Mon | Dec 9, 2019

Orville Taylor | Two wrongs never make it right

Published:Sunday | July 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM

For all the controversies surrounding pastors and even the Pope, there is a deep Christian principle that I believe governs and should be universally applicable to how we deal with those with whom we have disputes or those who have done us harm.

The first principle is that when a wrong is committed, especially when it involves physical harm to others, there must be recognition to the victim that one has done so. Second, the perpetrator must attempt to make it right, either by an apology, if the offence is a minor one, or monetary or other economic restitution.

That is why I am big on reparation, and I believe that all of the nations in the World Cup, which have committed historical human-rights violations against others, must man up, say sorry, and make amends.

This includes the treatment of the Finns by the Swedes, the atrocities committed against the indigenous populations in Latin America, and, of course, enslavement of Africans and the horrors perpetrated after Emancipation by almost all Western European countries. Indeed, England seems to have had a Windrush of memory and has reprised this malice. Thus, increasing the debt that esteemed historians like Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles and Professor Verene Shepherd, of my plantation, the University of the West Indies, have long argued, is owed to us. Therefore, rather than pretending that hateful things never took place in history. This is important because it is only by acknowledging that we have done wrong that we can make it right.

However, there is a right way to have our grievance heard and resolved, and nothing empowers us to show hatred, or try to foment or initiate any act of violence against anyone. Doubtless, during slavery, violence would have been justified every time in trying to defend our rights, but nothing empowers now to try to burn down the plantation after the fact.


We never push hate


To the credit of Jamaicans, despite the recognition of the evils carried out against black people by some of the ancestors of our neighbours who still live here, even when we remember these atrocities during Emancipation and Heroes Day celebrations, we never push hate to incite violence.

In the midst of the World Cup, we saw history and its effects being played out right here in New Kingston. A video clip began circulating on social media, and what is strange is that the very first one that made the rounds showed an innocent man of limited melanin, with all the trappings of the privileged classes, being victimised.

This man, apparently standing his ground and trying to leave through a closed gate, seemed to be detained against his will by a set of private citizens dressed in garb that looked like the constabulary - but they were not.

Then, this poor man, while defending his right to leave, had to confront a very serious woman, who seemed to know him very well because she described him in intimate and personal terms, addressing him by an affectionate feline-sounding nickname.

From out of the blue, actually it was turquoise, a man who watches too many Blacky Chan and Jet Black Li movies sought to 'chuck' on to him. A mÍlÈe ensued, and with the man on top of him, the lesser-pigmented man, still ringing from the title given to him by the lady, discharged his tool of violence and in the background, the attacker, still walking, was pronounced dead by an amateur videographer.

Incidents that involve the potential of one person to do physical harm to another are guided by very strict and lucid rules. Where an individual has a firearm, there is a use-of-force policy that every legal gunman/woman needs to know like the back of his/her fists. It also helps when someone who thinks that he has a grudge or plausible reason to attack.

A firearm holder is very much like a feline, whether a little pussycat or a black panther. One bad move towards it and you die in an instant. If a would-be attacker is facing down the holder of the weapon, a warning of "Do not approach me!" is a good first step. However, if you pounce and blindside him, you had better succeed because the assumption is that you intend to disarm him and he has every right to out your light.

It is important here to understand that unless the person with the firearm is a criminal and in the process of committing a crime, or has committed one and you are trying to apprehend him in order to prevent him from harming others, you have no protection if you jump him and get killed. Moreover, it is totally irrelevant that he might have done you harm 20 years earlier or just a few minutes ago. In a modern post-Mosiac society, vengeance belongs to the Lord or to the courts.

Tape showing the physical confrontation with the armed guards - his being disarmed, handcuffed, and kicked - speaks for itself. My only word there is that security companies get what they pay for because for years, I have written about security workers being mistreated under their spurious contracts. There is copious scientific evidence that abused people replicate abusive behaviour, so nothing here surprises me.

Of course, later leaked video seems to suggest that the 'victim' in the suit, who shot in self-defence, might have participated in some activity that led to the eventual gunshot victim being hurt. Footage shows the latter being accompanied by the firearm holder with the feline nickname and another man into the security hut and the door closed. It is yet unknown what exactly transpired there. However, the fellow came out looking like the German, Argentine, and Brazilian teams who were soundly beaten.

Like the reparation issue, I want a full investigation of this incident because despite the fracas and other things that transpired, it looks like there is a lot of wrong to share for everyone.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to and