Locating our Internalised Hate
Kalina Collier taught us an important lesson, that social media in its democratising power has given multiple individuals multiple platforms to create and curate narratives about whatever and whomever they like. This has led to era-defining moments in the last decade including the proliferation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the cancelling of R. Kelly, and within the Jamaican landscape, the rise of the “articulate minority”.
Within the moment of Kalina Collier is a lesson about who and what is readily believed and why. She is but one of myriad of examples of people who use their privileged positionalities within the social media space (malleable and shifting though that may be) to craft stories about an other – in this case an entire country. Using that positionality, she told a story about being kidnapped/trafficked in a developing country and needing help, mobilising support and sympathy from others. This has turned out to be false.
Believe the Worst First
We did not all believe her but there has been a penchant within Jamaica Twitter to believe the worst of Jamaica – whether its the Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic or the ability of our media practitioners to do investigative journalism. Nothing need be said of the now debunked notion of Jamaica being the most homophobic place on Earth.
There is a tendency among many of us to latch onto narratives about how tragic we, as a developing nation that is just about to become 60 in its self-governance, are even though we have many indicia of progress that even some developed countries do not have. For example, it is not well known that not all states in America recognise unmarried heterosexual relationships – which generally has negative impact on unmarried women in relationships – a problem Jamaica fixed in 2005. Our stability in Governance and our press freedom deserve much respect given what has obtained in many other places. INDECOM, though born out of a disturbing and shameful tragedy, is one of the few entities of its kind in the world which facilitates oversight of the armed forces.
These are all powerful achievements in governance and nation-building without reference to being dubbed the Sprint Capital of the World, the world renown of Reggae and an unmistakable and vibrant culture – even with all of its problems.
So why are there so many among us who insist on believing the worst about Jamaica and its capacity to become a better version of itself?
Locating our Hate
We can talk about Jamaica’s homophobia, but we do not need to pretend that parts of Eastern Europe weren’t erecting “LGBT free” zones.
We can talk about the excesses of our politicians without pretending that the British Parliament did not spend the better part of four years in disarray in a sordid mismanagement of Brexit.
We can talk about the failures of our public health system without pretending that access to healthcare isn’t a major roadblock in the USA, where half of the government vehemently resisted the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and tried to repeal it and that the United Kingdom has not royally mismanaged the COVID-19 crisis. This is not to make excuses for our leaders. We must challenge them, we must agitate but in the same way I told a room full of Brits that we do not need to be savages for them to provide support to us. I am suggesting to us Jamaicans that Jamaica does not need to be a shithole country for us to talk about its problems.
Maybe… just maybe… we can spend sometime locating our disdain for Jamaica and its leaders in the years of colonial rule that taught us that nothing homegrown is good enough and that we must always look outside for anything of value. Maybe the global system of neocolonialism and neo-imperialism has sold us all to well on ideas of the greener grasses in the Global North so much so that we miss all the productive possibilities within Jamaica, and the ones we can help to cultivate.
Perhaps, rather than dreaming of living in a US coastal city where you’ll likely be relegated to a dead end job and battling the racism of every other Karen (and the police on her speed dial) that sees you as a threat… you can dream of a better Jamaica and while you critique vociferously, you can begin to lay the foundation of stronger nation.
Glenroy is an LGBT rights activist, human rights defender and a co-creator of the FishTea Podcast.