George Davis | Why I didn't migrate
As I prepared to begin my final year at university 12 years ago, I mapped out what I felt was the path I should take on my mission for self-actualisation and success.
My plan was to read for a master's degree overseas, preferably in the United Kingdom, and, thereafter, pursue a career in the areas I studied, including marketing, international business and history.
Back then, in the summer of 2004, I intended to pursue that career in Norway, Sweden or in the Low Countries of Belgium or the Netherlands. I reasoned that having done my primary and secondary schooling in Jamaica, along with my undergraduate studies, I needed to venture outside the country, to Europe, in particular, in order to broaden my horizons and experiencing a world view that would make me an asset to my homeland by the time I was approaching my 50s.
In terms of timelines, the plan was to leave Jamaica at about age 24, spend about three years studying and working part-time, enter full-time employment in Europe at about age 28, establish a career and develop some key competencies by the start of my 40s. Then I'd return to Jamaica at about age 45 to contribute to national development.
Talk about thinking like a man who believes that life runs the course of a fanciful novel!
All of the preceding was carefully thought through and plans set in train by my application to, and acceptance by, a reputable university in Scotland. But then something struck me in the gut. The question I asked myself was, how in hell did I plan to spend more than 20 years in the white man's country, given my strong feelings about racism, imperialism and the historic treatment of the black man as the underclassman in white-dominated society? It's the question I could not answer then. And the way the question nagged at me stirred up certain feelings that caused me to decline the chance of British schooling and motivated my decision to abandon plans for my European adventure.
I was unable to explain to myself how I would handle being told to f*** off back to my country by a boss who could say such a thing because he was home and I was not. I was unable to explain how I would handle reporting racial abuse to the police, only to be told that as an immigrant, I really ought to just keep my head down and ignore being demeaned by those inside and outside my work space.
I was unable to explain how I would feel, living and working as an outsider, capable of rising only to the extent that the white man allowed. I was also unable to say how I would look in the mirror knowing I was toiling in a country where I could be no better than a third- or fourth-class citizen.
Yes, I know that thousands of Jamaicans have done it, living and working overseas. Many have made good careers. But many have suffered severe indignities while navigating the path to success. Many have had sh** thrown in their faces and have had to force a smile, knowing that any reaction could cause them to be ostracised or, worse, kicked out of the country.
But because I lack the character needed to smile through the slime of an imperialist's spit on my face, I chose to stay home. I chose to stay in the place where I can be king of the castle, first-rate citizen and equal to any other man or woman in society, if even in the castle of my skin and the living room of my own mind.
I recount my experience because of the violent return of racism and imperialism to the world. The racism that has caused the death of innocent black men in the United States and the revenge killing of police personnel in the same country. The racism and imperialism that stoked an almighty fear of Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians among Britons, and which led them to vote for Brexit.
These are the times when race and class are once again used as lines of demarcation between and among people.