Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Patwa and discrimination

Published:Saturday | September 21, 2019 | 12:07 AM


‘Duppy know who fi frighten.’ (Jamaican proverb)

“Cum yah bwoy!’’ (police officer)

“Mi caan badda wid dem yah people.” (office worker)

Will Patwa getting official status do for many Jamaicans what the Civil Rights Act of 1964 failed to achieve for Afro-Americans? Why are Africans and people of African descent universally discriminated against? Is it due to the amount of melanin in the skin or because of perceived or real lack of empowerment?

Many individuals inveterately chase away or kick little mongrel dogs, but will, naturally, cower whenever they encounter a pit bull or Rottweiler!

Prosperity, popularity, privilege and especially power are not just influential but crucial factors in people’s interactions. People treat others based on what they know or think those persons can do for them or do to them; or get someone to do accordingly.

‘big, bad, bossy’

This social phenomenon is ever-present and evident in every sphere of life. It is displayed openly by the abusive ‘big, bad, bossy’ behaviour of some persons and less overtly from the arrogance of the ‘ahead and above attitude’ characterising all forms of snobbery, whether in personal interactions, business establishments or with state agencies.

The quality of service people often receive, as well as abuse, is highly dependent on their actual or perceived social status, influenced by blood relations, race, skin shade, education, profession or vocation, residence, political and religious affiliation and connections and wealth which are intricately interlinked.

Persons perceived with high social status (educated, rich, uptown, light-skinned) are more likely to receive the desirable, cordial and appropriate treatment. But those who are black, poor and uneducated or unsophisticated (or perceived to be) and not knowing their rights or having the resources to defend them oftentimes meet abuse, condescension or less-than-desirable treatment, which happens everywhere.

Academic achievements reflect some social status, especially the ability and clarity with which one communicates. The unofficial status of Patwa is not the real problem; it’s rather the manner and WHO is speaking it.

Patwa with an accent (tourists) is quite welcome. The same attitude is projected towards those adorned with jewellery and others trying to twang; prominent athletes; entertainers; pastors; politicians; and the well-educated. Former American President Barack Obama received resounding cheers when he greeted us in Patwa.

Many folks speaking Patwa are often ridiculed and treated poorly, primarily because of their manner of communication, appearance, occupations and income, etc., to which many, offensively, ascribe inferior status and treat accordingly. It’s not Patwa, but a class of people facing discrimination, and officialising Patwa won’t end this unfortunate social phenomenon.