Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Letter Of The Day | Ghetto Lives Matter

Published:Saturday | July 16, 2016 | 7:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

As a result of the recent incidents in the US that involved protests against police killings of two black men and then the shooting of 11 police officers in Dallas, killing five, there have been heated debates about the value of a movement like 'Black Lives Matter'. It is almost predictable that support for and against the group would largely fall along racial lines in the US, but I was heartened to see many whites coming out in support of the movement, understanding that the slogan 'Black Lives Matter' does not mean 'Only Black Lives Matter'.

Evangelical short-sightedness (and by the way I am an Evangelical, just not of the American strain) has caused many to have too narrow a view of violence.

In Jamaica, large masses of poor people grow up in informal settlements without the very basics for living. At the same time, the minority who thrive do so at the poor's expense, using them as a cheap labour source on which to make their profits. The poor do not earn enough to properly care for their children, awaiting the kindness of the State. What do we expect these people to do when they are faced with desperation each day?

The empty religion that fails to address these injustices says that our people must repent, pray to God, and await their deliverance. It is only then that we will see a decline in violence in our communities. However, reality tells us that structural injustice foments the seeds of rebellion, and it is this rebellion that we often call crime.

We had better realise that the seeming imploding of the great USA is also telling the stories of our Jamaican inner cities. One day they will be sensational enough to gain the same sort of negative worldwide attention.

 

BLAME GAME

 

As western Jamaica explodes in murder and violence, and murders in western Kingston go unabated, it is an easy thing to lay the blame right at the cold hearts of the perpetrators and then celebrate when even the innocent are slaughtered by the police. No one, not even the Church in general, consistently speaks out against the systemic injustice that foments our people's desperately wicked acts.

We must address these injustices, as well as the prevailing joblessness that is the main reward for years of study. Hopeless people become destructive to themselves and others, and morality becomes an afterthought when accessing the few opportunities that exist as a way forward, no matter how tainted those opportunities are.

We had better acknowledge that until those structural issues and our prejudices are addressed, we are not likely to see a decrease in violence in our land. And, unfortunately, our politicians do not possess the moral authority to lead that process.

The Church, if it has the moral authority it claims it has, in conjunction with well-thinking Jamaicans, should lead a national dialogue on the phenomenon that is the Jamaican inner city, with the aim of working towards bettering conditions of living for our people's sakes.

As we call men and women to repentance, we should also call a spade a spade and exorcise the demons of community disenfranchisement that create the hellholes in which so many of our brothers and sisters live. After all, Ghetto Lives Matter.

DAVID PEARSON

Academic Dean

Jamaica Theological Seminary