Letters to the Editor

Complexion misconceptions

Friday, February 24, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

A few years ago, I sat among some young ladies listening as a Jamaican Anthropology student shared her visit to Ghana. Among the many things she shared, one thing that remains riveted in my mind is the writing on one of the slave caves which, she said, read 'Thank God for slavery; because it is as a result of that that we now have English'.

There is no denying that there are some distinct advantages to being fluent in what is now considered a global language. At the same time, to celebrate the 'gift' of English against an experience as heinous as slavery demonstrates the exaggerated pinnacle upon which the writer, much like many Jamaicans, places English... even to the point of rejecting that which is indigenous — our own language, a representation of our own pride, history and uniquely crafted identity.

Similarly, many continue to view with scorn and disdain our black skin tones, rejecting what is, to them, the historical symbol of ignorance, backwardness and worthlessness, representations of servitude that are only suitable to pay homage to the upper class whites.

These are all misconceptions that were established during slavery. Today, some of us have managed to rip that lie from our minds, and are not only able to wear this black linen with pride, but have designed a new tagline; one which bears the themes strength, dominance, persistence, perseverance and beauty.

Now, from a new vantage point, we watch with pain as our sisters and brothers bleach this beautiful black garment, all in a frustratingly futile attempt to wear that which they were never designed to wear in the first instance. This signals the extent to which the yet enslaved mind is still willing to don the ill-fitting outfit at the expense of even permanently damaging the million dollar garment we were freely given.

It is unfortunate that ever so often we, the 'freed' ones, are the same people who force our fellowmen to 'bleach' our language.

Am I saying let us forget about English? Of course, not! But as we have seen in many countries, people are inherently capable of learning and speaking up to five languages when they cannot have more than one complexion. So ultimately the question is, why forget about Jamaican Creole (Patwa) and only embrace English, when we can and should have them both?

Many have accused our language, Jamaican, of impeding the learning of English. Those knowledgeable of the facts have tirelessly explained the fallacy in this argument, and have shown where pedagogy and methodology, which are in keeping with Jamaica's language situation, would tremendously aid the cause. Unfortunately, some of us seem to have taken the position, "I've made up my mind; don't confuse me with facts!"

Jamaican (Creole) is often classified as backward, although no language, in and of itself, can ever be backward. It is seen as vulgar, though no language is ever inherently vulgar. It is categorised as unintelligent, yet our sound proverbs evidently bear the wisdom of our grandparents and their parents.

Our complexion must be viewed through unshackled minds this Black History Month as we celebrate Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence.

Tash Francis





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