Mon | Sep 24, 2018

USA Backward? China #1; and Santa

Published:Sunday | December 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
The late South African President Nelson Mandela and former United States president Bill Clinton look to the outside from Mandela's Robben Island prison cell in Cape Town, South Africa. - File

Egerton Chang, Guest Columnist

Race is a VERY uncomfortable topic for me to discuss. In fact, it's not even a thought because I was raised in a Third World country where Black is in the majority. The discrimination against any race (of every Crayola conceived) is a problem everywhere but classism is one of our fundamental issues in Jamaica.

I am the last person to use the 'black' card but when I see evidence of the justice system failing Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown (to name a few), I fully understand and can relate to the mentality of being at an imbalanced disadvantage because of my colour.

Granted, slavery was abolished in Jamaica before the United States (US), so we (Jamaicans) are more forward thinking in that regard. It truly hurts my heart from a humanitarian standpoint that in 2014, America that prides itself in being a First World country, have such injustices against one particular race more than the other.

"I strongly believe that achievements are derived from hard work, persistence and a lot of blessings but it's hard to live in a country (the US) that is so backward."

The above was posted on Facebook recently and got more than the normal 'likes'. It also caught my eyes and I 'liked' it, not only for its heartfelt sentiments but also because it was posted by my daughter, Hollanders Myers.

You see, Hollanders (we call her Latoya) could never be mistaken for any other race but Black. She came to us when she was just seven months old (having been born in the US) and we have raised her all these years. She is now in her mid 20s and is in her final year of law school in Florida.

I would like to believe that her comments also reflect the way we raised her - non-discriminatory and without regard to colour. So much so that it is not even a thought (consideration) in her mind.

Embracing Blackness

I have six biological children and perhaps two could be accepted as white/Asian more often than not. Yet all of them have chosen to embrace their 'Blackness'. Ironically, both sets of children have grandmothers that are "so black, dem purple".

My eldest daughter, Nadine, chose to attend the 'black' graduation ceremony when she graduated from Stanford. And from their various postings on Facebook, etc., their true identity and who they choose to identify with can never be mistaken.

Nadine, who is a lawyer and who has lived most of her life in America, recently posted, "A Message to My Adopted Country". This piece is available in the book Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb,

This document, written in 1946, is a powerful one. In this piece of writing Einstein shares his observations on race in America.

"There is, however, a sombre point in the social outlook of Americans," Einstein wrote. "Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins."

Her inference is that almost nothing has changed since. This is just one of many similar postings and further indicates her take on race in America and her place within it.

China is number one

As recently as April, the headlines read, 'China poised to pass US as world's leading economic power this year'. In fact, I wrote about China"s imminent primacy in my column of May 18, 2014, "China #1, and late bloomers".

Well, in just 6 months, China has advanced to the very top.

The headline screams, 'It's official: America is now No. 2', written in MarketWatch on December 4, 2014 by Brett Arends

Hang on to your hats, America.

There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just say it: We're no longer No. 1. Today, we're No. 2. Yes, it's official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world.

Yes, it just happened - and almost nobody noticed.

The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in "real" terms (PPP) of goods and services, China will, this year, produce $17.6 trillion - compared with $17.4 trillion for the US.

Make no mistake, this is a geopolitical earthquake with a high reading on the Richter scale. Throughout history, political and military power have always depended on economic power.

In the 1950s and early '60s our parents would admonish us children for not eating up our food by telling us, "Eat up. You know how many children starving in China?"

With it now being the number-one economy in the world, it is fair to say that the number of children starving in China has been reduced to the point of near elimination.

Of course, on a per capita basis, with five times the population of America, China continues to be way behind. However, as a nation, its economic strength signals its place and power in the world.

Lady Musgrave Road

"One other thing. How can the People's National Party (PNP) get good marks for road maintenance when the showpiece (Lady Musgrave) road leading up to Vale Royal is in such a deplorable state?"

That's a quote from my column published Sunday, October 26, 2014.

It is good to see that the work that started the following Friday (October 31), just five days after, is nearing completion before Christmas.

Santa and Christmas Trees

My parents, Percy and Alice, owned and operated Chang's Emporium, Jamaica's first supermarket on Half-Way Tree Road (opposite York). In the 1950s-'60s (when I was a youngster), we used to sell imported Christmas trees.

Then, the radio/rediffusion (rediffusion distributed radio signals through wired relay networks) would constantly remind everyone of the number of shopping days left to Christmas. "Fifteen days left for Christmas shopping, fifteen days left to fill the stockings, fifteen days left for Christmas shopping ..., only have fifteen more." This jingle would continuously count down the days left.

Times Store (Alex Durie) was the leading department store and every Christmas they also used to 'import' Santa Claus. The arrival of Santa at the airport was a big fanfare that was broadcast live on radio. Then the children would be presented to Santa at Times Store where they would tell him what they wished for their Christmas and would receive a small gift (for a price of course).

These imported trees had a distinctive aroma which instinctively reminded one of Christmas. They, I think, were imported from Canada and were transported on refrigerated ships.

I can remember their coolness when they arrived at our supermarket which started from around the second week in December. We younger boys would be eager to help our older siblings in selling these trees. We would also devise ways to keep them fresher longer.

Three or so trees would be displayed on stands on the sidewalk of the supermarket in the morning when the sun would cast a shadow on them. Then around 1 p.m., we would take them to the back out of direct sunlight where we would spray them with water to prolong their freshness. Then around 4 p.m., the trees would be brought back for display.

I think that by the mid-'60s, the importation of Christmas trees was being discouraged and more and more local trees were placed on the market. To be honest, initially, these local trees were quite inferior and inadequate. Worse, they used to scratch and itch our hands.

In those days, upper Half-Way Tree Road was open for two-way traffic and the heavier than normal traffic, indicated by the cars lights in the dusky 5-6 p.m. period, signaled to us that Christmas was near and heightened our growing excitement.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to and