A view from the outside: 'Badmind' behind bad treatment of Jamaicans
The Piarco International Airport in Trinidad & Tobago
With Karyl Walker
Whe dem grudge you fah? True you a hot number - Buju Banton
It is an open secret that some citizens of certain Eastern Caribbean countries hold Jamaicans in contempt. The recent harrowing experience of entertainment attorney, Lloyd Stanbury, has driven home that point once again.
Stanbury posted on social media that he travelled to the twin island republic of Trinidad & Tobago to make presentations to a World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) conference and was subjected to what he described as ‘profiling, harassment and discrimination’ at the hands of Trinidadian employees of American Airlines.
The attorney claimed that he was asked irrelevant questions by the airline staff and was only allowed to board his flight out of the country after he made calls to government officials who had invited him to the country, all this despite attempting to provide proof of his legitimate residency in the United States.
Stanbury’s claim is one of many that has been lodged by Jamaicans who travel to the eastern Caribbean state. In the past, plane loads of Jamaicans have been denied entry, detained and shipped back to Jamaica by immigration officials at the Piarco International Airport in direct violation of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which allows for free travel through the region by Caricom nationals.
Those who have suffered the indignity have told horror stories of the treatment they received.
It seems the Trinidadians have forgotten the Shanique Myrie scenario. Miss Myrie had travelled to Barbados and was detained and subjected to a dehumanising invasion of her vaginal cavity by a gloved female Barbadian immigration officer. Then she was deported to Jamaica the following day, despite not being found in possession of any contraband.
Myrie reported that the female official told her: “All you Jamaicans come here to do is steal our men.”
Myrie bravely came forward and told her story and, when reports of her ordeal were thrown in the public domain, it almost resulted in a diplomatic row between both Jamaica and Barbados and brought into sharp focus the underlying ‘badmind’ that existed inside the heads of some Eastern Caribbean nationals towards Jamaicans.
In the end, the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled in favour of Myrie and awarded her a symbolic cash settlement. While the money was not a fortune, the ruling was historic and brought into sharp focus the open flouting of the law which allows free movement of Caricom nationals.
Maybe there needs to be more cases like Myrie’s brought before the CCJ to keep reminding these high-handed people in the region that there are laws that must be adhered to or they will be hit in the pocket.
I have been to Trinidad twice. Both times I was wearing locks. Once was to attend and cover a reggae concert at the Queens Park Savannah, featuring Anthony B, Jah Mason, Norris Man and others; and, on the second occasion, I was representing the Jamaica Observer as a reporter for a CONCACAF under 17 boys and under 15 girls qualifying tournament.
Truth be told, I was never treated badly. Maybe it was because 'journalist' was the profession listed in my passport.
However, on the football-related trip, the entire Jamaican delegation, along with the Cuban delegation, were forced to wait for hours to be processed in the airport and it was only after protests by delegation head Carlton ‘Spanner’ Dennis and myself that the officials relented and ushered both delegations through; but not before muttering under their breath that “them Jamaican think them special?”
I have Trinidadian friends, some of whom live and work in Jamaica. It is funny that, when they arrive in our country, they are not subject to any form of harassment at our airports and are welcomed with open arms. Jamaicans are not like that, we welcome visitors to our shores.
Despite the complaints over the years that we have been treated unfairly, it is hoped that we do not take on a revengeful attitude and start returning the favour to Trinidadians when they arrive here. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
The Jamaican footprint is huge. Our country’s culture has made an impact on the world psyche and, even though we are not as economically prosperous as other countries in the region, we are still envied. That is a fact.
Reggae and dancehall music, Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, Marcus Garvey and the Jamaican swag have taken the world by storm and, despite all our economic and social travails, we are the pearl of the Caribbean.
Maybe some Trinidadians cannot stand to be asked: “Where in Jamaica is Trinidad?” by foreigners not too up to scratch with the geography of our region.
But that is not the fault of Jamaicans. It is not our fault that the rest of the Caribbean cannot match up to the brand that is Jamaica. To outsiders, it is simply irresistible.
However, we must be honest with ourselves as Jamaicans. There are some of us who go to these countries and display the worst of us. Those Jamaicans behave in a manner befitting what my grandmother would dub, ‘Raw Chaw’, or what older Jamaicans would call ‘Nawsy Nayga’.
Some countries have claimed that, since the influx of Jamaicans into their country, the crime rate has risen and values and attitudes have gone south.
This uncouth behavior was on display recently inside a supermarket in South Florida when two Jamaican women put the dark side of our culture on show. The brawling and outlandish behavior of the women was so shameful that I made sure to shut my mouth to ensure no one heard my accent and associated me with them. It was a shameful display by the two women and ended with them being accosted by security after they were caught shoplifting.
So, while we love to say others don’t like us because of our swag, we must admit that there are some of us who do no good for our reputation with their lowlife behavior, and we must be true to ourselves and admit that.
That is my view from the outside.
Karyl Walker is a multi-award-winning journalist who has worked for Loop Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer, the RJR Communications Group and Nationwide Radio among other media entities. He now resides in South Florida.