COVID-19, hate and history


COVID-19, hate and history


Sunday, April 26, 2020

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The need to blame racial or religious minorities for a crisis, irrespective of there being no rationale, is a much used and destructive human trait. It has been a harmful practice throughout history, and was at its pinnacle during the Nazi period of governance of Germany from 1933 to 1945.

The victims of this hate-mongering were German Jews, who had lived in Germany as a minority group in virtual harmony with the gentile population for generations.

This changed when, without any reasonable basis, a small man with an even smaller mind rabble- roused himself into power. He then started to blame every blight — from the loss of World War I to the dismal condition of the country's economy — on the Jewish citizens of that country. The result was the almost total annihilation of this group. The little man was Adolf Hitler.

This may seem remote and distant to many of you, but bear in mind my grandparents were alive then, as were a few of our current parliamentarians and one former prime minister. But let me give you a modern example of hate in its purest form.

In 1993 the East African nation of Rwanda was entangled in a national dispute. One tribe, called the Hutu, was the majority and was in conflict with the minority tribe, the Tutsi — who represented about 15 per cent of the population. A campaign of hate was launched by a few people, most notably the Hutu-led Government, who spewed divisive and dangerous utterances over a radio station and other media, encouraging violence against the minority group. The end result was the slaughter of almost one million men, women, and children over a period of about six weeks — primarily with the use of machetes.

This didn't happen in your grandparents' history, it happened in your lifetime, about 40 years after the aforementioned Jewish holocaust.

Why am I mentioning this now? Well, because I'm seeing a trend, since the start of the current COVID-19 pandemic, of vilifying China and, more locally, Chinese people. I hear comments being made by people who should know better regarding cleanliness, as well as other negative and unkind statements. I also hear people suggesting the forced removal of Chinese nationals, who have recently settled and invested in our country.

This type of rhetoric is nothing new and has been spewed by others in the past. However, then it was directed toward blacks in North America, the Irish in England, and more recently, Mexicans.

It wasn't true or fair when it was directed at these groups and it's not true or fair now, whether it's being said by Jamaicans or the leader of the free world. Racism and stereotyping are undertakings expected of small-minded dunces who are looking for someone to blame for their own limitations without bothering to look inwards.

I saw this country divided on political grounds in the 1970s, and it was a bloodbath. I lived in this country when politicians, by their utterances, caused an exodus of Chinese people out of Jamaica and the destruction of their businesses in that same period. And guess what? It was followed soon after by a general gallop of all who could run. This because once you get into the habit of hate and blaming, it becomes a habit. Therefore, what started with the Chinese will end with some other minority.

Jamaica has received top marks internationally for religious tolerance and racial harmony. This is a major comfort for tourists who wish to travel to our shores and also something we should really be proud of. Let's not mess it up.

I have noticed also a growing sense of resistance to the measures instituted by our prime minister to combat the COVID-19 crisis. Let me remind you, this is a democracy! He was elected by our electoral system. There is a saying in the United States army that goes: “Respect the rank, not the man.”

If we are to have a functional democracy, we must allow the person elected to lead to do so, whether you voted for him or not. This also pertains whether you agree with him or not.

This is a unique period of our history. It's the first flu pandemic in over 100 years. This is our great test. Our parents had the 1970s and the civil war that came with it. Our grandparents faced a world war. They survived, so will we. But stop resisting, stop complaining, stop criticising. Nobody saw this coming; nobody planned for it.

Adversity can bring out the best or worst in people. Be heroes or collaborators, utter words of encouragement or murmurs of defeat, help or harm – you get to choose your role in this period of our history. Choose wisely!

Feedback: jasonamckay@

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