Fri | Sep 29, 2023

Too many black children with bad hair

Published:Monday | September 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Michael Abrahams

A few years ago my wife and I visited a cafe in St. Andrew with the intention of having lunch. After entering the small building, I attempted to get the attention of the two dark skinned Jamaican ladies working behind the counter as we approached it.

However, they appeared to look right through us and beckoned to a white lady standing a few feet behind me, asking her if they could be of any assistance. While still standing at the counter, being ignored, another white woman entered the establishment through the door to our right. Immediately, before she could even approach the counter, she was asked what she wanted.

All this time, we were still standing there, like a pair of transparent statues, as the ladies behind the counter attended to their Caucasian customers. Annoyed by the abovementioned goings on, I finally secured the attention of one of the servers and requested an audience with the manager.

I registered my disgust with him, saying that it is one thing to be discriminated against in a geographic location like the Deep South in the United States, but experiencing this in my own country from my own people was extremely disappointing, and although he apologized and invited us to stay, we left.

We still have a colour problem in this country. The white folks did a great number on us, at least those of us who are black. You have to give them credit for that. First, they purchased us in Africa and enslaved us. Then, they convinced us that their religion was the "right religion", and furnished accompanying imagery to cement the concept that all the righteous and holy people in the history of the World were white, while informing us that God was quite okay with the concept of slavery.

I remember avidly reading my grandmother's illustrated Bible as a child. Jesus Christ and all the biblical heroes and heroines, as well as all the angels were melanin deprived. Nobody in that book looked even remotely like me. And when I went to church, all the paintings, statues, figurines and stained glass images were of Western European-looking Caucasians.

Then, on television, most of the black characters that I saw were maids, butlers and servants working for white folks, or criminals or persons who were not well educated. And in the toy stores, most of the dolls and action figures were also white.

Being bombarded with all this white imagery, not surprisingly, had an effect on my developing brain, and I remarked to my mother and my father one day that I would never marry a black woman. My parents immediately decided to do something to knock that mentality out of my head.

I soon found myself on an airplane bound for Miami, my first foreign trip.
We stayed at a hotel, and on the morning after our arrival there was a knock on the door, with the person identifying herself as the maid. When my father opened the door, I was shocked out of my mind to see that the maid was a white woman, there to serve us, black people! I am grateful to my parents for that experience, as it was essential in helping me to understand that I am inferior to no one based on the colour of my skin.

Unfortunately, many of us did not grow up in households with that mindset, and the perpetuation of white or light skin superiority persists in many quarters. Shadism is still prevalent, like a cancer that has malignantly infiltrated the psyche of far too many Jamaicans.

Statements such as "anyting too black cyaan good" and concepts like "good hair" versus "bad hair" are too alive and well. Bleaching is commonplace, as is the wearing of wigs, weaves and extensions which give women a more Eurocentric look, while the more Afrocentric dreadlocks are banned in our constabulary force. Another interesting observation is the fact that, in a predominantly black country such as ours, one of our two major political parties has never been led by a dark skinned person.

A couple of years ago an acquaintance of mine related a story about someone she knew whose son passed the GSAT examination for a leading co-ed school in St. Andrew, but lamented that she had to move him because "too many black children" were there.

What was even more disturbing, was finding out that I actually know the person, and that she happens to be black herself, but light skinned, and that her son's complexion is darker than hers. Ironically, I know several dark skinned Jamaicans who are married to foreign Caucasians who have no problem with their complexion, while they would be rejected by some of their own fellow black Jamaicans for being "too black".

Marcus Garvey must be spinning in his grave like a propeller. Yes, things are better than they were at independence, but it will be difficult for us to progress unless these remnants of slavery and colonialism are obliterated. We must emancipate ourselves from this type of mental slavery and truly embrace our motto, "Out Of Many, One People".

Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist   and obstetrician,  comedian and poet. Email feedback to and, or tweet  @mikeyabrahams.