Tue | May 30, 2023

Lascelve Graham | The prejudice of skin colour in Jamaica

Published:Thursday | January 27, 2022 | 12:06 AMLascelve Graham/ - Guest Columnist

IT IS surprising, if not shocking, alarming, to find someone of a lighter skin colour functioning at the lower socio-economic levels in Jamaica. Why is this? Is it as stated by one of the persons who commented on my previous article that, “It is a historical fact that the lighter coloured races have been at the top of the achievement ladder when compared with Africans.”

It is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I wonder if that is the case regarding the commentator above, who has a very myopic view of history, and seems sincerely ignorant of the fact that history did not begin with the rise of the Europeans. His error is understandable, since ‘historical fact’ so often has been fabrication, or simply told from the perspective of the historian. Until the lion writes history, every story will glorify the hunter. So frequently, the facts have been westernised, lied about, twisted, distorted, warped by sins of omission and commission, propagandised and hidden beneath a cloud of deception. It is often difficult to arrive at and disseminate truth and so, the common man continues to be bathed in, brainwashed and manipulated by, the distortions and machinations of the powerful. The status quo thrives.

For example, many of us know about the mathematician Pythagoras and the theorems for which he is credited. However, not many are aware that Pythagoras learned his mathematics in Africa and that the triplets that were popularised through him were already being used in Africa, and in fact were used in the building of the pyramids by the Egyptians. All the equations and algorithms of mathematics use basic mathematical operations that were discovered, invented, created, developed in Ishango at the heart of Africa in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This happened thousands of years before the building of the first pyramid in Egypt! The invention of the computer and computer coding was possible because of the knowledge that was discovered and developed in Africa before being adopted in Europe. These are just a couple of the tremendous accomplishments, achievements of Africans that have been suppressed, obliterated, plagiarised, stolen from Africans by Europeans by way of their propaganda and lies … cultural appropriation.

In this day and age, when the capitalist system of the Western world idolises wealth, how many are aware of Mansa Musa, the Emperor of Mali, an African, who has been ranked as the richest man who ever lived and whose empire, which was extensive and included Timbuktu, one of the major centres of learning of the time, existed between 1235 and 1670? Space and time, of course, will not permit my expanding on this theme, but books have been written about the many achievements of dark skin people.


The commenter also accepts the concept of “races”… biologically, physiologically unmixable, distinguishable groups of people, although this has no basis in science. It is a lie that races exist! Added to the above, although, there are so many examples throughout history that refute the idea of inferior or superior races, in spite of the evidence to the contrary, the racists persist.

In Jamaica, as exemplified by the commenter, the skin colour bias is as strong as ever. Lighter skin privilege and a feeling of entitlement by such people are par for the course. The plantation mentality, attitude and prejudices still govern our approach to each other. The line from slavery is still intact, unbroken! Because of the ruthless, brutal suppression of the facts and the relentless onslaught of over 400 years of physical, psychological, psychosocial pummelling, by Europeans and their allies, many dark skin people, including those in Jamaica, have succumbed to the hype, the yarn, the lie that they are inferior, less than their light skin brothers and sisters, and have acted accordingly. Many yearn to get out of their dark skins, attempting so to do in different ways, including, e.g., bleaching, since “nutten black no good”. The brainwashing has been thorough, and the self-hate it has generated is palpable! Consequently, many successful dark skin persons are only too happy to act as headmen used to in times of slavery, do everything they can to delineate, separate themselves from the dark skin group. They are as harsh, deprecating, apathetic and unforgiving of this group as any European is, in order to ingratiate themselves and curry favour with the lighter skin fraternity. Therefore, the concerns of the dark skin majority are not priorities and are kicked down the road until such time. Hence, in Jamaica, skin colour prejudice in politics manifests primarily as acts of omission, with government essentially dragging its feet in dealing with the horrible conditions in which masses of dark skin people find themselves. Things are just allowed to deteriorate. Amelioration happens at snail’s pace!

Consequently, e.g., there is no urgency, will to making the type of investment required in education, although there have been commissions, myriad in-depth studies and research which all say essentially the same thing and make similar recommendations. This notwithstanding the fact that quality education and socialisation would have a profound positive impact on all areas of our society, including crime!

There is no urgency to dealing with land reform and housing, although the business of squatting continues to be denounced. What are the people to do, given that this is another bequest from slavery? Nobody would live on gully banks if they had a choice. But again, this affects the dark skin masses, who got no compensation for slavery, and very few choices. I could go on but I don’t think I have to. Just look around at the areas of neglect, the markets, the roads to small farmers’ lands (which of course are of questionable quality, unsuitable location, and for which the majority have no titles … again gifts from slavery) etc.


In Jamaica, the colour blindness rhetoric of the white supremacists is strongly promoted, especially by light skin people and their acolytes who insist that dark skin people stop complaining, stop agitating, stop being activists for change, justice, forget about colour and how it has been used to enrich some and disenfranchise others, forget the past, forget slavery and move on from here, with each taking personal responsibility and pulling himself/herself up by his/her own bootstraps!

The colour blindness approach attempts cleverly to hide, disguise colour prejudice under the cloak of “it’s a class thing”. Of course, not surprisingly, the lower socio-economic groups and darker skin people are one and the same. It’s a sleight of hand, a trick designed to lull the discriminated against into a sense of nonchalance, complacency. It’s a decoy, a distraction to induce the letting down of one’s guard, one’s taking his/her eyes off the ball. It’s a ploy to shift one’s focus, to lead one off the trail. It’s a red herring! It is also a way to co-opt the more successful dark skin persons, unwittingly to the light skin agenda. This group also tends to explain, disparagingly, anything unacceptable that the suffering masses of dark skin people do, as “their culture”, as they continue to stigmatise, devalue darker skin, and enhance the value of lighter skin. They conveniently forget, refuse to acknowledge that the economic and other deficiencies which force these people to live the wretched lives bequeathed them by slavery would elicit similar behaviour from any people. They have no interest in, and hence turn a blind eye to the fact that changing their environment, circumstances would change their responses, actions, outcomes.

The rise of the Europeans has been a bitter pill for dark skin people to swallow. They have laid waste Africa and have had their knees on the neck of Africa and Africans. However, empires rise and fall. China is on the horizon. Africa will breathe again. Dark skin people will rise … again!

Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham, former captain, senior Jamaica football team. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.