“Out of ma-a-ny, one pe-people, that’s confusing mama, what does it mean?’ hopscotched the little girl as she read the Jamaican Motto. It was emblazoned on the great wall leading out of immigration to the Delta Boeing 747 and the great big USA, land of the free and the brave, Orlando in particular. I didn’t hear the mother’s response because of my hurried steps to board but as a static state of calm replaced the gut wrenching fear of take- off, my scrambled brain slowly settled back on the subject, musing on how appropriate it was for that motto to be there. The words were loud and unapologetic, painted among the lower-cased, scattered historical facts about victories won or battles scarcely lost by a country no bigger than a pea on the map. Its was noticed by a child not more than eight – confusing though it may be but to the droves of sun-kissed tourists, the multitudes of reluctant, returning resident aliens and immigrants or to the bonafide, roots, Jamrock Jamaican like myself, it should be anything else but.
As I obeyed the fasten seatbelt sign I thought of the ever changing kaleidoscope of racial hues, black, white, brown, light brown, red, chocolate and the occasional albino that defines the Jamaican population of which I am a part, I grew up oblivious of the color of my skin. Not for want of being aware, “having eyes but seeing not, nor ears but hear not” – but simply because skin color was irrelevant.The essence of existing was facing everyday the “no problem mon” style, surrendering to the melting pot of becoming “one people” resorting to racial references only in the voice of “many” seeing and announcing cultural accolades.
The plane bucked and shivered as if trying to digest something larger than itself, I gripped my seat and tried to do the same, for my thoughts troubled me. How will that little dark skinned girl I saw earlier survive the clear racial barriers and battle lines drawn in every facet of the society in which she was headed. Here in this brave and free land she will find race does not define you but degrades you, does not shout with many voices but has crisp white overtones, shady red monotones and deep dark undertones. She will feel overwhelmed, like I am, not in a melting pot of hues but in a melt down of bigotry, innuendos, hate, condescension, ridicule and political correctness. If like me, though her Jamaican foundation was carefully laid then racism will only become a ladder that you climb to find the better part of yourself.
If you look closely at that wall and scroll slowly down to the edge of the large lettered motto you will find a list that starts with an important fact. “Jamaica is the only country in the world with a church every 5sq. Miles”. Then below that “….the only country with a prayer as their national anthem.” Here is a place where freedom rings and fear, in a people, is non-existent. For me the land of the free and home of the brave was behind us– the country that we just left. That small, insignificant, pea-sized, third land with the Great Wall.