With a population of less than 3 million people, the Jamaican Constabulary Force averages about 140 killing per year, making it one of the deadliest police forces in the world per capita. Even though Jamaica proudly flaunts its motto “Out of many, one people”, since the island gained its independence in 1962, a white person has never been killed by the police.
Since Jamaica broke away from English rule its white population has dwindled drastically over the years and is now only .4% of the total population. With such a low number of whites, it is understandable that not one has been killed by the police recently. However when you consider that in the its almost 58 years history, a police force that is so quick to kill has never killed a white person, one has to wonder if white lives matter more in Jamaica like it does in the United States.
The murder of George Floyd by police in the United States has sparked protests all over the world as the Black Lives Matter movement gains steam. Rightfully, there were protests even in Jamaica although the volume of protesters were smaller than other places. Many Jamaicans believe that with the island being 92 percent Black, it does not have a racism problem but rather issues with classism and colorism.
Two days after George Floyd was murdered, Susan Bogle, a woman with a learning disability, was allegedly shot in her home during a police-military operation in August Town, a neighborhood of Kingston. Protesters carried placards with her name, as well as those of other victims of police brutality. All the placards had photos of Black victims only, even though the land of Marcus Garvey will boast that it is “Out of many, one people.”
Protesters stressed that these victims of police brutality had one thing in common: they were poor, and because of Jamaica’s complex class and color relations, mostly dark-skinned. The stats do back up the protestors claim. Jamaica’s population is 92 percent Black but more than 99 percent of those killed by the police were Black men.
Several days after Bogle’s killing, Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness visited her family and said the incident would be fully investigated. But he faced an online backlash from those who said the visit was an insensitive PR stunt rather than an attempt to meaningfully address the high rate of police homicides, gang violence or the general plight of Black Jamaicans.
While public debates both in newspapers and on social media largely focused on the extrajudicial killings, questions were also raised, especially by young Jamaicans about the role of colorism in Jamaican society.
The prevalence of skin bleaching is only one expression of colorism in Jamaica. Such prejudice has its origins in slavery, when slave children fathered by white planters or overseers, often as a result of sexual violence, were given special privileges. These included exemption from working in the fields on account of their closeness to white men and, by definition, whiteness.
The truth is, in Jamaica, like many other places, the darker you are, the more likely you are to be a victim of police killings. Of course there are many contributing factors to this fact, however, when you consider that in 58 years of independence your police force which has one of the highest rate of killing around the world has never killed a single white person, a discussion must be had.