Classism in Jamaica: The Case of Dancehall, Ragashanti and Ghetto


For the longest time I’ve been troubled by several things in the Jamaican media diaspora. These things are not new, they are old very old. From the days of Bob Marley and the Wailers or “dutty dread/bearded men” as they were called to Vybz Kartel, Ragashanti and Dancehall there has always been this incessant need to make the popular people from the cane piece the scape goats for Jamaica’s ills.

These masquerades are exquisitely painted with a fine brush and rubbed across the faces of Jamaicans too blind to see the bigger picture. When talk of “poisoning the kids” are reeled the same masks appear, “O its those dunce entertainers”. You know Mavado, Cham, Bounty Killer – a fi dem fault. A fe dem fault seh we poor, have low morals and a withering economy.

Really now?

A Dancehall mek yuh pitney bad, a Raga give you son gun ina three pice suit, a Potential Kidd a raise interest rate? Nope. None a dem ano yes bwoy to Jamaica’s oligarchs.

In Jamaica the architects of society have always been the sharply dressed, “well spoken” and very wealthy few among us. The way we see ourselves is a derivative of how they see us. From I was small I was taught to hate the way I speak, “a how yuh chat so bad”, the way I looked, ” a how you so black”. The brilliant minds of the Jamaican youth was from an early stage contaminated with the bitter seeds of self hatred. So can you imagine my surprise when Vybz Kartel a get blamed for “influencing the youths to bleach”

The youths don’t need Vybz Kartel to hate themselves. From I lickle me a hear “ugly black pitney”, from me likkle me a see chrome face. Anno nothing new. So what do you do when supply high and the real “cake soap” becomes cheap, accessible and widely used? Start pointing finger at the nearest scape goat.

The whole idea of the so called “ghetto culture” being of any use or value to Jamaica is mocked, rebuked and ignored. As it would seem Jamaica is the only place in the world where the art of the garrison is not treasured. Just take a look at the Reggaeton and the Dancehall themed party which is becoming widely popular and endorsed on the Japanese cultural scene.

Japanese Dancehall Queen “Junko”

In Jamaica such moves are looked down on and even demonized. In the more cosmopolitan and far more conservative Japan these are seen as economically viable means of entertainment, attraction and expansion of cultural forms and art. The fashion, identity and esthetics of Jamaica’s poor folks are marketed and sold for enormous profit in the land of the rising sun while in JamRock they are dismissed as filth not fit for our o so pristine murder capital. Crime which is as a result of the guns of the politrictians and the Dons they pay to secure their stained votes.

In Japan as opposed to Jamaica you are taught to love and respect culture. This is evident in  the video above as they adopt the moves of Jamaica’s poor, they creatively find means of making it their own.

They ban Ragashanti because him talk up the tings dem bout day to day life in Jamaica in the most Jamaican fashion and because of that he is not deemed worthy for the sanctity of the o so holy radio. When Bob Marley seh, “I feel like bombing a church” he cuts at all layers of the pretentious in Jamaica who dash out at carnival to Soca disrupting people in mid-day and call police to lock off a little dance that people depend on to send children to school in the night.

In Jamaica, identity, class and colour are still powerful means of segregation. These phony ideals penetrate the minds of the youth in the home and schools. Instead of teaching our youths the truth about whats really a foot in our marginalized society we use ghetto man like Cordell Green and Hopeton Dunn to stifle the voice of the youths.

*Its truly amazing how field slaves get boasy when dem reach ina great house.


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