two men, to preach, cajole and generally scold us as our action did not fit their view of human rights.

Let us visit the USA's recent human-rights record. Kalief Browder - arrested in May 2010 in the magnificent Bronx, New York, on a charge of robbery. He was offered bail in the amount of US$3,000. Browder's lawyer, Paul Prestia, indicated he had no ability to pay US$3,000.

He was never brought to trial. Let me repeat: He was NEVER brought to trial. He spent three years in jail in Rikers, the infamous island jail. "When you go over the three years that he spent (in jail) and all the horrific details he endured, it's unbelievable that this could happen to a teenager in New York City," said Prestia. "He did not get tortured in some prison camp in another country. It was right here."

Browder spent more than 400 days in solitary confinement. He was released in May 2013 when charges were dropped. He attempted suicide on numerous occasions. He completed the suicide in the magnificent New York City in June 2015. Who protected the human rights of Kalief Browder?

Michael Brown died in Ferguson at the hands of a police officer. Why was he shot? Still unclear, but the officer is free. Michael Brown's human rights did not amount to much, even though the right to life is paramount.

The six women and three men in Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, gathered to participate in Bible study in the great Christian nation of the USA. On Wednesday night, June 17, at 9 p.m., they were to be gunned down by a lone attacker, all of 21 years old. I bet he was raised to be a good, God-fearing, law-abiding son in a family. He respected human rights. He was no recluse. His own uncle identified his picture to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Dylann Roof is alleged to have told the gathering, as reported by the lone survivor, "You rape our women, .... you have to go." He was given a gun as a birthday present. What of the human rights of the nine slaughtered?

 

More tolerant than US

 

Is Jamaica possessed of a history of slaughtering those who are homosexuals? Come on, Mr Moreno, US ambassador, we have a culture, we have national ethos, which, on review, is more tolerant of those who do not fit the norm. Your country shows its intolerance of those you dislike, in a most violent manner. Remember the federal building in Oklahoma? More than 160 innocents killed by a single act on home soil.

Yours is a government that had a policy not too long ago seeking to identify those who are homosexuals and deny them a visa to visit the USA. Your government also refused to allow those with communicable diseases to access non-immigrant visas.

James Baldwin, American, black homosexual, born in the magnificent New York City, on August 2, 1924, was one who had to flee both internally and internationally in part because of who he was. At 17 years old, he left Harlem for Greenwich Village. This was - and still is - a neighbourhood of New York City famous for its artistic environment and free thinkers.

Eventually, aware of his homosexuality, in 1948, disgusted by the amount of prejudice against both blacks and homosexuals faced in the United States, Baldwin left for Paris, France, in his mid-20s where he would spend the rest of his life. He died on December 1, 1987. His human rights were not protected (James Baldwin biography, the European Graduate School).

Throughout his life, James Baldwin would share having been profoundly marked by three destructive identities in his life: being black, being poor, being homosexual. Mr Ambassador, one of the significant contributors to the literature of your country left because your country had not evolved to the degree you claim today.

We are a young country. We are in our 53rd year of independence. The laws you seek so desperately to punish us for not repealing on your timetable were written by your kith and kin when we were a colony. Your inducements in the name of human rights ring hollow.

If the entreaties are unsuccessful, it is logical to assume the rhetoric will become harsh and the threats unveiled. You will, with your kith and kin, force us to blindly, and without murmur, follow your dictates or starve, be ostracised, or made to feel like children of a lesser god.

It shall fail. We shall do what the sovereign people of this independent country wish in our own time and on our own terms. We do not systematically engage in anti-homosexual behaviour. We reject you and that implied assertion. Let us reject your version of two mamas and/or daddies for a child. We will strive for one each per child. Tell your kith and kin how we feel.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.