Recently, during the heat of the Portland Eastern by-election campaign the People’s National Party (PNP) candidate, Mr Damion Crawford, raised the issues of both class and race, while also making an ass of himself as it relates to gender. True to form, seemingly the entire nation has taken either umbrage with the statements or run with them as a rallying cry.

The statements from the former junior minister and current candidate have, it seemed, caused so much ire that letters have been written and long speeches given about how we in this country don’t see race, don’t have a racial issue and that our class biases are exaggerated at best and that persons who highlight these things are simply practising old school tear down politics.

This topic irritates me no end. It comes up, it seems, every year, and every year we go through the same ritual with persons explaining that yes, we do have a race and class issue while others shout that we don’t and that we must stop sowing discord. The topic is then put away after a few weeks, only to re-emerge later and with more vitriol.

This time however, it is even more disgusting because it is being done in a political setting, pitting one side as the defender of the poor and coloured while the other either says we have no problems or defends the rich and fair-skinned.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and that is what turns my stomach. This is not the 60s or 70s, the PNP is no saviour of the black man or the poor. Being real for a minute, this is the party which offers no economic alternative to what we are experiencing, and this is the party whose idea of a suitable crime reduction plan is to simply strengthen the powers which the police already have. What we have here is a politician backed by a party raising the legitimate issues of both race and class but not in a serious way, rather in a manner to appease the lizard brains we have as he and his party have offered no solutions to the very real (even if it is to him alone) issues.

We have heard ‘black man time come’; we have heard of love for the poor and yet we the people find ourselves both poorer, facing realities of first- and second-class citizens and in a more racially charged atmosphere than before. What more proof is needed than the epidemic levels of bleaching and the mass exodus of our best and brightest yearly to fields which aren’t even greener?

A land in the 21st century where an individual is treated as a lesser citizen due to skin colour and where a person who just enters the labour market has no real way to climb the ladder because of where they are born/reside or their first name is a land with a problem. It is made even more of an issue and gets more tense when politicians play with these issues to simply get elected.

So yes, to all the naysayers, race and class are burning issues in Jamaica and have been since 1838 when the slaves were freed with nowhere to go and no land to call their own. Race and class have been issues since 1865 when Bogle and Gordon were executed; race and class were central in 1938, 1972, and even today.

To Mr politician I say, what are you going to do about it? It’s nice to prance with a staff a la Manley, but what are you offering to combat or eliminate these issues? Cuthbert-Flyn has put up and showed that she is more than mouth by opening the abortion debate, even Mr Portland, whom I despise, has shown stomach with his pet cause of plastic regulation (both issues which affect all of us).

You who have been an MP and minister, party VP etc, what is your plan to end these stigmas? Will you, since you brought them up, fight to the bitter end to discontinue them, or is it just campaign talk? If it is the former and he intends to fight for economic justice (as that is the only way to end classism) and racial justice then that is brilliant and would show that he is not only a much-needed breath of fresh air in the PNP if they hope to regain power, but also for the nation as those issues, if addressed, could see us becoming a dominant player on many fronts as the internal warring would end. If it is the latter (and I fear that it may be) then raising these issues is both disingenuous and dangerous.

Disingenuous because he would be failing to take up this issue he has made a core topic and dangerous because there is always the very real possibility that a disenchanted individual takes matters into his/her own hands as a result of lack of action after such a heated campaign.

The class issue is intimately tied into the racial issue and they can’t be tackled until we acknowledge them. Why is it that the majority of the lower classes are black? Why is it that the police treat one murder suspect in one manner and another in a totally different manner simply because of their address? Why is it that the person from Johnathan Grant has issues getting into NMLS but the child of a QC has no issue? Why is it that the taximan is seen as the spawn of Satan while the private driver keeping up the same recklessness must be treated with discretion? All of these things take place in this nation, without an eyelid being flinched because we are long steeped in the twin cultures of racism and classism. It is why we squeal when the Government gives land to squatters but stay silent when local industrialists get massive tax breaks.

It would take forever and a day to convince those who think differently that these things are issues and I personally don’t have the patience as those persons only elicit rage. Instead, I beg Mr politician, since you chose to talk about these topics on the campaign trail, do, talk about them when you get into Parliament or when you go back to the Senate.

Don’t lead us up the garden path only to then do us like others. These issues are real and affect people’s lives every day. Tackle them or please shut up and leave them to persons who will tackle them.




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