Such an interesting, well articulated and factual article… I had to read it twice. I completely agree with every word you have written and as the wife of a Jamaican Rasta, I witness this behaviour on a daily basis. I live in a middle class, middle aged, middle minded, very right wing town in Kent and when I first met my partner 8 years ago, he was very much the only black person in the town, whilst things have changed and thankfully our town has become so much more diverse, I still witness the scenarios you describe. However, I want to flip the script and explain how I am perceived in my partner’s world as a white woman dating a black man… I too, have be on the receiving end of many of the reactions you have mentioned above not only when I visit Jamaica but when I am in the UK but amongst my partner’s peers. The women treat me with utter contempt and dis-respect, they are rude and often physical in trying to oust me from his company and the men treat me like a white woman who just “wants a bit of black” as they unceremoniously put it. Despite the fact that my partner is an educated man with his own income and independence, they chose to believe he is only with me for money, they cannot fathom why a man — born and raised in a downtown Kingston ghetto would want a middle class, blonde female for any other reason than money. When I go to Jamaica, I too am forced to amend my demeanor and adjust my behaviour… Here, I am an independent woman, I have a full time professional job, two children and a mortgage to sustain. I work within an extremely male dominated industry and run a team of men only, so I would be considered a ‘strong female’, something that would bring embarrassment and considered dis respectful to my partner in Jamaica. We are building a house together out there and he and I agree on things jointly but only he would be listened to by our architect and builders… I plumbed in my own dishwasher here but in Jamaica I am not allowed to even pick up a paintbrush as it would again bring embarrassment to my partner. Because in JA white people are considered wealthy, I am harassed for money constantly, constantly! Begged for the clothes off my bag by strangers… I give away every item that I have traveled with and every spare penny I have, every single time I go away. I am addressed as ‘WHITEY’ by friends and strangers alike — I get shouted at from across the road whilst I am walking ‘Whitey whitey I beg you a dollar’ ‘Whitey whitey, marry me’, ‘Browning, you like black men’… If a white person were to address a black person with such a greeting, all hell would break lose and a racism case would ensue! The men seem to think that I am fair game for ‘any black man’ and the women are rude to me. I have to watch the way I speak to people, I downplay my independence, I always speak to everyone I meet with a smile and friendly words so that I am not thought of as a white woman who thinks she is superior, I always eat the food I am provided and never shop for ‘white food’, I support local road side traders instead of going to restaurants and supermarkets… I do everything I can to ensure that people know that I respect them and their culture and do not by any means consider myself superior to them, because I don’t. I seem to be drawn in to conversations regarding white/black history, asked my opinions, almost blamed entirely for every bit of race related behaviour since the world began…
Once again, I empathize with every word in this article because I witness this behaviour from white people toward black, brown, mixed race people but I wanted to say, that I too experience the same racism/prejudice/judgement from the other side of the coin. This said, I love Jamaica — I just have to understand the culture and their mentality and adjust myself accordingly and hope that my inter-racial relationship sets a good example to white and black people alike and that I try to change the world a little by bringing my two children up to accept people as people regardless of the colour of their skin. I cannot be blamed for the pain that black people have encountered at the hands of the white over history but I can try to make a difference to the future.
Comfort — I am now following you and I look forward to reading more of your articles