November 7, 2012
Deadly mix of homophobic paranoia and vigilante mob
Check this story. On a 'double date' for Valentine's Day a few years ago, two young heterosexual couples went out for a meal in an uptown fast-food joint.
The girls were sitting at a table. The guys were in the bathroom putting last-minute finishing touches on the Valentine's Day cards they bought earlier to give to their girlfriends, who were waiting outside.
They were laughing, reading and comparing each other's cards when a man walked in, assumed they were giving the cards to each other, and raised an alarm. "Yow people, two by bwoy inna di bathroom ah exchange Valentine's Day card!"
It was Kingston, Jamaica, so you can imagine the rest of the story. Yeah peeps, in no time a crowd converged. And no amount of explaining from the guys, and begging for mercy by the girls, could prevent the beating.
And as they crowd increased and people inquired about what happened, someone added 'dem mussi did in deh a have sex'.
So the details got more sensational by the minute, and the condemnation got more intense.
It's a true story. I shared it on my Facebook page a few days ago because the whole UTech saga had me remembering it.
The post generated an intense conversation. Coming out of that discussion, and from some of the comments I've picked up elsewhere, I'm particularly intrigued by the number of people who somehow feel that we're being unfair by only condemning the caught-on-tape beating of the student and calling for the punishment of those involved, if we don't also denounce and demand punishment for the two young men for the alleged indecent act they were supposedly involved in.
But, oh gosh, man, how we even compare those two scenarios?
One is an accusation based on allegation, speculation and hearsay, and we've still not been told whether that has not been officially reported by a credible witness or verified by a trustworthy source.
And the other is a stark case of violent assault backed up by irrefutable video evidence. For all we know, like the guys in my story, the young men in the Utech bathroom may have simply fallen victims to the deadly mix of homophobic paranoia and vigilante-mob mentality that now seeks to claim space among the descriptions of what it means to be Jamaican.
It's not a good look. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves as a people.
To those who seem to want to diminish outrage against the senseless beating by harping on the inappropriate behaviour, I say, let the witness to the alleged act step forward and make a formal complaint. Let him clearly explain how long he watched, and describe in detail who he saw doing what to whom.
Of course, we all know that would probably never happen, especially since any man, who self-identifies as the main witness, may also immediately incriminate himself as chief initiator of the mob.
I watched the tape. And any way unnu want to spin it, self-righteous preoccupation with alleged public indecency is a meagre excuse for the strident barbarism I witnessed.
Poet Mbala said it right. He said, "No matter how outraged /disgusted we are at 'inappropriate public behavior', let's understand that mob violence is also WRONG. And remember it could be you or me on the receiving end due to misunderstanding (as in Blakka's tragic story) or maliciousness (somebody who has an issue with you just has to label you a homo in public). Some time ago an old man in a market in Spanish Town was heard saying how he liked some big okra. Some idiot decided that meant he was gay and he was ambushed, badly beaten and left in a wheelbarrow in the middle of town ... dis can't work people"