Dear Winston, we fool fe true
Winston Dear, Montego Bay businessman, in a Letter of the Day 'Outameni slavery theme won't woo tourists' stated that although the attraction is 'historically accurate' it is not appealing to the average visitor because 'slavery is a subject that makes white people uncomfortable'. He, therefore, quoted approvingly Ras Astor Black, perennial independent political candidate, 'you cannot sell the story of our slavery to the very people who are accused of enslaving us' (November 17).
Apart from the Ras, what other survey has been done to substantiate the claim that Caucasian tourists are not interested in slavery? I recall many businessmen supporting the argument for casinos claiming they will be a big money earner. However, The Don Anderson Poll of 2004 about the viability of Jamaica hosting a Jamaica Music Revue found that when cruise-ship and stop-over visitors in Jamaica were asked what other facilities they would like to be associated with this musical treat, no one said casinos.
The pro-casino lobby is ignorant of what happened in Britain in 2004 concerning casinos. When the Tony Blair government introduced a bill on gambling, which Blair claims was to better regulate the gambling industry, the opponents claimed that it would lead to the proliferation of casinos and attendant ills. All the major newspapers in the United Kingdom, the Small Gamblers Business Association and 90 per cent of the British public opposed this bill!
Where is the data on what tourists want and not want? I would have thought that perhaps British people whose forebears enslaved us would be uncomfortable, but why would people from the United States (US) who are the majority of our tourists be? The US was colonised by Britain, so we should have an affinity. Why would Canadians be uncomfortable with slavery? Interestingly, there are persons in Britain who think highly of our National Hero Sam Sharpe, so much so that there was recently the 3rd Annual Sam Sharpe Lecture in Bristol, England. In addition, Larry Kreitzer, University of Oxford lecturer, has written a booklet on Sharpe titled Kissing the Book for which I did the foreword. Jamaica does not have a Sam Sharpe Lecture Series or a church named after Sharpe. Perhaps we are the ones uncomfortable with our slavery past, hence some years ago, a leading senator and churchman opposed the celebration of Emancipation and the reinstatement of August 1 as a holiday.
Furthermore, there is the idea that Emancipation liberated both the enslaved and the enslavers, and the enlightened perspective is that Emancipation humanised the enslavers.
Using Dear's logic then, East Germans will not visit where the Berlin Wall was; Japanese will not visit Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, and Christians will not visit the Holocaust museum in Israel. Is this really so?
Another implication of this reasoning would be that Jamaicans should not want to retain the Queen of England as our head of State because her forebears abused people of African origin and benefited financially from slavery. Jamaicans should not want to retain the Privy Council as our final court since it was at British hands our forebears suffered injustice, had no rights and were deemed to be non-human.
Rev Henry Bleby, missionary, who witnessed the 1865 Native Baptist War, said that protestors were known for their restraint. Those who were formerly enslaved forgave quickly and freely, and scholars such as Abigail Bakan feel that the oppressed were too accommodating to former oppressors.
Dear Winston, we fool fe true to erect attractions that no visitor wants, and we are so forgiving that we continue to relate well to former oppressors and their institutions.
Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.