One of the worst things for Jamaicans working abroad for companies that randomly drug test their employees is that fact that Jamaicans are drug tested more than other employees because of the stereotype that “all Jamaicans smoke weed.” So when presidential hopeful, Kamala Harris, attributed her love and support for marijuana to her Jamaican heritage, many Jamaicans were taken aback.
Not all Jamaicans smoke marijuana, in fact the majority don’t. However, because of the Rasta Movement, many reggae artistes adoption of the movement and the greatest reggae artiste ever, Peter Tosh, constantly advocating for marijuana legalization during his lifetime, many people around the world wrongly believe that most Jamaicans, if not all, smoke marijuana.
Kamala Harris while making her media rounds in the promotion of her 2020 presidential run was asked if she ever smoked marijuana and whether or not she supported its legalization on the federal level, to which she responded, “Half my family is from Jamaica, are you kidding me?”.
Miss Harris was trying to convey that the fact that she was of Jamaican heritage meant she had to be a user of marijuana and she also had to be pro-marijuana legalization.
Of course intelligent people will realize that Miss Harris was just playing up to her audience. She said what she thought was the cool thing to say and got herself into a web of stereotypes. She wanted to sound cool because she was talking to a hip hop audience but just like not all Jamaicans smoke marijuana, not all fans of hip hop are cool.
While Kamala Harris’ foot in her mouth moment was understandable and forgivable, her father, Donald Harris, response was almost as backwards as Jim Crow. His reaction to his daughter’s use and support of marijuana reeks of the typical uptown Jamaican response in such a situation.
Mr. Harris “better than thou” attitude is reminiscent of the time the wife of Sean Paul made a statement that the fastest man ever, Usain Bolt, did not belong uptown.
He made it seem like those who either use or support the legalization of cannabis are not worthy to be a part of the human race. Despite the fact that he is living in California, a state where marijuana is now legal, Mr. Harris seems to suggest that being associated with marijuana is the worst thing that could happen to a person.
“My dear departed grandmothers as well as my deceased parents must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not, with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics,” Jamaica Global Online website quoted Donald Harris as saying in a statement.
The “pot-smoking joy seeker” comment shows exactly what Mr. Harris thinks of marijuana smokers and what he thinks of many Jamaicans. His thinking is backwards and proves that he is what many Jamaicans would call an “educated fool”.
Many uptown Jamaicans have a history of thinking like Mr. Harris and that is one of the main reasons why Jamaica is in the state that it is in today. These Jamaicans will do anything to keep the class system on the island intact and do everything in their power to be an obstacle to social and financial progress if that progress will in anyway benefit “downtown” Jamaicans.
So while it is true that Kamala Harris was stereotyping Jamaicans in the name of political gain, her father’s response is a travesty.