Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Letter of the Day | Tweet could spark change

Published:Thursday | August 25, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The tweet was just plain crass, inappropriate and insensitive - let's be clear on that.

But it was a single tweet by a single individual in a land of 2.7 million. Why does it warrant so much attention when it has been condemned by everyone else, right from the get-go?

But even if the tweet had been endorsed by a million citizens, it would not have been the real issue.

After all, isn't the tweet a reflection of both the culture and the general uncertainty within our society on the matter of homosexuality at this time? Just think, when the tweet was first reported, one of the dailies called it a "controversial tweet". Why would it be "controversial" if the matter tweeted were so clear-cut?

Consider, too, that we have had similarly inappropriate comments made about citizens, even politicians, over and over again, which have not been 'called out'. This tells us that the noise on this single tweet may well be due to the fact that the comment was directed at an Olympic champion and headliner.

Why are we not similarly engaged when less accomplished citizens have been denigrated?

This single tweet by a single individual might be the wake-up call for the laws of the land to reflect the (real/new) desires of its people. In the absence of that alignment, or perhaps during the transition period, uncertainty will lead to controversy - basic change management thinking.

One might not be able to resolve the matter immediately since it is so deeply cultural, but much more can be done to sensitise everyone on the need to respect the choices and opinions of others. And for those who have made choices which are reflective of their own human rights, but which are different from the norms of the land, it is important to understand that it will take time for everyone to accept those choices. Dialogue helps - not dismissal nor condemnation nor violence.




This type of message would fit nicely into efforts to help us resolve issues through effective dialogue and not damaging arguments, even as the Government, through the ministries of culture, tourism and education, begins to sensitise our people on the basics of diversity and what constitutes good citizenship. The culture ministry, in particular, must develop a strategic role to shape our thinking, instead of just focusing on celebrating independence and sporting successes.

On the other hand, we should be aware that there are companies in Jamaica where a breach like this would never have happened, because of the robust processes in place to ensure employees are prepared to respect diversity. In this regard, the tweet might be a call to action for Jamaican companies on the whole - do you have the right policies in place, and how much training is done to ensure acceptance?

In the end, the single tweet by a single individual might be all we needed.

Vincent Gordon