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24987 Posts in 9558 Topics by 966 Members Latest Member: - Jahirae Most online today: 91 (July 03, 2005, 11:25:30 PM)
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 on: May 07, 2017, 04:27:48 AM 
Started by albert_tempie - Last post by Tyehimba
Thank you for your documentation of the history of Dread/Rasta in Dominica.

That is an important piece of history, so i am glad that you have done that work from an insider point of view.

I started to read the book on the website: https://dreadrastafariandethiopia.wordpress.com/

 Good work

Are there any plans to do a hard copy book?

 on: April 23, 2017, 04:32:22 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
Although a daily routine of physical activity confers remarkable benefits for quality and quantity of life, prolonged continuous high-intensity exercise can cause adverse structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries. An evolving body of data indicates that chronically training for and participating in extreme endurance competitions (marathons, ultra-marathons, Iron-man distance triathlons, etc.) can cause acute volume overload of the atria and right ventricle, with transient reductions in right ventricular function and elevations of cardiac biomarkers, all of which generally return to normal within 7 to 10 days.
In veteran extreme endurance athletes, this recurrent myocardial injury and repair may eventually result in patchy myocardial fibrosis, particularly in the atria, and right ventricle, creating a substrate for atrial and ventricular arrhythmias.
Furthermore, chronic, extreme endurance exercise may be associated with accelerated aging in the heart and coronary arteries. This presentation will discuss the cardiac pathophysiology of extreme endurance exercise, and make suggestions about better fitness patterns for conferring optimal health and longevity.

James O'Keefe MD — Cardiovascular Damage From Extreme Endurance Exercise

 on: April 23, 2017, 04:30:24 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.

In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.

Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.

As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious. The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, on average, no more discerning than those who had been told they were mostly wrong.

In the second phase of the study, the deception was revealed. The students were told that the real point of the experiment was to gauge their responses to thinking they were right or wrong. (This, it turned out, was also a deception.) Finally, the students were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly, and how many they thought an average student would get right. At this point, something curious happened. The students in the high-score group said that they thought they had, in fact, done quite well—significantly better than the average student—even though, as they’d just been told, they had zero grounds for believing this. Conversely, those who’d been assigned to the low-score group said that they thought they had done significantly worse than the average student—a conclusion that was equally unfounded.

“Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”

A few years later, a new set of Stanford students was recruited for a related study. The students were handed packets of information about a pair of firefighters, Frank K. and George H. Frank’s bio noted that, among other things, he had a baby daughter and he liked to scuba dive. George had a small son and played golf. The packets also included the men’s responses on what the researchers called the Risky-Conservative Choice Test. According to one version of the packet, Frank was a successful firefighter who, on the test, almost always went with the safest option. In the other version, Frank also chose the safest option, but he was a lousy firefighter who’d been put “on report” by his supervisors several times. Once again, midway through the study, the students were informed that they’d been misled, and that the information they’d received was entirely fictitious. The students were then asked to describe their own beliefs. What sort of attitude toward risk did they think a successful firefighter would have? The students who’d received the first packet thought that he would avoid it. The students in the second group thought he’d embrace it.

Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted. In this case, the failure was “particularly impressive,” since two data points would never have been enough information to generalize from.

The Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can’t think straight was shocking. It isn’t any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did we come to be this way?

In a new book, “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard), the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber take a stab at answering this question. Mercier, who works at a French research institute in Lyon, and Sperber, now based at the Central European University, in Budapest, point out that reason is an evolved trait, like bipedalism or three-color vision. It emerged on the savannas of Africa, and has to be understood in that context.

Stripped of a lot of what might be called cognitive-science-ese, Mercier and Sperber’s argument runs, more or less, as follows: Humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to coöperate. Coöperation is difficult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best course of action. Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.

“Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves,” Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective.

Consider what’s become known as “confirmation bias,” the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. Of the many forms of faulty thinking that have been identified, confirmation bias is among the best catalogued; it’s the subject of entire textbooks’ worth of experiments. One of the most famous of these was conducted, again, at Stanford. For this experiment, researchers rounded up a group of students who had opposing opinions about capital punishment. Half the students were in favor of it and thought that it deterred crime; the other half were against it and thought that it had no effect on crime.

The students were asked to respond to two studies. One provided data in support of the deterrence argument, and the other provided data that called it into question. Both studies—you guessed it—were made up, and had been designed to present what were, objectively speaking, equally compelling statistics. The students who had originally supported capital punishment rated the pro-deterrence data highly credible and the anti-deterrence data unconvincing; the students who’d originally opposed capital punishment did the reverse. At the end of the experiment, the students were asked once again about their views. Those who’d started out pro-capital punishment were now even more in favor of it; those who’d opposed it were even more hostile.

If reason is designed to generate sound judgments, then it’s hard to conceive of a more serious design flaw than confirmation bias. Imagine, Mercier and Sperber suggest, a mouse that thinks the way we do. Such a mouse, “bent on confirming its belief that there are no cats around,” would soon be dinner. To the extent that confirmation bias leads people to dismiss evidence of new or underappreciated threats—the human equivalent of the cat around the corner—it’s a trait that should have been selected against. The fact that both we and it survive, Mercier and Sperber argue, proves that it must have some adaptive function, and that function, they maintain, is related to our “hypersociability.”

Mercier and Sperber prefer the term “myside bias.” Humans, they point out, aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.

A recent experiment performed by Mercier and some European colleagues neatly demonstrates this asymmetry. Participants were asked to answer a series of simple reasoning problems. They were then asked to explain their responses, and were given a chance to modify them if they identified mistakes. The majority were satisfied with their original choices; fewer than fifteen per cent changed their minds in step two.

In step three, participants were shown one of the same problems, along with their answer and the answer of another participant, who’d come to a different conclusion. Once again, they were given the chance to change their responses. But a trick had been played: the answers presented to them as someone else’s were actually their own, and vice versa. About half the participants realized what was going on. Among the other half, suddenly people became a lot more critical. Nearly sixty per cent now rejected the responses that they’d earlier been satisfied with.

This lopsidedness, according to Mercier and Sperber, reflects the task that reason evolved to perform, which is to prevent us from getting screwed by the other members of our group. Living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were primarily concerned with their social standing, and with making sure that they weren’t the ones risking their lives on the hunt while others loafed around in the cave. There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments.

Among the many, many issues our forebears didn’t worry about were the deterrent effects of capital punishment and the ideal attributes of a firefighter. Nor did they have to contend with fabricated studies, or fake news, or Twitter. It’s no wonder, then, that today reason often seems to fail us. As Mercier and Sperber write, “This is one of many cases in which the environment changed too quickly for natural selection to catch up.”

Steven Sloman, a professor at Brown, and Philip Fernbach, a professor at the University of Colorado, are also cognitive scientists. They, too, believe sociability is the key to how the human mind functions or, perhaps more pertinently, malfunctions. They begin their book, “The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone” (Riverhead), with a look at toilets.

Virtually everyone in the United States, and indeed throughout the developed world, is familiar with toilets. A typical flush toilet has a ceramic bowl filled with water. When the handle is depressed, or the button pushed, the water—and everything that’s been deposited in it—gets sucked into a pipe and from there into the sewage system. But how does this actually happen?

In a study conducted at Yale, graduate students were asked to rate their understanding of everyday devices, including toilets, zippers, and cylinder locks. They were then asked to write detailed, step-by-step explanations of how the devices work, and to rate their understanding again. Apparently, the effort revealed to the students their own ignorance, because their self-assessments dropped. (Toilets, it turns out, are more complicated than they appear.)

Sloman and Fernbach see this effect, which they call the “illusion of explanatory depth,” just about everywhere. People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people. In the case of my toilet, someone else designed it so that I can operate it easily. This is something humans are very good at. We’ve been relying on one another’s expertise ever since we figured out how to hunt together, which was probably a key development in our evolutionary history. So well do we collaborate, Sloman and Fernbach argue, that we can hardly tell where our own understanding ends and others’ begins.

“One implication of the naturalness with which we divide cognitive labor,” they write, is that there’s “no sharp boundary between one person’s ideas and knowledge” and “those of other members” of the group.

This borderlessness, or, if you prefer, confusion, is also crucial to what we consider progress. As people invented new tools for new ways of living, they simultaneously created new realms of ignorance; if everyone had insisted on, say, mastering the principles of metalworking before picking up a knife, the Bronze Age wouldn’t have amounted to much. When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.

Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. It’s one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about. Sloman and Fernbach cite a survey conducted in 2014, not long after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Respondents were asked how they thought the U.S. should react, and also whether they could identify Ukraine on a map. The farther off base they were about the geography, the more likely they were to favor military intervention. (Respondents were so unsure of Ukraine’s location that the median guess was wrong by eighteen hundred miles, roughly the distance from Kiev to Madrid.)

Surveys on many other issues have yielded similarly dismaying results. “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views. If we all now dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts our opinion, you get, well, the Trump Administration.

“This is how a community of knowledge can become dangerous,” Sloman and Fernbach observe. The two have performed their own version of the toilet experiment, substituting public policy for household gadgets. In a study conducted in 2012, they asked people for their stance on questions like: Should there be a single-payer health-care system? Or merit-based pay for teachers? Participants were asked to rate their positions depending on how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the proposals. Next, they were instructed to explain, in as much detail as they could, the impacts of implementing each one. Most people at this point ran into trouble. Asked once again to rate their views, they ratcheted down the intensity, so that they either agreed or disagreed less vehemently.

Sloman and Fernbach see in this result a little candle for a dark world. If we—or our friends or the pundits on CNN—spent less time pontificating and more trying to work through the implications of policy proposals, we’d realize how clueless we are and moderate our views. This, they write, “may be the only form of thinking that will shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes.”

One way to look at science is as a system that corrects for people’s natural inclinations. In a well-run laboratory, there’s no room for myside bias; the results have to be reproducible in other laboratories, by researchers who have no motive to confirm them. And this, it could be argued, is why the system has proved so successful. At any given moment, a field may be dominated by squabbles, but, in the end, the methodology prevails. Science moves forward, even as we remain stuck in place.

In “Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us” (Oxford), Jack Gorman, a psychiatrist, and his daughter, Sara Gorman, a public-health specialist, probe the gap between what science tells us and what we tell ourselves. Their concern is with those persistent beliefs which are not just demonstrably false but also potentially deadly, like the conviction that vaccines are hazardous. Of course, what’s hazardous is not being vaccinated; that’s why vaccines were created in the first place. “Immunization is one of the triumphs of modern medicine,” the Gormans note. But no matter how many scientific studies conclude that vaccines are safe, and that there’s no link between immunizations and autism, anti-vaxxers remain unmoved. (They can now count on their side—sort of—Donald Trump, who has said that, although he and his wife had their son, Barron, vaccinated, they refused to do so on the timetable recommended by pediatricians.)

The Gormans, too, argue that ways of thinking that now seem self-destructive must at some point have been adaptive. And they, too, dedicate many pages to confirmation bias, which, they claim, has a physiological component. They cite research suggesting that people experience genuine pleasure—a rush of dopamine—when processing information that supports their beliefs. “It feels good to ‘stick to our guns’ even if we are wrong,” they observe.

The Gormans don’t just want to catalogue the ways we go wrong; they want to correct for them. There must be some way, they maintain, to convince people that vaccines are good for kids, and handguns are dangerous. (Another widespread but statistically insupportable belief they’d like to discredit is that owning a gun makes you safer.) But here they encounter the very problems they have enumerated. Providing people with accurate information doesn’t seem to help; they simply discount it. Appealing to their emotions may work better, but doing so is obviously antithetical to the goal of promoting sound science. “The challenge that remains,” they write toward the end of their book, “is to figure out how to address the tendencies that lead to false scientific belief.”

“The Enigma of Reason,” “The Knowledge Illusion,” and “Denying to the Grave” were all written before the November election. And yet they anticipate Kellyanne Conway and the rise of “alternative facts.” These days, it can feel as if the entire country has been given over to a vast psychological experiment being run either by no one or by Steve Bannon. Rational agents would be able to think their way to a solution. But, on this matter, the literature is not reassuring.


 on: April 17, 2017, 05:06:34 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
"At the beginning of the seventeenth century the country was called Dahomey and was one of the most powerful states in West Africa. The major ethnic and linguistic group was the Fon and they had made a deal with the Portuguese. Rather than their own people being captured and sold in to slavery they made a contract with the Portuguese to hunt and sell tribes people from smaller ethnic groups.

The Fon warriors were numerous and powerful and there was little other groups of people could do to defend themselves against this onslaught. Then, someone among the Tofinu people came up with an idea. Their name is lost to history but one wise person realized that they could take advantage of the religious practices of their enemy.

The Fon were forbidden by their religion to advance upon and water bound settlement. Any groups of people who lived on water were, by the law of the Fon, safe. Lake Nokoué is simply immense. Ganvié was established as a means to escape being sold in to a lifetime’s slavery and shipped across the world in appalling conditions. No wonder its name means the collectivity of those who found peace at last. The alternative translation is the much more to the point We Survived."


 on: April 17, 2017, 01:49:00 AM 
Started by Tyehimba - Last post by Tyehimba
 Is China's Mosuo tribe the world's last matriarchy?

Women from the Mosuo tribe do not marry, take as many lovers as they wish and have no word for "father" or "husband". But the arrival of tourism and the sex industry is changing their culture

by Shahesta Shaitly

Two women row a canoe made of driftwood across a lake, their eyes fixed on a destination in the distance. The woman in the foreground bites her bottom lip with determination. There's a steeliness in her expression that says she's done this many times before.

In a series of exceptional photographs, Italian photographer Luca Locatelli spent a month documenting the lives of the Mosuo tribe, often described as one of the last matriarchal societies in the world. Locatelli travelled to Lugu Lake in southwest China, 2,700 metres above sea level, taking two days to reach his destination by road. There, in a valley on the border of the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, he shadowed a society where women are in charge and where there are no words to express the concepts of "father" or "husband".

Locatelli describes Lugu Lake as "paradise". "The water is clear and clean and the surroundings are peaceful and beautiful – it's perfect," he says. Known as the "Kingdom of Women" throughout China, 40,000 Mosuo people live in a series of villages around the lake. Women here make most major decisions; they control household finances, have the rightful ownership of land and houses, and full rights to the children born to them – quite radical considering that many parts of China still practise arranged marriages – although political power tends to rest with the men (making the description "matrilineal" more accurate).

But what makes the Mosuo unique is their practice of zuo hun, or "walking marriage". From the age of 13, after being initiated, females may choose to take lovers from men within the tribe, having as many or as few as they please over their lifetime. Male companions are known as axias and spend their days carrying out jobs such as fishing and animal rearing, and visit the women's homes at night, often secretly; any resulting children are raised by the woman's family. The father and all adult men are known as "uncles" – there is no stigma attached to not knowing who a child's father is.

As commerce tries to elbow tradition out of the way and younger generations of the Mosuo are tempted by outside influence, a darker, seedier side has emerged in recent years. Tourism is booming, and the Chinese government is keen to market and monetise the Mosuo to Chinese tourists, even installing a toll booth charging $5 to enter the area from the newly laid main road. Curious and frisky visitors are lured in by the suggestion that the Mosuo women offer free sex – hotels, restaurants, casinos and karaoke bars have been built, and sex workers shipped over from Thailand dress in Mosuo traditional dress in the "capital village", Luoshu.

"Arriving in Luoshu was a shock – it was tacky and not how I expected," says Locatelli. "There were a lot of people asking for money: bar owners and prostitutes that are obviously not Mosuo – it's all geared towards male Chinese tourists."

After talking to locals, Locatelli decided to move on to another village, Lige, in search of "real Mosuo". "I crossed the lake to another village and found them living in the same traditions they have done for 2,000 years – the people there were lovely, kind and living simple, happy lives." With all the modern temptations for the younger generation of Mosuo now right on their doorstep, Locatelli found a community caught between cultural tradition and the modern world.

"Their way of life is slowly changing, but there is a real sense of pride in the way they live," he says. "Men and women are very much equals, but the women are just a little more in charge.


 on: April 15, 2017, 10:31:02 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
Becoming Human - Evolution from APE To MAN - Documentary 2017

 on: April 15, 2017, 10:27:51 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
Great Human Odyssey - Documentary 2016 [HD]

"Our ancient human ancestors once lived only in Africa, in tiny bands of a few thousand hunter-gatherers. Then we moved out of our African cradle, spreading rapidly to every corner of the planet. How did we acquire the skills, technology and talent to thrive in every environment on earth? How did our prehistoric forebears cross the Sahara on foot, survive frigid ice ages, and sail to remote Pacific islands? “Great Human Odyssey” is a spectacular global journey following their footsteps out of Africa along a trail of fresh scientific clues. With unique glimpses of today’s Kalahari hunters, Siberian reindeer herders, and Polynesian navigators, we discover amazing skills that hint at how our ancestors survived and prospered long ago."

 on: April 14, 2017, 09:18:43 PM 
Started by Tyehimba - Last post by Iniko Ujaama
I don't think she is wrong in pointing out a difference here between the experiences. In the West with its very narrow and stringent ideas of gender and the general sexist attitudes, I can see how it would be difficult for someone with ambiguities about how they see themselves gender-wise. Also being so male-centric and privileging a kind of macho kind of masculinity I could see how it could be tough for a male navigating male dominated space seeing themselves and behaving more feminine. But that person still has a choice in how they identify. The difficulties they face are a result and subset of the wider anti-female attitudes within the society.
Running down females for not accepting your assignment as a woman does nothing to address the general male privilege within the society and rides heavily on it.

 on: April 14, 2017, 07:05:26 PM 
Started by Tyehimba - Last post by Jahirae
Interesting topic! these are the conversations that we need to have....I honestly do not think that she is disregarding or devalorising trans women, she does acknowledge them and they are included in the feminist school of thought and arena......quite too often in our attempts to be inclusive or even live up to the feminist utopia we completely ignore that everyone's situation is different; different experiences, class, race, access to resources that influence and shape our everyday spaces, and these are factors that need to be considered.....i do not see this as  an insult to trans women or any measure of transphobia at all because i believe acknowledgment of these differences can open discussion to the oppressive limitations and pressure placed on trans women in living up to the realities  definitive of their transformation. Whilst there are genuine questions around what exactly is a "real woman" and that term perpetuates the limitations of gender as a social constructwe cannot deny the experiences associated with it as it exists as being irrelevant or secondary and in no way it was meant to put demarcations on what constitutes a man or a woman but more so a question of how does one identify with and claim a struggle that they never were apart of? These two groups do not move through the world in identical ways and the  socialization that we encounter is different and that is the reality   .......this conversation transcends gender and sexuality but can be broadly acknowledged in the political sphere when we talk about nationalism.....it is not sustainable and in as much as we'd like to paint the illusion that we are all one, again the question remains how are these differences and realities exist factored in? it simply cannot be excluded from any discourse  when assessing and moving forward  .....acknowledgement of it is necessary and in the same breathe acceptance of these differences are fundamental.....As Audre Lorde beautifully posits "It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences."

 on: April 14, 2017, 03:27:24 PM 
Started by Iniko Ujaama - Last post by Iniko Ujaama
 Race and Class Interaction in Jamaica – And its Impact on the World by George Graham

In all my years in Jamaica, I never once was asked to identify my “race.”  So I find it discomfiting to respond to the questions I frequently get here in America – when I have to fill out some government document, for example.

It seems absurd to describe myself as Caucasian or African-American or Hispanic or Pacific Islander… or whatever.  All I know about being Caucasian is that there are some mountains in Russia by that name. I have never laid eyes on the vast continent of Africa, don’t speak Spanish and couldn’t find the Pacific Islands on a map of the world.

The bottom line is that I am a Jamaican – an unhyphenated Jamaican.

Looking back on my Jamaican experience, it seems we are identified more by a class system than by racial labels.

I know, “class system” sounds snobbish or worse. It has an unwholesome connotation, the implication of castes from which there is no escape. But I don’t recall the Jamaican class system as being etched in stone. I recall the sons and daughters of domestic servants sometimes becoming wealthy doctors and lawyers, powerful politicians and bureaucrats, venerated members of the clergy, and so on.

The education system, although admittedly inadequate, included scholarship opportunities that could provide a ladder for upward mobility. (Not enough, admittedly. But the opportunities are not as sparse today as they were in my time, and I am confident they will increase in Jamaica’s next half-century as an independent nation.)

Jamaica’s class system is based on money, of course, but there are other criteria. These include European-based notions of etiquette and decorum, as well as education and the way people dress and speak. But there was something else, something that inherently defines the Jamaican concept of class.

From what my mother taught me, it was “respectability.” Respectable people lived by certain standards. They weren’t “raw-chaw.”

Vulgarity, obscenity, drunkenness, arrogance, rudeness, slovenliness, idleness and “showing off” were considered signs of a “lower-class” upbringing.

Another unspoken expectation of people in “our class” was decency.

Decent people had integrity. Decent people didn’t “take advantage.” Decent people “did the right thing.”

Did all the members of Jamaica’s “upper class” behave according to these standards? Of course not. Some abused their positions of privilege.

But, as I remember it, those who betrayed the trust placed in them usually paid the price sooner or later. You were held accountable in the Jamaica where I grew up. As the Bible reminded us, from those to whom much was given much was expected.

I cannot think of another society in which the Bible is so influential.  Foreigners might think of Jamaica as some kind of hedonistic lotus land where Rastas in “dreadlocks” constantly play reggae music, dance suggestively and smoke ganja. But to me this is a false image probably created to lure tourists and sell records.

The Jamaica I know is a churchgoing society. The Rastas I know spend more time talking religion than playing music.

And the Rastas I know give and expect “respect.”

In my mind “respect” and “decency” distinguish the real Jamaican culture. The “rude boys” and “hos” that abound in hip-hop and rap lyrics are looked down on in Jamaican society, no matter what color they might be.

Are there bigots in Jamaica? Of course.  Bigotry is one of the world’s most pervasive blights. It’s everywhere.

And there is a lingering “shade prejudice” inherited from slavery. Slave owners often had sex with slaves and produced offspring. Sometimes the slave owners would marry the mothers of these children, sometimes not. But, in either case, the slave owners would often protect these children from being sold into slavery by having them declared legally “white.” They lived in the Great House with their father and enjoyed privileges denied other children of slaves.

I think it may have been this tradition of privilege that gave lighter-skinned Jamaicans a special status – an advantage that still persists to some extent, although it has faded a lot over the years.

Complicating the picture, expatriate communities have created tiny, isolated cultural pockets outside of the Jamaican mainstream experience. And tourist resorts sometimes pander to prejudices alien to Jamaicans. What I am trying to examine is the indigenous culture that developed in the Jamaican heartland over the centuries.

I cannot claim that Jamaican culture is perfect. We live in an imperfect world, after all.

Undoubtedly Jamaica’s class system is unfair. Without question, people born into Jamaica’s underclass have to struggle much, much harder to achieve economic and social success than the lucky few who are born to privileged parents. Sadly, many decent, respectable people find themselves mired in poverty and subjected to indignity. And usually, these “sufferers” belong to the predominantly black underclass.

But social injustice is not unique to Jamaica. These words from Grey’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” come to mind: “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its fragrance on the desert air.” That country churchyard was located not in Jamaica but in England.

Where Jamaicans may be unique is that we are far less obsessed with skin color and ethnic origin than any other multiracial society I can think of.  Jamaicans can honestly boast of being (as the national motto proclaims) “out of many, one people.”

Consider the horror of Apartheid that existed for so long in South Africa.

And consider the United States of America.

For generations, black Americans in many states were forbidden to use white washrooms, drink from white water fountains, shop at white grocery stores, eat in white restaurants and even attend white public schools. Throughout the South, they were physically shunned by the white majority and even required to sit at the back of the bus.

Abominations like the Ku Klux Klan brought injustice and terror to black Americans throughout the South. And this loathsome organization persists to this day, as does an infestation of other groups that preach “white supremacy.”

The segregated school system did not end until the mid-1950s when the federal government brought in troops to escort a handful of black children into a white school in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Legally enforced segregation persisted through much of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and it took widespread civil rights demonstrations, marked by bloodshed and martyrdom, to turn public opinion overwhelmingly against this aberration.

Although no longer legally enforced, de facto cultural segregation continues. When I migrated to America I was astonished to find some churches with entirely black congregations and others without a single black face in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning. There are communities in America that are almost totally black. Even some large cities, like Detroit, are basically “segregated” because of “white flight.” As black (or Hispanic) Americans move in, white Americans move out.

For reasons that I cannot comprehend, the fear of African contamination was once so great in America that Southern states used to classify as black anyone with “a drop of Negro blood.”  As I understand it, you had “a drop” of “Negro blood” if you were one-thirty-second black. That made you ethnically African-American if you had a black great-great-great-grandparent.

Don’t you wonder how many Americans know whether one of their great-great-great-grandparents was black? Don’t you wonder why they would care?

But until the mid-1960s, it was against the law in some states for a white American to marry someone black. So, as I understand it, if your great-great-great-grandmother was black, you would have broken the law to marry a pure-white American.

To anyone who grew up in Jamaica this is preposterous.

My mother’s fair-skinned aunt married a black schoolteacher, and after his death, a black dentist. Her daughter became the first female city clerk of Kingston, Jamaica’s largest metropolis.

My cousin’s daughter married a Chinese man and they have the most beautiful daughter. My cousin is half Jewish. His wife is a former Miss Mahogany (remember when Jamaica had those shade-conscious beauty pageants?). Is my cousin’s granddaughter Chinese? Jewish? Black? White?

Who cares?

As far as I am concerned, she is an American-born Jamaican.

In Jamaica, Arabs marry Jews. Descendants of East Indian or Ashanti cane cutters marry descendants of English pirates or Portuguese refugees from the Inquisition or Chinese merchants or Maroon warriors – or whomever they damn well please.

At my parents’ house on a Sunday, the parson would often sit at the head of the table and say grace. As I recall now, he was sometimes very dark-skinned. But I don’t recall anyone noticing at the time.

Come to think of it, Jamaica’s wonderful athletes are overwhelmingly black.

Many of Jamaica’s most distinguished sons and daughters – journalists, authors, poets, playwrights and academics are black or mostly black. The Governor General is black. The Prime Minister is black. The list goes on and on.

At a Jamaican party, you will see blondes dancing unselfconsciously with ebony skinned partners, East Indian maidens with their flowing black hair resting on the shoulders of Syrian or Lebanese youths, ivory-skinned Chinese girls flirting with Jewish boys… Nobody is aware of being at a “multiracial” event. They’re just a bunch of Jamaicans getting together to have a good time.

When my extended family gathers, you see every skin, hair and eye color under the sun. And the last thing we think about is what “race” we belong to.

We are Jamaicans, that’s all.

As foreigners visit Jamaica and experience the relaxed atmosphere of a color-blind culture, I expect many of them will return to their own countries with a new appreciation of racial harmony.

And as more and more Jamaicans – often the best educated – migrate to other countries, their refusal to acknowledge such nonsense as “white supremacy” or accept such abuses as ethnic segregation cannot fail to inspire change in their new environments.

Jamaicans simply will not put up with such outlandish and oppressive ideas and practices.  We mix, mingle and marry as we like without regard to race or skin color. And our example could be a catalyst for worldwide enlightenment – like the child in the fable who cried, “The Emperor has no clothes on!”

As racial stereotypes and ethnic divisiveness diminish throughout the world – and I am sure they will – some of the credit should go to little Jamaica, whose sons and daughters shone a bright light on the dark depths of ignorance where such evils are bred.

Read more: http://jamaicans.com/raceandclassinjamaica/#ixzz4eEYbGYFO

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