My letter to the Gleaner
Published: Wednesday | March 2, 2011
THE EDITOR, Sir:
In my column on Sunday, ‘Skin bleaching easy as cheese’, I mista-kenly attributed to Adidja ‘Vybz Kartel’ Palmer the following lines from Look Pon Me that are actually performed by Tarik ‘Russian’ Johnston:
Gyal a ask if mi a American citizen!
An she tell mi fi dash weh di condom because
She tell mi she wah get a pretty son!
I am indebted to my colleague Winston Campbell for pointing out my error. Campbell wittily observes: “Not known to be ‘a bandooloo browning’ (as Killer has referred to Kartel), Johnston may be genetically capable of being part ‘producer’ of the ‘pretty son’.”
The line ‘Di gyal dem love off mi cute brown face‘ is also Russian’s, not Kartel’s. In response to Russian’s boasting, Kartel counters, ‘Di gyal dem love off mi bleach-out face.’ What strikes me about this exchange is that Kartel seems to be asserting that Russian has no natural advantage over him: ‘bleach-out’ is directly equivalent to ‘cute brown’.
If I’m right on this one, Kartel’s counterclaim is a perfectly logical explanation for why he’s bleaching. Nature cannot be depended on to distribute social advantage fairly. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. So ‘cake soap’ becomes just as effective as genes in ensuring the DJ’sattractiveness.
Quite frankly, Kartel looked much better to me when he was blacker. But, of course, I’m not one of the ‘gyal dem’ whose opinion seems to matter so much to both Kartel and Russian. Look Pon Me accurately documents the fact that many Jamaican women do wish to have light-skinned children because they completely understand social privilege.
In response to my column ‘Whose Black History Month?’ (February 13, 2011), I was told a rather depressing story by a black man who had once employed a relatively uneducated man, who happened to be light-skinned, to do delivery work. After a few months, the man resigned from the job because black people kept on telling him that a man with his colour shouldn’t be doing delivery work. God only knows the heights he probably attained purely because of his colour!
So I do understand the light-skin issue. But what surprises me is the desire for a ‘pretty’ son. There was a time when ‘pretty’ was a word applied only to females and effeminate men. These days, dancehall culture seems to be celebrating a revolution in masculine identity.
I am, etc.,