linkthink re: hip-hop, reggae, the US, jamaica, and anything else wayne wants to wax on


killing fi stop

today the new york times published an editorial strongly condemning not just the murder of jamaican AIDS-outreach worker steve harvey but the implicit sanctioning of anti-gay violence by the jamaican government and police.

this seems to me a better target than singers or DJs, many of whom will affirm the obvious biases of their audience just to sell a record, get a forward, or book a show. certainly, given the degree to which the jamaican public adulates its star entertainers, having a few artists break from this tacit--and often not so tacit--approval of homophobic violence would be a step in the right direction. at the least, showing some courage on this most jerk of knee-jerk issues (bible schmible, cultcha schmultcha) might embolden some of their peers or fans to do the same.

despite persistent performances to the contrary (bad man nuh bow), beenie man deserves some credit for recently clarifying his stance on the issue. but he would do well to tell his fans back-a-yard the same thing he tells journalists from foreign when they ask him about the whole bun-battyman thing: "I cannot be against man that have consensual sex. If two big man want to have sex, it's their perogative, that's my opinion."

still, for all of their sway in the realm of cultural politics, DJs are not elected officials and are not looked upon as leaders in the sense that prime ministers and MPs are (though i recognize that many jamaicans have, for good reason, lost their faith in politicians' ability to lead). thus the times is right to suggest that those who are in power should set an example by repealing jamaica's archaic anti-sodomy laws (inherited from the brits, natch)--not just for the sake of gays and lesbians in jamaica, but for human rights workers of all stripes, for sex-workers and other at-risk communities, and for jamaican society as a whole.

i mean, shit, even texas has 'em beat on that count. seen?

[do you bun what i bun? get the mashup rundown over at riddimmethod.]


Anonymous alice b. said...

sad. very very sad. i would really like to see an in-depth article or book about why this has become such a vital aspect of the culture in JA. it is kind of unique for the region. i don't get it.

who is this benefitting? I just can't imagine that this is happening in a vacuum. i feel like there is more to this than meets the eye but i haven't seen a decent socio-economic explanation yet. could this be explained solely by the penetration of christian fundamentalists? (Some tracks on "Boston Jerk" do a good job of showcasing those aspects of the religious culture, BTW.) Is tourism exacerbating all of this somehow?

6:27 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

hey alice,

yeah, i think fundamentalist christianity has a LOT to do with it. colonialism (which was, of course, closely tied to missionary efforts) didn't help either with its imposed value systems. and post-colonial pride makes it so that no one wants to budge on what has become naturalized as a "cultural more."

although it might not go into the explanatory depth you seek, elena oumano's "jah division" remains a good overview of the ideological snarl around this one.

8:11 PM  
Blogger ripley said...

I have a whole mostly-unwritten muse/rant on issues of masculinity in less-developed countries, perhaps particularly small ones geographically first-world countries, with a history of interference by their larger and more powerful neighbors.

The fact that one way to describe a lot of these places is "perpetually fucked-with" by wealthy countries is suggestive.

I'm connecting it, somehow, with the hysteria (hah) from homophobia during World War I in England - so many men, under so much pressure from outside, powerful forces, pressure to be subordinate.

what violation of one's sense of power can be safely blamed? why not a sexual one?

maybe people retreat to a redoubt that seems more comprehensible to the outside world (or that seems a winnable battle of manliness) - one defined by gender-markers?

not to discount the specific religious influences..

8:44 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

interesting--the jamaican press seems to have pre-empted one of the times's points of critique.

according to an editorial in saturday's jamaica observer, the new york times is wrong to suggest some sort of bias at play amongst the constabulary. on the contrary, they argue, the police in jamaica aren't only 'spotty' with regards to solving anti-gay murder cases, they're spotty on murder cases of any sort. so, they imply, as bad as gays may have it in jamaica, the poor have it worse.

an interesting rhetorical move, and a little slippery, i think, but some sound argument, too.

8:45 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

i definitely think you're onto something there, ripley. lots of levels on which to think through this: social, psychological, cultural, religious. all interacting and overlapping, no doubt. i'm sure someone fanon could bring it all together. tricky, complex stuff, though.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Alice B. said...

I'm down with all of this except it doesn't explain why Jamaica and not Trinidad or Barbados ar any other Caribbean country is left holding the bag for this... Or at least so the press would have it. In other words, is homophobia under-reported for other Caribbean countries or is this really happening more in Jamaica, is my question.

3:47 AM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

good question, alice. it seems that the jamaica observer would argue more for misrepresentation/underreporting, but i'm not so sure. anti-gay sentiment has become a rather prominent issue in JA, especially in recent years, though it's hard to extricate that from the reaction to criticism from the outside.

i suppose one way to investigate this would be to compare statistics on anti-gay "hate crimes" across countries (and i really wonder where the US would fall in such a distribution) but of course, then there is the question of definitions and such. as crime, and sexuality, are socially constructed categories, it can be difficult to come up with meaningfully comparative stats.

5:26 AM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

also, i had meant to link to this article earlier, but there has been forward progress on the issue across the caribbean, including some initiatives in jamaica. though these initiatives still run the gamut from MPs debating in parliament to fundamentalist christians trying to cure the "afflicted" (see here), there is some hope to be gleaned in all of this. the article also provides something of a comparative perspective, noting that Barbados, T&T, and even St.Lucia (which apparently is eyeing the gay honeymoon market) still have anti-sodomy laws on the books.

the new york times doesn't let on that there have been attempts to debate this openly and publicly, but perhaps we should take their stance as (tacit?) support for officials such as donald rhodd, deputy education minister of JA, who has called for a discussion of possible repeal (not, you'll note, outright repeal) of the laws that criminalize homosexuality.

6:06 AM  
Blogger erin said...

i'm actually writing a paper right now on the discourse surrounding this issue--discourse from both sides. it's interesting to pay attention to the rhetorical strategies that occur.

i'm with ripley on the idea that there is something in the "subordination" of so-called developing nations. a good book to read in regards to all this (and this will also answer alice's query about the extent to which this is as much a west indian issue as it is jamaican--the quick answer being yes) is Constructing Caribbean Mascualinity. there are some fascinating essays in that volume and they answer a lot of the questions being posed here.

one thing that i find fascinating is how this becomes such a "male" issue. i've been upset with the toronto papers for taking a masculine approach to dealing with gun violence in toronto for much the same reasons. to be quite clear, i feel that traditional "feminine" work is undervalued in society in general. that which cannot be quantified monetarily is shunted to the side. it does not have any value--as does quantifiable "masculine" work.

now, when the access to quantifiable "male" work becomes more and more limited (as it does in various "developing" nations--thanks in a large part to the ex-colonizer's brilliant structural adjustment programs), it means that the definition of masculinity becomes more and more narrow. instead of the act of being able to support one's self and one's family being a part of what makes a man a man, hyper-masculine physical and sexual characteristics become more important criteria. hence, not only do men turn to gangs/drugs as a money making option, it's also to exercise male-gendered power. women become less and less valued, and, more importantly, the work that women continue to do--raising children, attempting to keep families together--is not supported. male and female--as gendered identities--become further and further polarized and, therefore, sexual identities and orientations become more and more controlled and strictly defined.

in the same way that i believe that the answer to the reported decline in male attendance at universities in north america (and in the west indies as well--in larger numbers) is not to focus on the male students and attempt to make education more "masculine", but rather focus on de-gendering the idea of getting an education, so too do i think that the way to move towards elimination of state sactioned homophobia in west indian nations (and the so-called first world, to boot!) is to value women. decrease the polarization of sexual and gender identities and it's not so frightening if someone is homosexual. it doesn't threaten society. in fact, to maintain the status quo--in terms of gender/sexual identities--as it is means to prevent the "development" of any society.

i hope this wasn't completely incomprehensible...

oh, and wesley critchlow's essay in the volue mentioned above--all about growing up as a "buller man" (the trini term for what jamaicans call "chi chi man") in trinidad--is just fantabulous!

10:56 AM  
Blogger erin said...

whoops...i forgot to mention what i was directly referring to with reference to toronto.

there has been a lot of gun violence in toronto over the past year or so and almost all of the victims have been young black men. as a result, many newspapers have been writing editorials lamenting the lack of black fathers and how something needs to be done for young black men to remedy this problem.

11:12 AM  
Blogger ripley said...

Alice, I don't have much to compare w/r/t trinidad and barbados, but my impression is that Jamaica is seen by many of the other islanders as rather the bottom of the social scale (with maybe haiti below), and also the poorest (except for guyana and maybe haiti again? I'm sorry I can't remember)

if there is something to the national/economic subordination issue, then maybe Jamaican homophobia and machismo represents the last available grasp for some kind of power?

But that does seem rather simplistic - I wonder if there is a quantitative or a qualitative difference, or how one would measure such things?

When I was in Barbados I was struck by the willingness in many Barbadians to claim Englishness (which I saw less of in Jamaica), and also better-than-jamaican-ness. But that is an unrepresentative sample.

And Erin that book sounds really interesting.

12:11 PM  

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