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Letter: Apartheid in Jamaica
Published on July 17, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

Nelson Mandela’s visit to Jamaica in 1991 signalled his appreciation of Jamaica’s role in the destruction of the formal apartheid system in South Africa. Perhaps unknown to Mr Mandela at the time was that Jamaica was contending with her own apartheid system, which still exists in aspects of our lives, including in some of our high schools.

At Immaculate Conception High, I am often reminded that I am black. Not in the sense that black is beautiful, but that I -- and other black students -- am inferior to the light-skilled classmates that constitute my grade 8 class.

During a classroom session, I approached one of my teachers with queries regarding a paper she had marked. I was heavy-handedly dismissed and told to return to my seat. I was perturbed by her behaviour, but even more so after a light-skinned classmate who was waiting behind me, and who had the same queries, was readily accommodated. I felt awfully dejected by this and decided to protest at which time the teacher retorted: “...Gyal mi nuh have to chat to yuh cuz you are not of Chinese descent, neither do you have nice long hair...” These and similar comments are made on a weekly basis.

Classism is a real issue at my school. Light-skinned and dark-skinned students with wealthy parents are favoured by teachers. Some teachers make no effort to conceal this. Sometimes I feel as if I am in the Roll of Thunder days. We earned our right to be at this institution as much as they did, yet we are sometimes treated disrespectfully because we are not light-skinned, wealthy or Asian. Mr Mandela was correct in his declaration that “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

Skye C. Wood
Reads: 4167

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