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‘Simple’ utterances can have volatile effects

Published:Friday | March 31, 2023 | 12:43 AM


In all of the furore about Nigel Clarke’s controversial description of Mark Golding, I find it interesting that it appears as if The Speaker of the House had no issue with racist and potentially inciteful comments like ‘Massa Mark’ and ‘slave master’. However, the Jamaican parlance, ‘Shut yuh mouth’, was deemed to be unparliamentary. If Mrs. Brown-Burke had said, ‘Don’t speak and let me talk’, would it have been unparliamentary? Is the Jamaican language not good enough for Parliament?

From all the comments in the media, it appears that the ‘Massa Mark’ comment has received more attention and condemnation (and rightfully so) than ‘Shut yuh mouth’. In Jamaica, ‘Shut yuh mouth’ is just another unremarkable command. It is often uttered in a variety of circumstances, not all of which are considered hostile and ‘unparliamentary’. It could be a friendly warning to someone to not say a word; be careful!

Racism and discrimination are unconstitutional and against our motto, ‘Out of many one people’. Racist comments are unacceptable not only in Jamaica, but across the world. It does not matter if Mr. Clarke did not have racist intentions. Regardless of the context in which the language appeared, it is racist if it is perceived to be racist. Hence, it was in that context that Mr. Warmington hastened to remark, “He is a descendant of a slave master.”

The world is hearing what Jamaican parliamentarians have to say and where Jamaica is going (moving backwards). The learned and parochial parliamentarians seem not to be aware that simple statements like these, especially in our volatile and bloodthirsty society, with youths whose brains are not fully developed, who have no understanding of life and who have unlimited access to guns, can be inciteful. These youths simply wait for opportunities like these to motivate them and give them purpose.

Every lightly hued Jamaican should be afraid when such utterances are made by elected officials and more so when made in Parliament. Let us remember that the Rwanda genocide and the expulsion of Indians from Uganda all started with statements made in a similar vein. Is it far-fetched to think that this could happen in Jamaica?