On Saturday, July 12, 2014 Laurie-Ann Chin was crowned the 2014 Miss Jamaica World, and almost immediately there were some Jamaicans who voiced their dissatisfaction with the winner of the pageant. Although I did not view the pageant, I gathered from the vitriol posted online that the dissatisfaction stemmed not from how Laurie-Ann Chin conducted herself in the pageant, but rather her perceived ethnicity. A few seem dissatisfied that a contestant with a darker complexion was not chosen.
Some argued that there was an underlying prejudice within Jamaica towards darker skinned individuals. While others indicated that on many occasions a person of 100% black decent is the least likely to win the aforementioned competition.
While I do not disagree that some amount of racial prejudice exist in Jamaica, it is difficult for me to not see the irony of those expressing dissatisfaction at the winner solely based on her complexion and ethnicity. Laurie-Ann is a true representation of our motto, Out of Many, One People. For us to not embrace her as one of our own, is denying the credence of the motto we seem to hold in high regard. It is indeed ironic that many Jamaicans, if not all, seemed to have supported Tessanne Chin throughout her journey on NBC’s musical competition, The Voice. No one exclaimed (at least to my knowledge) that Tessanne Chin was less deserving of exposure because of her complexion or ethnic heritage. Why then are some Jamaicans so critical when a fellow Jamaican excels in a competition such as Miss Jamaica World? Is it possible that in some way those ridiculing Laurie-Ann Chin may feel inferior and seek to counter that sense of inferiority with an alleged notion of discrimination? Could it be that Jamaicans of color sense that they are mistreated by a system that allegedly marginalizes the most afro-centric of our society? If so, we must be fair in our assessment. As Jamaicans we must be careful to not counter discrimination by perpetuating discrimination against others. For some to allege that they feel Laurie-Ann Chin does not represent Jamaica, is to deny Laurie-Ann her rightful designation as a member of our diverse populace.
Perhaps we need to focus on self-hate within the black community. Why do a number of people within our diverse society choose to bleach the color of their skin? Why do we refer to people as having “good hair,” and “bad hair.” Why is it that we accept as common practice to call every person of Asian descent “Mr. and Mrs. Chin?” Why do we call those of indian descent “Mr. and Mrs. Singh?” Why do we use terms such as “Blaka,” to refer to an individual, almost derogatorily? When we stereotypically label a person we negate their individuality. We instead cast them into a group and label them as others; doing so is dangerous practice. Hate only begets more hate. We need to examine the fabric of our culture that allows us to continuously tear down each other, instead of uplifting our fellow country men and women.
I agree that we need to have a larger debate on race and race relations in Jamaica. To do so we must take an honest look at our colonial past and attitudes of Euro and Afro centrism as implanted within our society. That being said, I cannot support the ignorant among us who instead of having a meaningful discussion on the issue, choose to berate and degrade others. It is purported by some that the commenters in online discussion boards failed to realize that Laruie-Ann Chin is indeed of a dark brown complexion, and instead have reacted to the lighter image displayed in the photograph by the Jamaican-Gleaner. Regardless, the nature of the discussion is troubling.
Below are some of the most offensive comments posted in a Jamaica-Gleaner forum on Facebook. The names of the commenters have been removed to provide anonymity –
“Chinese again? I’m going to rename Jamaica Little China. American Idol (sic) winner Tess, Goat Island and now Ms. Jamaica?”
“Who these people from China?”
“For some reason they do not remind me of Jamaica, they remind me of Asia. #justwaying”
“Where is the black young woman? …”
“What happen to Jamiaca black girl, they not good enough why the mixed breed?”
We are all Jamaicans, and discussions about race and race relations should take place in a manner that is not destructive to others. We indeed live in a world that is plagued by hate and injustice, but in seeking a resolve, we must commit ourselves to higher values and equitable treatment of others. We must at the same time embrace the diversity which defines our beautiful island and not perpetuate hate towards our fellow men and women. I commend Laurie-Ann Chin on her win and know she will represent Jamaica well, because she truly embodies what it means to be Jamaican. Congrats Laurie!
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