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Letter of the Day | Treat everyone equally, irrespective of skin colour

Published:Saturday | March 25, 2023 | 12:12 AM


Among Jamaican youth today, there are two obviously prevalent notions I would like to see disappear. First, that white people in Jamaica (native or foreign) are (or should ever be) treated as if they were the privileged aristocrats. Second, that migration to another country is a realistic solution to solve the problems of one’s own country and therefore of one’s own life.

In the first instance, the real question is: aren’t we all showing great disrespect for our own colour and race by suggesting our like-minded neighbours aren’t capable of treating persons of another race or colour fairly and of judging them solely by the content of their character and the worth of their actions?

In the second, from long observation and personal experience, I can tell you that migration entails a far more serious set of considerations than most people are prepared to deal with.

When I worked at Ferncourt High School in St Ann in 1991-92, though I was one of only two “white” people at the school, I can’t remember anyone treating me differently. Some even treated me with disdain and discrimination. As a teacher and an expatriate, if I remember, I had to work hard to earn the respect of my peers, perhaps even harder than most other teachers.

One day early in the school year, I brought a small motor scooter and rode it through Claremont. As I came through the centre of town, a group of rude boys accosted me, running in front of me, blocking my path. I slowed down, turned around and parked in front of the restaurant/rum shop where these characters were hanging out. I took off my helmet, showed the whole town I was a white man, and slowly walked up to the largest of the toughs.

“Do you know who I am, I mean, besides being a white man?” I asked him.

“No, sah.” All seemed a little surprised at my behaviour. The noise around me in the close little community abated.

“Do you know Ferncourt School?”

“Yes, sah.”

“Mi sistah go a Ferncourt,” added one of the other youth.

“Well, my name is Mister McCoy and I am now a math teacher at Ferncourt.”

“Mi sorry, sah,” he said slowly in front of his group. Their heads dropped. They knew very well what their community thought of teachers, regardless of their colour, and I knew they hadn’t expected such ‘brave action’ from a white man, teacher or tourist.

At that point, I took him and a few others in the group inside and bought beers all around. Among all the residents of Claremont, word circulated that the new math teacher had taken down the “rude boys” and, with that action, I knew I had earned quite a few local parents’ respect. From that day on, my legend spread, and, in their eyes, I was now a “Jamaican” and so I was to be treated like one.

After a few months, when travelling around about the north coast, “Tink me tourist?” became one of my favourite local expressions.

I remember that particular year was one of the hardest, if not most rewarding, years of my entire teaching career. So, for Jamaica’s young people today, I warn them don’t short-change your people – and don’t even think of migrating to another country unless you really know what you’re doing.


Bokeelia, Florida