Our wounded human family

Columns

Our wounded human family

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, June 01, 2020

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As one reporter put it, “You cannot 'unsee' ” the image of that brutal officer, with his knee on the neck of unarmed, handcuffed George Floyd; it is a sickening memory of US Memorial Day 2020 in Minneapolis. For nearly nine minutes the policeman stayed in that position, one hand casually in his pocket, while his captive suffocated.

“I can't breathe,” pleaded Floyd.

This was the flashpoint for a country already in crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic clocking the highest number of deaths of any country — over 100,000 — and unemployment claims rising to over 40 million people, disproportionately affecting people of colour. With long food lines and workers ordered to function in unhygienic meat-packing facilities, despair is growing.

On February 23, a young black man, Ahmaud Arbery, was shot dead for 'jogging while black'. It was after days of protests that a father and son, captured on video, were charged for the crime.

On March 15, Breonna Taylor, of Louisville Kentucky, returned home from work at a neighbourhood hospital where she was an emergency room technician and, at 12:40 am, police officers entered her home with a “no-knock” warrant and shot her to death. She was struck eight times; afterwards it was reported that she had not been the target of the operation and no drugs were found in her apartment.

On Memorial Day morning, a black professional, Christian Cooper, discovered that it was also dangerous to 'birdwatch while black'. While enjoying his hobby in Central Park, New York, he asked Amy “Karen” Cooper (no relation) to put a leash on her dog — a legal requirement in the park. The woman fumed and, while he videotaped her, called the police, pretending she was being attacked by Cooper, and asked them to arrest him. Christian Cooper, a Harvard graduate, posted the video, which quickly became viral, and after generously accepting the woman's apology, he spoke of an “underlying current of racism and racial perceptions that's been going on for centuries and that permeates this city and this country that she tapped into”.

While that video was making the rounds last Monday, up popped the heart-stopping video of the modern-day lynching of George Floyd. The hashtag #icantbreathe trended worldwide, recalling the death of New York sidewalk vendor Eric Garner, who cried out the same words as he was pinned to the ground by a lawman in 2014.

In the days that followed, the anguish of Americans of all races spilled over on to the streets of some 30 cities, including Minneapolis, Atlanta, Kentucky, Los Angeles, Houston, Brooklyn, Chicago, and Washington DC. Some demonstrations turned violent, and there are allegations that the peaceful protests were infiltrated by a cynical group of mischief-makers.

Jamaican professor of sociology and novelist Orlando Patterson was a guest on Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC programme on Friday. He opined that the system of policing in the US employs “the use of violence as a first resort, rather than a last resort. It sees the community as the enemy and killing as routine. It is worse than hate crime, this normalcy of killing”. He regards the riots as, “the final expression of outrage, the fact that one's humanity is not being recognised”.

“America has changed for the better to a considerable degree,” he noted. “However, something is fundamentally wrong with American police training, police culture, police organisation, which has to change. Until it does, black lives will not matter.”

Our Jamaican security forces are doing better in this regard, but only this week there has been an outcry against the killing of Susan Bogle, a resident of August Town, allegedly by a member of the Jamaica Defence Force. As we look back on the Tivoli Gardens operation, 10 years ago, we can sympathise with the bereaved families, many innocently caught up in that dangerous stand-off as the security forces went in search of Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

Our human family needs healing, and this will come when everyone, of every class and colour, receives the respect and justice that we all deserve.

A strange kind of racism

“Wrong and strong” is how my Twitter friend Londie Murray describes the vitriol spewed at him after he spoke about the kindness of Sandals President Adam Stewart. It seems that the US riots has triggered irrational anti-white sentiment in Jamaica, with one post declaring that descendants of estate owners are running Jamaica. To be clear, Adam's dad, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, is not a descendant of planters, and had a humble start in life.

I responded with a post that the owner of Jamaica's biggest bank, Michael Lee-Chin, is the son of an orphan; that the owner of Cari-Med and Kirk-FP Limited, Glen Christian, started out as a postman and that the Hendricksons started with one small bakery in Magotty, St Elizabeth.

We should treasure our motto “Out of Many One People” (the Latin translation is the US Motto: E Pluribus Unum) and recognise that, with all our problems, Jamaica remains the most racially harmonious country in the world, where colour is no obstacle to success. When Glen Christian delivered letters to Colgate-Palmolive on Marcus Garvey Drive, he had a much higher vision for himself. As he studied and worked he was able to buy that very building and is now the distributor of that company's products.

We must never forget the past, but let us use it for motivation: “None but ourselves can free our minds.”

Farewell, Shahine Robinson

There is an outpouring of love and grief at the passing of Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson as Jamaicans of both political parties and all walks of life recalled her selfless dedication to her constituency in St Ann, the parish of her birth, and to her country.

Last year she joined us in St Ann for the launch of the CCRP North East Jamaica Chapter, and called for the protection and empowerment of our seniors, reflected in her ministry's meticulous revision of Jamaica's National Policy for Seniors. She was a strong supporter of the special needs community and has been lauded by Special Olympics Caribbean head Lorna Bell for her care and concern.

Two years ago, pensioner Veronica Carnegie wrote a letter to the editor, after her favourite minister was not nominated in a popularity poll, stating, “The Minister [Shahine Robinson] works quietly and well with a dependable staff; without bugle, trumpet, and fanfare. She has no PR consultants advertising and marketing her activities and so this noiseless worker is not nominated. Look at the hundreds of workers who have been trained and placed in jobs, locally and overseas, over the two years. Look at the hundreds of pensioners, like us, whose lodgement is made, on time, every month. An Immaculate Conception High School old girl, and daughter of community conscious Fakhourie family, the minister knows how to work hard and get things done without fanfare.”

Minister Robinson sent her team to work with CCRP on laying the groundwork for an Elder Care and Protection Act. We will stay the course and celebrate her contribution when it becomes law.

Our condolence to her beloved family, Government, ministry colleagues, and constituents. Rest in peace, gracious patriot, Shahine Robinson.

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com


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