Mugabe Did Not Speak For Africans On Jamaican Men


Farouk Martins Aresa

Robert Mugabe shot wild again. He angered some Africans recently by calling Jamaican men a derogatory name. Most Jamaicans familiar with him will just brush it off. Those of us that grew up with Jamaican men in Canada in those days know better. It was the Jamaican men that showed us the ropes of survival and they were also the proudest Africans you can count on. We studied, played and worked together with other Africans: West Indians and African Americans.

Between all Africans in Diaspora, there is a great deal we need to correct in our behavior when it comes to responsibilities with our families that Mugabe referred to. So whatever Mugabe said, even if taken literally, it can be applied to some Africans and that includes African Africans, West Indians and African Americans. It is not easy to make it outside your base but that is not an excuse to give up on our families with only the women holding up for our children.

Some years ago, Gen Colin Powel called Nigerians a bunch of schemers. Many Nigerians took an exception and were mad at the remarks especially from someone they respect so much. When we are disappointed with one another for individual behaviors that are repulsive, we must be able to say so without making or taking offence. We cannot leave it to others to call us names we know we must correct within.

Sometime in 1994 in Boston, Massachusetts, Louis Farrakhan came to speak to black men only about black on black crime. The words he used to describe young black men were unprintable. Everyone was sober because those he was referring to accepted the truth. He even dared them, if they thought they were man enough to terrorize any other place the way they exorcise fear into the African communities. Since then he has rebuked black men publicly.

The irony was that some black women and others did not like it and were ready to take him to court for discrimination because he did not include them. He wanted to know how many of them sued in court when Teddy Pendergrass sang and danced in women only shows. There is a place and time to speak frankly to one another. Mugabe might have assumed he was speaking amongst families and tried to get the men on more serious path by calling on their conscience.

There are few Jamaican potheads just as there are other African potheads in Diaspora. It is also true that our women stay in school longer than we do, but discrimination as women and blacks does not give them the rewards they deserve. We have begged our women to please bear with us since it is not entirely our fault that no matter how hard we work, we do not get as much reward as the white man. A Jewish friend once told me he was not brought up to expect fingers to be equal. Even our women wonder how long they have to wait for us.

However, we must be careful when we pick on one another for the amusement of those waiting to propagate it for other reasons best known to them. If other people labeled us a name that is not ours, we must be careful how we use that label as Mugabe did. Another example is the N word which has generated a great deal of debates when used amongst Africans. No matter how, it is tasteless and offensive, so it can never be diluted by rapping.

The contribution of Jamaicans in Britain, Canada and United States are immeasurable. When Police shooting of blacks were getting out of hand in those days in Canada, some black people were blaming Jamaicans as too stubborn. Some were even asking why it was only Jamaicans that police were shooting and no other Africans like Trinidadians, Nigerians etc. It did not take long before other Africans were targeted by Police. Then East Asians started getting shot too.

Whatever the reason for these shootings, at least in Ontario, the Government set up appropriate independent bodies to probe the shootings. Some police officers were disciplined like in United States. What was different in those days was that Toronto Police were beyond reproach since they figured that outside bodies could not interfere. All this is history now. But it must be remembered that the Jamaicans were in the forefront of fight for human rights.

Apart from Jamaicans, there is that indomitable lion of all times Charles Roach originally from Trinidad and Tobago. There was also a young lawyer then by the name of Susan Eng with Chinese parents that later ruffled some feathers including advocating mandatory reporting every time a police officer unloaded a gun. Many of those Africans from all countries and continents had more to deal with than allowing name calling to divide us.

Activists Headley Tulloch Jamaican; Tokunbo Ajasin Nigerian; Lennox Farrel Trinidadian, Ann Cools from Barbados appointed Senator by Trudeau, the radical Prime Minister of Canada and close friend of Prime Minister Michael Manley of Jamaica; and “Rosie” Douglas, later became prime minister of Dominica. There are many more equally deserving. Mugabe may be respected in his own right, none of the people mentioned above would care about labeling Jamaican men.

We also went through a period, at least in Canada and US, when more Jamaicans women marry Africans than other West Indians because there were more Jamaican women and hardly African single women. But whenever there was disagreement between boyfriends and girlfriends, each started warning others that Nigerian men were bad or Jamaican women were wicked. So if that was the case, why would the two marry each other than other West Indians and Africans?

We must never transfer personal grudge between individuals into the community of Africans in Diaspora. Fortunately our children have grown and known better. The children have grown into well informed men and women, so they have repulsed most of the stereotypes Africans or blacks had about one another. Anyone blaming the white man for feeding us with these stereotypes of Africans this day, is a fool that needs to get educated.