This month our regular columnist By Philip Dinham writes a commentary on "Brutality, Gender and Race" as it relates to generation x and men.
Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Brutality Gender Race Part 1

Michael Manley, in 1990 led Jamaicans into liberalization of the Jamaican economy. The free-market capitalist system was unveiled as Jamaica’s most viable alternative for survival in a brave new world marching to a beat of change. The crumbling of communism and release of Nelson Mandela from prison would precede the end of racial apartheid in Southern Africa and heralded much promise for new ideas and opportunities for us black youths or so we thought.

Today Y2k3, since those revolutionary times, Generation “X” as we have been called, has become seasoned locally and internationally. We, the youngest in the workforce are now among the largest of the age groups to be unemployed. Lest we forget, by the time we were finished with high school the typewriter was obsolete, re-engineering, globalization and the New World Order were the buzz- words on the lips of employers and public officials.

G2kX’ers have witnessed waves of bankruptcy, which have buried old Jamaican institutions over and over, again and again. Yet we watch and assess the cost of global cult invasions and the communication revolutions of technologies as they alter and damage our social structures as a community. Unlimited surfing through the internet cultural revolution has given the X’ers Generation a new name, “Net-gener” or “Cyber-jamming” yute.

Yet, the Jamaicans who have lived through Jamaica’s third turning since Independence have since been forced to prepare for a fourth turning in Jamaica’s cycle of regeneration, the experts are forecasting it to be the most difficult so far.

It has been reported countless times, that the new era has been presenting a fierce direct challenge to the survival of the Jamaican masculine identity. The carnage of noble men of the yard race have caused many law abiding black parents of the “Diaspora” to begin telling their children to live in constant despair. Fear, insult and injury among fellow brethren has escalated into a distrust of the police and other law enforcement official and this has left the Island in complete chaos.

Who Colt The Game?
Counter accusations continue to flare up with each day, stealing the headliners in media and at stage shows, young Jamaican men in the prime of their lives are thus increasingly uncertain about there future. They may lack some skills and the work experience but the social stigma that has labelled black men worthless, violent and underachievers is now delaying the healing and self improvement of the Nyah man psyche.

It’s a stigma that is now so entrenched that black Jamaican males who seek greener pastures and venture to places like the United States, Britain and Canada are being greeted with race relations that have law enforcers zeroing in on their every movement. The description is one that assumes that black Jamaican men potentially are more dangerous and more likely to be criminals because of his skin colour and customary identity.

Before 9/11, it was very difficult living in this world as a black man. Today the threats are even greater as state institutions, including academia and government in foreign countries continue the process of leading overt stereotypical viewpoints and crime management programs against the Jamaican. The prison system now has a fix on the Gen-Xers life, unabated insults whether in the form of unfair studies, which highlight the negatives of the black male as a collective group or overexposure of contextual stories in the media keeps downpressing the spirit of the brothers.

Male deviants just always happen to be black, worse yet these days they are always showcased as being Jamaican. The misrepresentation continues to emphasize that black men are violent misfits, lacking in the ability to perform satisfactorily in a civilized society. In the Jamaican case, the Rude Boyz are now the most hardened criminals and thugs in a race of men who are no good.

The Outcast Of The World
It’s a tuff world and whether you are a black man in Lagos, Johannesburg, East London, Toronto, Brooklyn or Kingston, living in the third or first world, stereotypes, biases and prejudices prevail. Blacks have “role models” who are sufficient to stave off the criticisms but then no one man is ever full proof, pristine and perfect..

Although psychologically traumatized by the inequitable and unjust state of affairs, Jamaican men desparately need to unearth our creative juices and rise daily with dignity to be the best men we can be. It’s this creative spirit of our past which has brought about the new genres of music, dance and language which we boast about today. The determination and persistent ambition to get up from the dust has in the past lifted us from the shackles of slavery and made us sporting heroes for all the world to emulate. The Black man now needs to put that sort of energy and will power into building family values.

The fact that Black males even at the beginning of the 21st Century are finding it extremely difficult as a group to gain the sort of respect that Asian, Indian, Latin, Arabs, Soviets, Scandinavian, Polish and Jews have attained, makes our challenge to survive that much greater.

Self Inflicted Downpression
Our people remain our biggest critics. Collectively the black male is seen as one who embodies low self-esteem, prone to aggression, violence, deadbeat fathers; he is described as one who lack moral leadership skills to build strong families. Daily many of us stand and support the reports which characterize us as poor team players. We same one describe our brothers as persons unable to work within the groups of community.

The advertisers in the world of fashion, entertainment, servic and commodity have learned quite well to take advantage of our weaknesses. Reflecting and promoting the black man on sweeping discriminatory platforms, is a matter of reinforcing our problems. Black men are used to promote and reflect the ruff neck fashionable look which later is manipulated to describe us all as “Gangsters”. Separate and apart, the music which is targeted at us, rap, hip- hop, R/B or dancehall, promote a sub-culture which is based on the image of Hollywood, USA and an entertainment cult which is farther and farther away from the genuine reality of the black masculine identity.

Victimizing and alienating black men to the fringe of society because of the impact of crime and violence and the drug war, helps none but the authors and backers of evil. The proliferation of misinformation continues because the world’s appetite for espionage and blood cannot be quenched. Pop-culture is prepared to make black men consistently play the role of the bad guy, in and out of season and while black is the new poster boy for homicide statistics, the people of the Black race, including Jamaicans, shamelessly behave as if we are powerless in the rage, clinging to the guns, bullets, drugs and loot, knowing these have caused us much pain perpetuating a cycle of distress so unbearable that many more children will die.

Winning The Race
My own masculinity has been one defined by my national culture and race. It’s easy for me to understand that the brutal conflict which we are embroiled in will never cease until black men are allowed to escape the stigma of racial profiling and marginalization. Misrepresentation of our achievements and merits based on the errors of a few cannot be allowed to destroy our legacy of persistent survival against all odds.

 

Self esteem is a part of the nuts and bolts which make us strong black men. A feeling of self worth is critical to our own happiness and success in life. How we are perceived by others mirrors how we feel about ourselves.

Marcus Garvey once said “Chance has never yet satisfied people. Action, self reliance, the vision of self and the future have been the only means by which the oppressed will see and realize the light of their freedom.”

The worst enemy we have to face, fight and conquer daily, is the enemy from within. As soon as this noble race defeats that enemy, all other worries will cease from disturbing us.

About the author

Phil Dinham