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Dervin Osbourne: Stop making fun of poor people

Published:Tuesday | April 19, 2016 | 4:00 AM

Over the past few years, it has become common for poor people to be the source of comedic relief whenever they attempt to vocalise the problems they endure. It is an unfortunate consequence of how damagingly insensitive Jamaicans have become towards the struggles of vulnerable groups, too often opting to focus on trivialities while dismissing the myriad injustices they experience.

What is the new normal is making a mockery of the poor whenever they try to articulate their problems. Instead of dealing with the issue at hand, we choose to make fun of them by starting a social-media frenzy of memes, videos, and humiliating comments, ridiculing how they look, speak, and their mannerisms.

We pay no attention to the fact that innocent people were being murdered because we somehow never got past "the people them what are deading". Rosie became a popular sensation because of her luminescent personality, so we never really did address the problem of improper infrastructure that plagues inner-city communities. And now, we're so hung up on "I can do filing... and something else" that we ignore the fact that there are skilled sex workers in Jamaica who desperately want opportunities to better themselves - just like the rest of us.

The lack of regard for poor people warrants investigation. We must take the time to assess what makes the plight of poor people so amusing and wholly insignificant when compared with the issues (albeit the same) of the rest of the population.

The answer is perhaps the reason we have discarded their presence and omitted their problems from discourses on social injustice. We have a long-standing history of discriminating against the poor for, among other reasons, their supposed lack of sophistication and articulatio, as if these are prerequisites for having your human-rights issues heard.

But that is how it has been in Jamaica, where the privileged suffocate marginalised groups, shutting them out and dismissing them for not having the required skills or social criteria, that is, in this case, not being poor. The dismissal is not always the same for all vulnerable groups, and often, it is not clear. The recent trend is to make fun of, be condescending towards, and to trivialise the issues of poor people.

 

THE MEDIA

Jamaican media have certainly played a role in the pathetic approach to poor people. Far too often have media houses chosen to venture out to hear the views of 'ordinary Jamaicans'. Not surpris-ingly their destination is usually downtown Kingston, wantonly interviewing persons on a range of issues, only to have them be the 'Bite of the Week' and a new source of entertainment for the rest of Jamaica.

Social-media comedians are among the perpetrators of the attempt to dismiss the poor. They adorn themselves in 'lower-class attire' to mimic poor people for entertainment, while being completely unaware of the struggles of their muse. But they do it nonetheless to raise their social-media capital, and, for those who are good at it, to collect a cheque at the end of the month.

It is hard to not be entertained when Jamaicans express themselves; however, the extent to which we take that entertainment is dispropor-tionately skewed towards one group. Our blinding disregard and discrimination towards poor people have reached an all-time low. We are now apologetically using the injustices faced by poor people as a source of amusement.

- Dervin Osbourne is a Respect Jamaica youth ambassador. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and osbournedervin@gmail.com.