Jamaica has joined in the Black Lives Matter movement with their own protests with their focus on police brutality and it has also sparked debate on skin colour issues.
Protests have focused on the island’s high rate of homicides by police and other social injustices. But they have also raised debates about colourism – discrimination against people with a dark skin tone.
On June 6, a small Black Lives Matter protest was held outside the US embassy in Kingston. Protesters focused particularly on extrajudicial killings by police and other security forces. According to Amnesty International, Jamaica has one of the highest rates of lethal police shootings in the world.
Two days after George Floyd was killed a month ago, Susan Bogle, a poor woman with an intellectual disability, was allegedly shot in her home during a police-military operation in August Town, a neighbourhood of Kingston. Protesters carried placards with her name, as well as those of other victims of police brutality, including Mario Deane, who died in police custody in 2014.
Protesters stressed that these victims of police brutality had one thing in common: they were poor, and because of Jamaica’s complex class and colour relations, mostly dark-skinned.
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 that 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 poor Jamaicans.
But 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 colourism in Jamaican society.