Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Garth Rattray | We are still enslaved

Published:Sunday | August 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM

I had already penned this piece when I saw Prime Minister Andrew Holness' Emancipation Day message. I totally agree with all that he said.

The 1833 law to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire came into effect on August 1, 1834. The transatlantic slave trade lasted well over three centuries. Inhumane treatment was meted out to one particular race. Europeans took advantage of the prevalent tribalism and cruelty that existed on the African continent. As a child, it took me a while to understand just how much our own race was involved in the despicable act of trading in human beings.

The slaves in Jamaica were indentured (given a few individual rights and forced to work under their former owners in an official apprenticeship system) until 1838. Over the ensuing years, people of African heritage were slowly handed the power to vote, but the colour of their skin and social position remained important factors in dictating how they were treated and the course of their lives.

The sad truth is that Jamaica swapped the British/colonial-based slavery for insidious, dangerous, destructive and chronic types of slavery. The negative attitudes and prejudices towards our own 'Afrogenic' people remain tenaciously rampant. Many still look down on those with dark complexions and/or humble beginnings. This has set in motion profound social fissures that will be very difficult to heal.

Aside from the deeply entrenched, prejudicial, superiority/inferiority acculturation, our self-hate is evidenced by the disrespect, aggression, violence and crime within our society. After all these years, we remain unable to free ourselves from the negative, persistent mental slavery that breeds hate and stagnation.

When the Europeans enslaved us, they locked us behind bars. Now, criminals force us to lock ourselves behind bars for our own protection. We must lock our gates, our windows, our doors and our grilles. We lock up our homes, churches and businesses.

We lock up our places of pleasure and even our hospitals. We are restricted in all our activities. We can't stay out late, we can't go here and we can't go there.




We must protect ourselves at a very high price. Our Government spends enormous sums of money on national security and the physical trauma caused by criminals. Additionally, many citizens spend heavily on security companies. We are enslaved by criminals. We are slaves to our fears and slaves to the things that we must do to be safe.

It's tribalism all over again. Now, it's the orange 'tribe' against the green 'tribe'. It's the upper-class 'tribe' against the lower-class 'tribe'. It's the 'tribe' from this area against the 'tribe' from that area. It's the 'tribe' from this gang against the 'tribe' from that gang. It's the 'tribe' of criminal elements hell-bent on creating an alternative, anarchic society against the 'tribe' of law-abiding citizens who want to maintain order, rectitude and justice. The resultant discordance fractures our society and makes a mockery of our motto, 'Out Of Many, One People'.

Criminals are slaves, too. They are slaves to their violent social programming. They are slaves to their real enemies, the people who provide the guns and promote criminal behaviour for financial gain. They are slaves to their lack of insight into their non-productive and self-destructive lifestyle. They exist so far outside of the normal societal mores that they are tantamount to foreign invaders intent on terrorising, robbing, raping and killing our citizens.

In spite of their murderous rampages, there are people who remain sympathetic to them, hide them, cover for them, protect them, lie for them, facilitate and even assist them in their felonious deeds.

Although there are far more of us, law-abiding citizens, than there are criminals, we remain besieged and vulnerable, enslaved by terror and by our unwillingness to unite and free ourselves, so we continue to be targeted mercilessly and at will.

We need to stand up for our little country by defeating and ridding society of this malignant evil, this scourge wrought by a minority of antisocial and sometimes psychopathic individuals. Until we break the mental shackles of prejudice and 'tribalism', there will always be social injustice, disunity and violence and we will always remain enslaved in one way or the other.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and