I like to think I’m getting more tolerant as the years go by and more wiling to see the other person’s point of view. But the older I get the less I can stand the company of those who ignorantly insist on classifying people according to how much melainin they have in their epidermis and who see the world in terms of superior “us” and inferior “them”.


It’s not only that race has been proven to be scientifically irrelevant – the human genome project showed that every human being is 99.99% identical genetically and biologists almost universally agree that the ancestors of every living human came from Africa. But how can anyone who claims to hold Christian principles look down on someone simply because of their appearance? Did Jesus Christ not teach that we are all children of God equal in the Lord’s sight? And the non-religious must recognize the truth expressed in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.


“Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”


Yet it would be foolish to pretend appearances don’t matter and that skin colour and other physical characteristics mean nothing. It’s human nature to be more comfortable with the familiar, which is why social circles tend to have a certain average hue. What is unacceptable in my eyes is to regard skin colour not merely as one of the thousand elements we use to evaluate people but as an overriding factor that cancels out everything else.


Of course my visceral dislike of any form of racism may have a lot to do with my being a crossbreed mongrel. I may be a born and bred Jamaican, but since my grandfathers came from China and my grandmothers are a mixture of Scottish, English, German and African stock I will always be in a minority here and everywhere else. If a real “back to where your ancestors come from” movement ever came to pass, they would in the words of the old Trinidadian calypso “have to cut me in half” – or in my case several pieces. For while I may look predominantly Chinese my inability to speak a word of that language make me a complete outsider in the orient, as I learnt on a visit there a couple years ago. When you come down to it what you speak really is a lot more important than how you look.


Now Jamaica may be one of the more racially tolerant places on earth. But no matter what the “out of many” Pollyannas might claim, skin colour still plays a big role in this society. For though 95% of Jamaicans are of primarily African descent, the commanders of our economic heights are still overwhelmingly light skinned. And while in many upscale gated communities practically the only black faces are waiters, bartenders, maids and gardeners, there are not may light complexions in our ghettos and penitentiaries.


“Well so what?” many will say. A similar situation prevails in many countries and it’s been that way here for a very long time. Yet apart from the Chinese riots in the 1960’s Jamaica has never had any serious racial disturbances. So why not let sleeping dogs lie. Isn’t at best pointless and at worst looking for trouble to bring this all up?


Well maybe. But after reading the book “ “ by Amy Chua I wasn’t so sure.








Now I have never thought of myself as anything other than Jamaican. But when some friends from the Chinese Benevolent Association approached me the other day to sponsor a contestant in the their Miss CBA contest it made me think again about what it means to be of predominantly Chinese ancestry in a mostly black country. I can’t say I grew up with any sense of Chinese culture since neither of my parents speak the language. But constantly being called “Chineyman” or “Missa Chin” has probably instilled a kind of racial awareness.


Yet I wondered about the appropriateness of such a contest. Would it come across as some kind of statement of “separateness”, a kind of subliminal message to the rest of Jamaica that “we are different from you”? Or would it be seen as an avowal of ancestral pride and an illustration of how well the Chinese in Jamaica have integrated? After all my friends assured me, few if any of the girls would be of full Chinese stock. (Which reminds me of a friend who I heard ask a girl if she had any Chinese in her. No, she replied. Well, he said, would you like some?)


In the end I agreed to support the Miss CBA pageant – which will take place at the Chinese Benevolent Headquarters on February 2 - because I am an unabashed admirer of female beauty regardless of race creed or colour. And also because I can’t see anyone in this most tolerant of countries seeing a beauty contest as anything but harmless fun.


For while Jamaica has its share of problems, ethnic or religious animosity is thankfully not one of them, at least not compared to virtually anywhere else on earth. Certainly it’s unimaginable that anything like the “Miss World” riots could ever happen here. Because the real colour problem we have here is the often uncontrolled animosity of the orange and green clad towards each other. And deplorable as this is, it’s a hell of a lot easier to change one’s shirt than one’s skin shade.

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