The Jamaica which began statehood had few of the characteristics which tended to attract organized crime to the Caribbean. There were no casinos as in Cuba, no off-shore banks as in the Bahamas, or history of deep corruption on the part of the political elites as was the case of Dominica. The Jamaican problem was, an is, the violence between the two political parties organized for election, and thus patronage purposes. Organized political violence was within, and not against the system and it began well before there was a public consciousness of the drug trade and the violence it spawned; in fact helping to perpetuate the hegemony of the two party system.
”Events in Jamaica in the late 1970s reveal a newer brand of debt diplomacy-its more insidious style is preferred by trilateralists over the Chilean coup scenario. Even more than before, the International Monetary Fund acts as chief ambassador of Western capitalism in the art of debt diplomacy. The IMF is not the world’s biggest loan-shark, but it is the most important; the IMF” good housekeeping seal” is the green light for lending by banks, government agencies, and other international financial institutions like the World Bank. The U.S. and other trilateral countries control the IMF….The explosive events in Jamaica fit into a growing pattern of U.S. backed destabilization, political repression and economic manipulation in the Caribbean and Central America ( Holly Sklar )
Very pertinent words, but unfortunately they were written in 1980 though could have reflected this past weeks violence in Kingston. Expectedly, the link between the drug trade and elite corruption has been a marriage of convenience, deeply embedded, since Jamaica gained independence on 1962. As early as 1966, the leading Jamaican newspaper ”The Gleaner” asked ”why it is the police, never, ever, have sought and brought to justice any of the big wheels in the Western ganja trade; crime and drugs are related.” it took a major report in the Financial Times of London, however, to force the reality of the Jamaican U.S. crime connection home. Terry Lacey wrote after the particularly murderous seventies closed, that there would be little chance of coping with the problems of economic and social development in Jamaica if racketeers and gangsters were able to corrupt and undermine Jamaican society.
Of the ethnic gangs that rule America’s inner cities, none has had the impact of the Jamaican posses.So a problem that began in Jamaica now has international implications, which brought American pressure to bear on Jamaica. Spawned in the ghettos of Kingston as mercenary street-fighters for the island’s politicians, the posses began migrating to the United States in the early 1980s, just in time to catch and ride the crack wave as it engulfed the country. Feared and honored for being “harder than the rest,” they would lay claim to their new American territory with outlaw bravura, and the raw dancehall music born of their world would define “gangsta” culture for a generation of angry sufferers in Jamaica, America, and England.
”Coke is described as one of the world’s most dangerous drug lords by the U.S. Justice Department. He has ties to the governing Jamaica Labour Party and holds significant sway over the West Kingston area represented in Parliament by Golding.Golding’s fight against the extradition strained relations with Washington, which questioned Jamaica’s reliability as an ally in the fight against drugs. His handling of the matter, particularly his hiring of a U.S. firm to lobby Washington to drop the extradition request, provoked an outcry in Jamaica that threatened his political career.” ( Village Voice ) The Gleaner reported that Coke was ”A successful businessman, the company, Incomparable Enterprise, for which he was director up to December 2002, received millions of dollars in state contracts annually. His other company, Presidential Click, stages the biggest weekly street dance – ‘Passa Passa’- in Jamaica, plus what is now a dancehall calendar event,’Champions In Action’.”
During the course of Jamaica’s history, the exploitation of the masses has been legitimated and rationalized by a system of ideas and symbols which has elaborated the allegedly inherent and functional inferiority of Africans as a distinct racial grouping and as bearers of a peculiar, “cultureless” culture. Racist ideology and institutional arrangements have historically supported and permitted the superexploitation of Afro-Jamaicans as a labor force, the violation of black and brown women as objects of sexual indulgence, and the political alienation and repression of the island’s majority. The many segments of the working-age population which, to varying extents, are absorbed into the urban informal economy may represent a surplus labor force from the point of view of their surface relationship to corporate capitalist spheres; however, the casual workers, scufflers, hustlers, and the petty producers and traders who fill the streets, lanes, and yards (i.e., communal residences) with their daily survival struggles are vertically integrated into peripheral capitalist structures that depend upon the articulation and interpenetration of variant socioeconomic patterns, the asymmetrical conjuncture of which constitutes a socioeconomic formation specific to the complexities and contradictions of Jamaica’s historical development within a world system.
It’s the economy stupid. And. Its the racism stupid.Writers like Bell Hooks have critiqued Balck culture with a fine comb and a perceptive form of racial profiling that highlights the role of race within the overall hierarchy. Although tainted by some hard left dogma, the quality of her articulation is not to be underestimated. The shadow of slavery, identity and affirmation are sometimes difficult to reconcile. A small example regarding black women and hair:
Within white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the social and political context in which the custom of black folks straightening our hair emerges, it represents an imitation of the dominant white group’s appearance and often indicates internalized racism, self-hatred, and/or low self esteem. During the 1960s black people who actively worked to critique, challenge, and change white racism pointed to the way in which black people’s obsession with straight hair reflected a colonized mentality. It was at this time that the natural hairdo, the “afro,” became fashionable as a sign of cultural resistance to racist oppression and as a celebration of blackness. Naturals were equated with political militancy. Many young black folks found j
Stripped of the positive binding rituals that traditionally surrounded the experience, black women straightening our hair seemed more and more to be exclusively a signifier of white supremacist oppression and exploitation. It was clearly a process that was about black women changing their appearance to imitate white people’s looks. This need to look as much like white people as possible, to look safe, is related to a desire to succeed in the white world. Before desegregation black people could worry less about what white folks thought about their hair. In a discussion with black women about beauty at Spelman College, students talked about the importance of wearing straight hair when seeking jobs…
Despite many changes in racial politics, black women continue to obsess about their hair and straightening hair continues to be serious business. It continues to tap into the insecurity black women feel about our value in this white supremacist society. Talking with groups of women at various college campuses and with black women in our communities there seems to be general consensus that our obsession with hair in general reflects continued struggles with self-esteem and self-actualization. We talk about the extent to which black women perceive our hair as the enemy, as a problem we must solve, a territory we must conquer. Above all it is a part of our black female body that must be controlled. Most of us were not raised in environments where we learned to regard our hair as sensual or beautiful in an unprocessed state. Many of us talk about situations where white people ask to touch our hair when it is unprocessed then show surprise that the texture is soft or feels good. In the eyes of many white folks and other non-black folks, the natural afro looks like steel wool or a helmet.Responses to natural hairstyles worn by black women usually reveal the extent to which our natural hair is perceived in white supremacist culture as not only ugly but frightening. We also internalize that fear. The extent to which we are comfortable with our hair usually reflects on our overall feelings about our bodies.” ( Bell Hooks )
Looking at photographs of myself and my sisters when we had straightened hair in high school I noticed how much older we looked than when our hair was not processed. It is ironic that we live in a culture that places so much emphasis on women looking young, yet black women are encouraged to change our hair in ways that make us appear older. This past semester we read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in a black women’s fiction class. I ask students to write autobiographical statements that reflect their thoughts about the connection between race and physical beauty. A vast majority of black women wrote about their hair. When I asked individual women outside class why they continued to straighten their hair, many asserted that naturals don’t look good on them or that they required too much work.
One cannot fathom Jamaica’s violence without understanding its politics. Decades before the country’s independence from Britain in 1962, supporters of the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party were stoning, beating and stabbing one another for control over the island. They created rival gangs that evolved into organized criminal networks, and violence escalated over the decades as semi-automatic firearms replaced sticks and other rudimentary weapons. Tumultuous political relations following independence led to the creation of “garrison communities” — neighborhoods controlled by agents of a particular political party — that persist to this day as crime strongholds. Elections are typically accompanied by increased bloodshed, and key political figures have often associated openly with underworld figures. ( Matthew McClearn )
With crime lords and quasi-legitimate politicians arm-in-arm, it’s not hard to guess the pervasive influence of organized crime. Narcotics are the main commodity: Jamaica serves as a major transshipment point to the large consumer markets of North America and Europe. Several years ago, Jamaica’s minister of national security claimed that one-fifth of America’s demand for cocaine was satisfied by product flowing through Jamaica. Extortion and protection rackets are also big business.