Can we have a conversation about Respect without a conversation on person-hood?

Big up di girl dem innah di batty rida shorts!

big up di man dem weh wear di han kerchev roun dem nek an dem pants foot cut off!

Quite by accident, or divine intervention i am reflecting on person-hood today. An encounter in Manor Park ( uptown Jamaica) has forced me to consider who has right to person-hood in Jamaica and even the possibility that there are other perspectives that  we can bring to understanding bleaching particularly in Jamaica.

Driving through Manor park a cris expensive Infinity jeep passed me. I made sure to get a good look at the driver. My first thoughts were; “what a crusty looking man in such a cris car”. Walking towards the bank in Manor park plaza, not far from where the jeep passed me, I glimpsed a man who looked like the crusty man in the cris jeep. He was sitting on the wall outside of the bank, hair in corn rows face bleached just chilling with some other men with faces bleached. I guessed they were from the community nearby. But the whole scene was wrong in my head. If the bleach out face guy was the guy in the cris jeep what was he doing hanging out with these men. Where was he from? in that questioning i caught myself making the typical error. i thought the bleach out face man maybe a drug dealer or a scammer from downtown come to buy a place uptown and driving a cris car. My main cue was the fact that his face was bleached and then his hair in corn rows making him too crusty for the expensive Infinity jeep.

And then it struck me. what if he was the son of a rich couple from uptown who was deciding that this is what he wants to look like and these are the way he wants to express his “masculinity” What if this was the son of an uptown couple who was working out his identity and he was connecting to another part of Jamaican culture?

Would he be legitimate in exercising his right to person-hood? to exploring his identity and choosing something that is different from what he was given?

The question then. ” Is there a kind of freedom in bleaching? If we valued the person-hood of the ones we mark as bleachers could we understand its culture?

I found it interesting to think about the right to self-identify and to become and who had that right in our society. Is downtown Jamaica( not just below Cross-roads) populated by people with the right of person-hood? But who has the right to person-hood? do we have to claim it?

I can understand that for some a “bleacher” is a problematic identity . I want to move away from value judgments and focus on “identity” and self-determination”. The standard arguments about self-hate and white power and privilege and the role that plays in creating a bleacher is very important. Central. Who would choose not to be black? and why isn’t that choice respected? or understood as a desire for person-hood?

Driving around Kingston you might have seen billboards saying “Respect Me”. According to information i found on the Digicel Jamaica website.

Leading lights from corporate Jamaica have joined together to promote the value of showing respect as an essential component of making Jamaica a place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.

The Respect Jamaica programme sees corporate Jamaica standing up and making the positive changes that it has the unique opportunity to do. Whether it is discrimination related to colour, race, class, sexual orientation, those with special needs, the youth and elderly, as well as gender, religion, politics and environmental conservation – the Respect Jamaica programme is calling on all Jamaicans to stand in support of the marginalised and vulnerable in our communities – whoever they may be – and bring about genuine nation building.

The programme will be in communities island-wide and across a large number of corporates entities and will have a strong social media element – meaning that everyone, everywhere can get on board and help get the Respect Jamaica message out in a meaningful way.

With support for the programme coming in from all quarters, the Respect Jamaica Advisory Board features some of the biggest names in corporate Jamaica: Adam Stewart (Sandals Resorts International) Barry O’Brien (Digicel), Brian George (Supreme Ventures), Chris Zacca (PSOJ), Earl Jarrett (Jamaica National), Donna Duncan (JMMB), Jason Henzell (Jake’s Hotel), Peter Moses(Citibank), Thalia Lyn (Island Grill), Tony Hart (Caribbean Producers) and William Mahfood (Wisynco).

Brian George, CEO of Supreme Ventures, comments; “We believe that everyone, no matter who they are or how they are, should be afforded the basic right of respect. The objective of our Respect Jamaica programme is to bring about some genuine nation building and help make Jamaica a better place to live, work, raise families and do business. ”

Jason Henzell, General Manager of Jake’s Hotel, explains; “Whether it’s the little things like holding open a door, giving way in traffic and saying please and thank you through to the big things like treating all people with due deference and calling out inappropriate behaviour, the Respect Jamaicaprogramme is all about standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Ultimately, this is about pulling together to build a better future for the children of Jamaica.”

President of the Private Sector of Jamaica, Chris Zacca, sums up; “As proud supporters and lovers of Jamaica, we believe that it is critical to stand up and make the positive changes that we, as corporate leaders, have the opportunity to do. And, given that there is undeniably a direct correlation between social stability and economic growth, we hope that, together, our efforts will mean that all Jamaicans will stand to benefit from this commitment.”

http://digiceljamaicafoundation.org/news/leading-lights-corporate-jamaica-unite-respect-jamaica-programme/

Can we have a conversation about Respect without a conversation on person-hood?

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About afifa

dj. artist. creative director and co-founder of the SO((U))L HQ and DI Institute for Social Leadership. I make ritual spaces.

One comment

  1. I know this is an old post, but I still wanted to comment.

    I don’t think we can have a conversation about respect without talking about person-hood. The acknowledgment of another human being as a “person” is a prerequisite for respect. Dehumanizing the “other” (whether he/she is a bleacher, homosexual, scammer, or from the ghetto) is what allows society to withhold respect. Acknowledging each individual’s intrinsic person-hood (regardless of their life choices or background) is the crucial first step toward giving respect. And no, I do not think we have to claim person-hood – it should be our right.

    Just like you had to stop and remind yourself that the scammer look-a-like is allowed to make his own choices, we all have to consciously dismantle our biases before we can really give respect where it is due (ie to everyone)

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