Sat | Jul 2, 2022

Taylor in denial of Jamaica's rights abuses

Published:Monday | July 6, 2015 | 3:15 PM


In Sunday's Gleaner, Orville Taylor's 'Our human-rights history is better than America's' attempts to respond to American criticism of Jamaican human-rights abuses. He highlights a comment made by Jasmine Rand, representative for Trayvon Martin's family, criticising Jamaica's handling of Mario Deane's death.

Taylor frames himself a righter of wrongs; however, in his crusade to fill what he calls the "great knowledge vacuum" in America's understanding of Jamaican human rights, he is complicit in the same crimes against truth that he accuses Jasmine Rand.

Taylor's piece places two countries with legal and political histories that can hardly be compared under the pretext of objective analysis. The conclusion is short and sweet, "America wins." However, the conclusion of Taylor's piece can be restated as follows: "Jamaica's human rights record is terrible, but who cares if we can use America as a scapegoat?"

Taylor's article attacks America's human rights record on two main fronts: 1) scale of US law enforcement and mass incarceration; and 2) the non-democratic nature of US progress on human rights.

One of Taylor's main claims is that in America there is much less crime, yet police use disproportionately greater deadly force while also incarcerating more offenders. One can observe that Taylor uses simple criteria to foster a false superiority that attempts to deflect the Jamaican gaze away from local abuse.

Taylor claims that "someone seems to have rewritten American history and totally forgot that very little of it shows evidence of a national consensus in giving human and civil rights to its own citizens". In his retelling of American history, Taylor glosses over 200 years spanning the civil war, Brown v Board, and the assassination of Kennedy to provide force for his argument, all while staying silent on Jamaica's human-rights tragedies.

There is nothing to sneeze at when it comes to Jamaica's legacy of human-rights abuses. However, perhaps a more fitting statement is that there are no winners when attempting to compare countries with histories so intertwined with abuse and dehumanisation, only losers.

Jamaicans in denial need to be honest with themselves. Americans, likewise, need to do the same. Our first steps towards greater justice cannot be "we are bad but look at the other guy".

We cannot afford to focus on others while obscuring our introspective gaze.


Senior Fellow, The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network and Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought