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Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Browning Complex I - I call It Discrimination!

During my regular blogroll, I have come across quiet a few posts from my fellow Caribbean bloggers in other countries, who relate their experiences with racism. I must admit that those cases are extreme when I consider the social interactions in Jamaica. However, a form of racism, if I may use such a harsh word, exists in the Jamaican culture.

The thing is I have a fair complexion or what is locally known as "Browning" in Jamaica. The blessing and the curse. I must admit that this complexion does have it's advantages as the likkle high colour and pretty hair somehow makes you a bit more appealing to quiet a few girls and for some it gives that a boost up the corporate ladder. However, there is a price to pay for being a Browning.

"Brown man!"
One of the tortures I had to endure while growing up and still am enduring is constantly being called Brown man or Browning. Some have even gone as far as calling me Mr. Chin...note I am of Irish and Black decent, not Asian! I find it extremely annoying when I'm referred to as Brown man or Browning. It feels as if I'm being singled out for the colour of my skin. If you don't know my name, I'm ok with "young man" or "Yow my yute" or refer to be by the colour of my clothes. That's how a person of dark complexion calls to another dark person in Jamaica, why do I have to be referred to by the colour of my skin? I don't walk around calling to people as "Black man", "Black woman" or "Blackning"!

Yuh Rich
The one that really pisses me of the assumption that because I'm light skinned I have money. I call it the "Brown People Have Money Syndrome". I will abbreviate it and call it BMS for the rest of this article (venting). It is a very common misconception among many Jamaicans, in other words many Jamaicans suffer from BMS. I face this almost every day, when I go about my own business in public.

I remember this incident some time ago. I just started working and I didn't have my car as yet, so I had to take public transportation to visit my mom back in Portland. I was on this mini bus, and if you have ever traveled on a mini bus (Mostly 15 seat, Toyota Hiace or the larger 20+ seat, Coaster) in Jamaica, yuh know it packer dan a sardine tin! There was this big fat woman beside me, taking up two persons seat, and squeezing the life out of me. As if that wasn't bad enough I had to drive through "The Junction" in St. Mary. The Junction is the most winding and treacherous road in Jamaica. Corners inside of corners, semi-loose rocks on one side of the road and precipices on the other side of the road. As the bus rocked to my side this fat woman attempted to crush me to death. So in an attempt to save my life, I used my elbow to gentle ease her up. She didn't like it and proceeded to cuss me out. "People like yuh nuh fi travel pon bus...” and the statement that took the cake, "...all if mi did brown like yuh mi woulda have mi own car...” How the hell the colour of my skin will magically allow me to have a car? I have to for a living just like any other Jamaican!

I find that in Jamaica there is a price for dark skinned people and a price for light skinned people. If I decide to buy something from some of the higglers who sell on the side of the road, I have to pay Brown Skin Tax (BST). Just because of the colour of my skin, some of these higglers think that I am rich. A few months ago I was searching for a dog tag (the chains soldiers wear), and asked the price and this man wanted to sell me a $300 dog tag for $600, "a wah tek dah fool yah", I said to myself and walked off. Just a few days ago, a dumb ass self-proclaimed repairman claimed to have repaired my girlfriend’s fridge and because I was there, he wanted to charge $2000 fro diagnosing the problem (which he did not!) after telling her that it was $800. When she objected he proceeds to turn to me and say, "Brown skinned man like yuh a big monetary man, yuh must can tek care a di fee." What di rass! Here we go again, another case of BMS.

Maybe racism is too much of a strong word, or call me overly sensitive, but I do face a form of discrimination here in Jamaica, due to the colour of my skin.

27 commented:

It's funny except for the fact that it is a sad truth. Jamaicans are still caught up in a plantation history where white skin meant money and light skin meant links to money.

i sooooooo feel u on this cause all my life and like u said even today. i hear it all the time ur hair is too pretty and long for u to be Jamaican. u favor spanish people. i always have to say we are one out of many. even in my own house my grandmother is chinese jamaican and she is always making rude remarks about dark color people. it so frustrating in a society day with such high technology and broad education people are stuck on stupid.

Good post, I think it probably is a form of racism. People have to learn you can't judge others by the color of their skin.

Should've posted this during black history month. Anyway, its a shadow of our colonial past. We were conditioned to view the white man as "master". He had the power, the pounds and the priviledge. So even now, we associate the lighter complexion with prosperity.

so ya mean you aint get a free brown man car yet? star ya behind the times. go down to the brown registry and demand ya vehicle. :-)
I think color issues are one of the big things in the caribbean. not necessarily racism but just a division caused by complexions where certain things are expected or imagined because of one's shade.

Unfortunately it is a throwback from our slavery days.I remember when I was in The US I had a very light female friend and she often complained that she felt as if she didn't belong.To some black people she was too light to be one of them and yet she didn't belong to the white world.Closer home am the dark one and my brother is light and people would often tell me if I were light like him I would be a knockout.Luckily for me my relatives never encouraged it so I used to shrug it off

Really interesting, thanks!

Thanks Sunshine,B, Abeni and Leon. But it yeh it seems we are still caught in this backward mindset.

Dr. D, I agree with you, and that's exactly what I will be talking about in part II.

Sweetness and Justacoolcat, I agree, we need to remember we are all from different ethnicity, but underneath we are still the same thing, humans.

No Jdid, mi nuh get mi entitled car yet, mi ned fi go down to the Brown Registry and demand it!

Thanks for drppin by Baraka

hmm... i'm speechless... but i'm sad to hear... racialism still does exist, in way too many different forms...

i wish people understand that skin color is just pigment.. some people have less, some have more. that's it. the person him/herself is more important than just the skin, no?

The Jamaican situation that you describe Stunner is not really so much racism. It is really classism. The fact that you are brown and should therefore "have money" is because you are assumed to come from a particular class of society with that color. The point I am trying to make is that the class stigma is what sets of the skin comments in Ja and not the other way around. My 2 cents.

I know what you talking 'bout, even down to the ancestry and being called "Missa Chin". I am also called "Indian" so I guess I have hit all the major racial groups... A true mongrel! ;-)

Exact, same observations I made when I lived in Jamaica.

I've heard people on the bus [yep, I took the bus for years] insult others by calling them dark, etc.

As for the bleaching thing, the media has to help fight that one.

'BROWNIN' sounds soooo uneducated but....
can understand these sentiments....i remember when i was in Monarch pharmacy and i was at the magazine section with two of my fmr. hall mates (one of indian (but still brown) mix and the other a bonafide 'brownin'), and they were reading the magazines, whereas i was just taking them up and flipping through. yet it was i and i alone the security thought of reprimanding, not my friends or the two white dudes ....nope just me (and am quite sure it was on the premise that they had more purchasing power than I)......but the sad reality is that the 'darker browns/blacks' think this way because there are the few idiotic lighter blacks/brownings' who perpetrate it's good to see that this thinking is being nullified by a fellow 'browning' himself........but as ma colleage Daycia would say they (the so called 'brownings/lighter blacks')would stop when they realized no one was paying attention......

Wheel and pull up again on this one. You should hear my actual experiences.

The term Browning is not an insult in Jamaica. The term came obviously from Brown person. This was a classification of one of mixed race, usually White and Black. The phenotype is one of mostly Caucasian with very little Black features. In the early days like Whites, the Brown people held higher jobs and some owned slaves. In Jamaica and the Caribbean, Brown/Mulatto and Negro/Black are two distinctive categories. In the Caribbean, Latin America and the US people use Creole and Mulatto,and Moreno(Latinos) more commonly. Browning is just a slang for Brown which always existed. The coloured was used to describe mixed race in Jamaica, same as S. Africa. Its just culture. Our culture is not American. Respect and don't negatively compare.At least we have an identity still as Brown and don't use the slave master 1 drop rule!

There seems to be a belief among some that Black people can't be racist. The preference is to excuse discrimination based on color as "class-based."

It's time we fessed up to the truth. Black, Brown,whatever we choose to call ourselves...we are a deeply troubled people and have absorbed racist ideology to the bone. It's ingrained in the majority of African diaspora cultures around the world to some degree. It's deeper and more rampant in some than others.

Jamaican culture is built on the brutal plantation politics and systems which have never been addressed or tackled since emancipation of slavery.
Jamaicans are in denial that they have become the "monster" in the image of their former slave masters.

Jamaican's have a deeply ingrained color complex which has enslaved the minds of the people and which helps to retard the growth and progress of the people. When I visited the island, it was like taking a trip back in time. It looked and felt like slavery was just abolished yesterday. The majority of people still live in slave-like shanty town slave shacks. They work on planatation like vacation resorts where they have to shuck and jive at the whim of the clueless tourists.

They treat Black tourists like 2nd class citizens while they bow, scrape and water melon smile the white tourists. They kill each other over nothing for ridiculous slights or differences of opinion because Black is not valued or respected.

Light skinned Jamaicans vascillate between loving the privileges their skin color secures for them and complaining about being discriminated against because they are "pretty" and "brown." It's so disingenuous.

Beautiful on the surface, the Island is still as brutal, corrupt and backward as it was as a slave colony. As long as they content to under-educate the people -- and the politicians continue to manipulate the ignorance and fears of the masses for their own profit and gains -- Jamaica will remain a promise unfulfilled.

You can't move forward by swapping domination by the British for domination by America. Until the people face up to the dark side of the culture and the history of the island and the culture...things will never change. Browning complex is not the issue...cognitive dissonance is the problem.

Im called "browning" all the time. Aint nothing wrong with that. Why complain about having a nice skin tone.

tell them fi suck off your brown buddy.

thing is you need to realise you are different....accept it...i get it all the time...but its not offensive to me ...because i am a brownin and proud of not so proud of being a brownin...more just proud of myself as a person way i look ...things i know about...and what i can do..i dont wanna be like the rest of them...i like being different ...if they cant handle that then either bring it on ...or fuck off....your problem is you think they are better than you....whereas i think i am better than them....and i am ..i am better than anyone who got a problem with my skin and skills....anyone that crosses me or insults me soon changes their mind...not because of the way i look...but they fear something in my hurts them when they see i dont give a flying fuck...that i am totally happy with being me....that shook many people.

I agree. From a Black American chick. The benefits/privileges of being light-skinned / mixed race far outweigh the minor inconveniences or hurt feelings. All around the world , particularly in the African diaspora.

And I'm not saying it is better in itself ( because biologically the more melanin the better...unless mutations occur ). We live in a system of white supremacy currently and the hierarchy goes from the lightest / whitest race and features and declines as the people get darker. Others believe the hype . Don't believe it unless you earned it and are actually worthy of it.

And I'm not saying it is better in itself ( because biologically the more melanin the better...unless mutations occur ). We live in a system of white supremacy currently and the hierarchy goes from the lightest / whitest race and features and declines as the people get darker. Others believe the hype . Don't believe it unless you earned it and are actually worthy of it.

Yeah ! Put those ugly darkies in their place !.... smh 😕

Yeah ! Put those ugly darkies in their place !.... smh 😕

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