Tue | Oct 24, 2017

Who is Jamaican enough?

Published:Friday | September 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM

In light of the coronation of the new Miss Jamaica for the Miss Universe pageant, I must admit that I am extremely disappointed in the response of our people. Comments concerning skin colour and physical location seemed to be the most prominent: "Why dem pick an American fi represent us?" "We nah nuh pretty chocolate girls here? Ahh suh!" "Dem shouldn't allow ar fi enter," and so on and so forth.

Being Jamaican transcends all physical boundaries, both national and international. It transcends skin colour, shape and intellect.

I was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. I came to the United States for school and athletics, stayed to pursue my master's degree, fell in love, and got married in the process!

As a young, dark-skinned woman living in the United States, I have taken personal offence to the fact that if I were eligible to represent my country using the Miss Jamaica platform, I would be rejected by my own people. (Now, at this point, some of you may be telling me to tan wid me offence inna farin, but I've already asked you to put your bias aside - so stay with me.)

Yet, the same people who have taught me the morals and values I currently use to guide and sustain myself; the same people who have instilled in me the culture that I take with me wherever I go; these same people would potentially reject me representing the country I love.

 

ambassador

 

No matter where I am, I strive to be an ambassador for my country by doing everything with excellence. Whether that's school, sports, work, or simply socialising and networking events, everyone knows the country I represent, and I do it well.

The negative comments surrounding Miss Jamaica brought to mind the question, "Who is Jamaican enough?" As a dark-skinned Jamaican woman in the United States, am I more qualified than the light-skinned Jamaican woman in the United States or Jamaica? Am I less qualified than the dark-skinned woman who resides in Jamaica? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, my question is, why?

Why am I less Jamaican for pursuing my dreams? Why am I less Jamaican for choosing to get both my first and second degrees completely paid for? Why am I less Jamaican for falling in love and choosing to follow my husband by residing where he resides?

Why do we get upset with Jamaican women who reside abroad for entering these pageants but accept athletes who train overseas yet still represent their country? (I was one - at the junior level.)

The bigger issue here is, how can we provide these same opportunities for our youth? How can we give them access to upward mobility?

These are some of the questions that I have been considering as I've matriculated through school. How can I use all this knowledge to build up my country? I have so many colleagues who have graduated from major Jamaican universities but cannot get a job remotely close to their field, or within a salary range appropriated to their field. If they go overseas, they're 'sell-outs'.

 

societal norms

 

Don't get me wrong. I will not pretend to be blind to the societal norms that endorse light-skinned women as THE standard of beauty (I've had my fair share of "you're pretty for a dark-skinned girl" comments), but that is not the case EVERYtime a woman other than a dark-skinned woman is chosen. And only being satisfied with dark-skinned women as pageant winners is not the corrective action for changing that biased standard of beauty.

Isolation of any group of women for any reason will never be considered progress. There is so much more that we have to do to build up the self-worth of all our Jamaican women, and that doesn't simply start at a Miss Jamaica pageant.

We are a country mixed with so many beautiful races and skin tones, which is one of the things I brag about the most. We are a true example of a melting pot and holistically embody our national motto - 'Out of Many, One People'. Don't take that away from our country with your negativity. Embrace and support our women throughout their endeavours, no matter what they look or sound like, and no matter where they live. All a we a one!

- Jhanelle Adams is a performance management administrator in Atlanta, Georgia. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jhanelle.adams@gmail.com.