Wed | Dec 6, 2023

Racial discrimination alive and well in Jamaica

Published:Tuesday | February 7, 2023 | 12:41 AM


Carolyn Cooper’s column, ‘Servant’s quarters for some visitors to Devon House’, published in The Sunday Gleaner, February 5, certainly rings true for me. On a visit to Jamaica a few years ago, I needed the services of a hairdresser. A friend made an appointment for “a woman from Canada”. When I showed up, the hairdresser, who looked white, stopped me in my tracks and said she didn’t have time to do my hair. It seems as if she was not expecting a black woman when she heard “Canada”.

I could not believe that this had happened in my country. I was so angry. On a recent visit, I had a similar experience at the restaurant of an upscale hotel. There was supposed to be fish on the buffet, but the person in front of me had taken the last piece. I asked the woman who was serving if there was any more. She said, “No!” I was moving along slowly, so I was able to see and hear two white men ask the same black server if there was any more fish. She told them in a pleasant voice that she would go and get some more! I complained to the manager on duty, a black woman, who listened empathetically and dealt with the issue very well.

In Canada, both the hairdresser and the server would have been slapped with a human-rights complaint. There does not appear to be any similar protections against racial discrimination in Jamaica.

Why do some white and black Jamaicans feel entitled to discriminate against black people? In the 21st century, Jamaican society is not moving forward with a strong human-rights orientation and accompanying implementation strategy.