Miss Jamaica World Stirs Racial Debate

On Saturday, July 12, 2014 Laurie-Ann Chin was crowned the 2014 Miss Jamaica World, and almost immediately there were some Jamaicans who voiced their dissatisfaction with the winner of the pageant. Although I did not view the pageant, I gathered from the vitriol posted online that the dissatisfaction stemmed not from how Laurie-Ann Chin conducted herself in the pageant, but rather her perceived ethnicity. A few seem dissatisfied that a contestant with a darker complexion was not chosen.
Some argued that there was an underlying prejudice within Jamaica towards darker skinned individuals. While others indicated that on many occasions a person of 100% black decent is the least likely to win the aforementioned competition.

While I do not disagree that some amount of racial prejudice exist in Jamaica, it is difficult for me to not see the irony of those expressing dissatisfaction at the winner solely based on her complexion and ethnicity. Laurie-Ann is a true representation of our motto, Out of Many, One People. For us to not embrace her as one of our own, is denying the credence of the motto we seem to hold in high regard. It is indeed ironic that many Jamaicans, if not all, seemed to have supported Tessanne Chin throughout her journey on NBC’s musical competition, The Voice. No one exclaimed (at least to my knowledge) that Tessanne Chin was less deserving of exposure because of her complexion or ethnic heritage. Why then are some Jamaicans so critical when a fellow Jamaican excels in a competition such as Miss Jamaica World? Is it possible that in some way those ridiculing Laurie-Ann Chin may feel inferior and seek to counter that sense of inferiority with an alleged notion of discrimination? Could it be that Jamaicans of color sense that they are mistreated by a system that allegedly marginalizes the most afro-centric of our society? If so, we must be fair in our assessment. As Jamaicans we must be careful to not counter discrimination by perpetuating discrimination against others. For some to allege that they feel Laurie-Ann Chin does not represent Jamaica, is to deny Laurie-Ann her rightful designation as a member of our diverse populace.

Perhaps we need to focus on self-hate within the black community. Why do a number of people within our diverse society choose to bleach the color of their skin? Why do we refer to people as having “good hair,” and “bad hair.” Why is it that we accept as common practice to call every person of Asian descent “Mr. and Mrs. Chin?” Why do we call those of indian descent “Mr. and Mrs. Singh?” Why do we use terms such as “Blaka,” to refer to an individual, almost derogatorily? When we stereotypically label a person we negate their individuality. We instead cast them into a group and label them as others; doing so is dangerous practice. Hate only begets more hate. We need to examine the fabric of our culture that allows us to continuously tear down each other, instead of uplifting our fellow country men and women.

I agree that we need to have a larger debate on race and race relations in Jamaica. To do so we must take an honest look at our colonial past and attitudes of Euro and Afro centrism as implanted within our society. That being said, I cannot support the ignorant among us who instead of having a meaningful discussion on the issue, choose to berate and degrade others. It is purported by some that the commenters in online discussion boards failed to realize that Laruie-Ann Chin is indeed of a dark brown complexion, and instead have reacted to the lighter image displayed in the photograph by the Jamaican-Gleaner. Regardless, the nature of the discussion is troubling.

The pictures below were ascertained from Laurie-Ann Chin’s Facebook fanpage and the Jamaica-Gleaner website respectively:

20140714-204817-74897873.jpg

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Below are some of the most offensive comments posted in a Jamaica-Gleaner forum on Facebook. The names of the commenters have been removed to provide anonymity –

“Chinese again? I’m going to rename Jamaica Little China. American Idol (sic) winner Tess, Goat Island and now Ms. Jamaica?”

“Who these people from China?”

“For some reason they do not remind me of Jamaica, they remind me of Asia. #justwaying”

“Where is the black young woman? …”

“What happen to Jamiaca black girl, they not good enough why the mixed breed?”

We are all Jamaicans, and discussions about race and race relations should take place in a manner that is not destructive to others. We indeed live in a world that is plagued by hate and injustice, but in seeking a resolve, we must commit ourselves to higher values and equitable treatment of others. We must at the same time embrace the diversity which defines our beautiful island and not perpetuate hate towards our fellow men and women. I commend Laurie-Ann Chin on her win and know she will represent Jamaica well, because she truly embodies what it means to be Jamaican. Congrats Laurie!

© Dimitri Lyon and dimitrilyon.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dimitri Lyon and dimitrilyon.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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22 thoughts on “Miss Jamaica World Stirs Racial Debate

  1. Our motto is “out of many one people,” What a beautiful girl, she should ignore the ignorance heaped on her. Jamaicans should be proud our country can produce such a wonderful looking woman. I sure am proud of it. You go girl!

  2. Pingback: Miss Jamaica World Stirs Racial Debate | THE ISLAND JOURNAL

  3. Good Day Mr Lyon,
    I regret to inform you, the issue at hand was barely about her race, if you had watched the competition you would see that Ms. Chin fumbled twice when she answered her question, once not making complete sense and the over dry and without any zest, while another contestant effortlessly answered her questions. So in the eyes of the people the Ms. Jamaica World pagaent is corrupt as it would appear the crown was placed on Ms. Chins head prior to Saturday July 12, 2014. If we go back to yester year when some rigging was probable the contestant choosen was still intelligible in her response. We can go even further back to when Kamilah Mcdonald entered she was a crowd and judge favourite however she blundered on her question and the crown was not placed on her head at the end of the night. So for me as an avid follower of this competition it is painful to watch Ms. Butler take the jamaican public for a fool.

    • For me, it reduces to who accumulated most points by the end of the competition…period. Conspiracy theories aside, this is what the MJW site has to say regarding the judging process:
      “Miss Jamaica World 2014 > The Pageant > The Judging Process
      The Judging Process

      Contestants will be judged by beauty of face, figure, deportment, charm, poise, personality, general conversation, intelligence as well as conduct during the period of the contest.
      Contestants will be pre-judged on a date prior to the Grand Coronation Show.
      The final selection will take place at the Grand Coronation Show.”

      Perhaps the winner accumulated sufficient points in the other facets of the competition to compensate for any faux pas committed at the coronation…am I being illogical and naïve? Maybe so, but she’s who will represent all Jamaica in London and, for that reason, Ms. Chin has my support.

    • i think black jamaicans in their effort to liberate themselves are becoming the new oppressors of our minorities in Jamaica this buisness of being prejudice is mostly in the minds of black people as it relates to beauty i think black people think of themselves as being ugly wile east asians like their hair and physical appearance of black women the ideal mix or woman has to be mixed with the black race the worlds women prefer black men so black people need to stop the foolishness

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. This is nothing new. We have had racial comments on past MJW winners and who can forget the unpleasant vitriol towards Lisa Mahfood when she won in the 90s.

    However those that witnessed the coronation felt thrawted as somehow the judging process seemed cloudy. If basing their judgement purely on intelligence they are claiming, no matter how crudely, that the girls of darker complexion seemed not acceptable as one of the most aware and fluent contestant was indeed of darker complexion and was not in the finals.

    Perception is reality and all they can go by is what they see and hear. However I am giving the organisers the benefit of the doubt that weeks of observations also amount in the final analysis, something the public do not have that priviledge to know. It seems therefore that the frustration lies not with the winner or her complexion , but rather with the system of judging and the perception or lack thereof of fair play not afforded the darker girls.

    It may be prudent for the MJW organizers to remind the public the criteria for judging and that judging takes place from day 1 and that the coronation is only just that, the coronation for a winner decided weeks ago.

  5. Thank you for your blog post. I am blown away about this controversy. Race and class are complex and convoluted things in Jamaica. To know Jamaica is to understand Jamaica. One knows that the Chinese and Indians (and other ethnicities, not mentioned in this particular article) have been a part of our island since at least the 1800s. Jamaica has never been a 100% African/black country”; nor were Africans the single first non-native people here. Our different cultures have been uniquely intertwined and mixed, not segregated after the abhorent business of slavery. We are uniquely Jamaican. We are not “little America”. Our culture is not American culture. I firmly believe that many of these people who comment online are either African American or Jamaicans who live have embraced the American culture/philosophy (good in many respects) and plastered it on Jamaica, making everything about race, color and ehnicity. Many Jamaicans, even those of us who have very dark skin, may not have 100 percent African ancestry. We embrace all of who we are. We take pride in all we are. We take pride in our black brothers and sisters, just as much as we take pride in our Chinese, Indian, Jewish, German, etc. brothers and sisters. Shame on those Jamaicans who think themselves better because they have mixed ancestry or they have no African/Black blood. And shame on those Jamaicans who consider themselves 100% African/black who think themselves better and want nothing do do with our fellow Jamaicans because of their ethnicity and/or colour. There is such irony in this. Jamaica’s original inhabitants were the Arawak/Taino Indians, not Africans, not Jews, not the British, not Chinese, not Indians. We need to get over this nonsense. No one is better than the other, no skin color is better, no race is better, no ancestry is better. I’ve always thought we Jamaicans had a much better philosophy about this and take pride in our mixed culture, more so than America and other countries. It’s a shame that many of us have now bought into this us versus them American nonsense of skin colour and race that does nothing but separate and dive, and is purely negative. I will forever be prowd of my Jamaica that includes every hue and ethnicity that’s a part of our culture and our “Out of Many One People” motto that so many seem to have forgotten. Let’s remember we are who we are because WE ARE JAMAICAN, not because of the colour of our skin or where our ancestors came from. People need to get a refresher course on Jamaican history. There are so many other things to worry about in Jamaica. We should be using our strength to help make the country better than wasting time on this nonsense.

  6. When it comes to current Beauty Contests for which there is Ms. Universe Jamaica & Ms. Jamaica World, onlookers need to understand that the term “Representing Jamaica” does NOT mean that the winner must be predominantly Black because Jamaica is 90% Black people. It means she must be a Female who can be a Brand Ambassador for Jamaica “representing” the best things Jamaica, regardless of her Ethnic origin.

    • i think black jamaicans in their effort to liberate themselves are becoming the new oppressors of our minorities in Jamaica this buisness of being prejudice is mostly in the minds of black people as it relates to beauty i think black people think of themselves as being ugly wile east asians like their hair and physical appearance of black women the ideal mix or woman has to be mixed with the black race the worlds women prefer black men so black people need to stop the foolishness

  7. While she might be a representation of the island motto, her descendant still does not represent Jamaica on a whole (the uptown crowd). Why is there never a winner of full african descent? It would be nice to see the fairness displayed in judging rather than the prejudice of the Jamaican culture.

    • it dose not matter and jamaicans of african decent have won even a rasta has won whats the matter with jamaicans you know what black people have become oppressers in place of our slave master notice how our minorities lack confidence it becausre of how badly blacks here treat them i think black jamaicans in their effort to liberate themselves are becoming the new oppressors of our minorities in Jamaica this buisness of being prejudice is mostly in the minds of black people as it relates to beauty i think black people think of themselves as being ugly wile east asians like their hair and physical appearance of black women the ideal mix or woman has to be mixed with the black race the worlds women prefer black men so black people need to stop the foolishness

  8. I too have no grouse with this contestant winning the competition. For me, the biggest racial discrimination is to watch how we as a people hate each other. I heard almost daily, African persons dissing their brothers and sisters. For example, I heard black men saying, “Mi nuh waan no woman blacker than me. A browning mi seh.” I heard a sister saying to another, “gal yuh hair ruff and feva black peppa grain eeh man. Cream it or do sumpting bout it man.”No wonder almost all black women are bleaching their skin and perming their hair. This is also as a result of their reaction to the rejection from their black men. If you observe keenly, most black successful men have married white women, brownings or women of mixed ethnicity.

    Therefore while I hope to see our race truthfully emancipate themselves from mental slavery, I also do not agree with discrimination. Everyone deserves a chance based on their values and not just their external qualities.

    • it dose not matter and jamaicans of african decent have won even a rasta has won whats the matter with jamaicans you know what black people have become oppressers in place of our slave master notice how our minorities lack confidence it becausre of how badly blacks here treat them i think black jamaicans in their effort to liberate themselves are becoming the new oppressors of our minorities in Jamaica this buisness of being prejudice is mostly in the minds of black people as it relates to beauty i think black people think of themselves as being ugly wile east asians like their hair and physical appearance of black women the ideal mix or woman has to be mixed with the black race the worlds women prefer black men so black people need to stop the foolishness

  9. Wow. I didn’t know just persons of black decent makes up a country. I would swear all different kinds of races and cultures completed Jamaica. She is much deserving of the crown because she is Jamaican. We can sit and argue all day that she doesn’t embody the essence of a true Jamaican BUT why does a true Jamaican have to be 100% African decent. If I am aware Africa is not in Jamaica neither is China or India…. So how did African decent become the entire identification of a Jamaican? When various cultures have played a major role in the building of Jamaica? I’m Barbadian and I Absolutely LOVE Jamaica and it confuses me that the peoples idea of an authentic Jamaican are only those of 100% African decent. Bless Laurie Ann Chin!!!!

  10. When Jamaicans (and EVERYONE else the world over) understand the concept of “race”, that it is a social construct (with absolutely NO root in biology) used to encourage inequalities and denials of rights, then reactions to people like Miss Laurie-Chin will become non-existent. Until then, unfortunately, utterances like the negative ones towards her, will continue…a sad situation for the human species.

    • it dose not matter and jamaicans of african decent have won even a rasta has won whats the matter with jamaicans you know what black people have become oppressers in place of our slave master notice how our minorities lack confidence it becausre of how badly blacks here treat them i think black jamaicans in their effort to liberate themselves are becoming the new oppressors of our minorities in Jamaica this buisness of being prejudice is mostly in the minds of black people as it relates to beauty i think black people think of themselves as being ugly wile east asians like their hair and physical appearance of black women the ideal mix or woman has to be mixed with the black race the worlds women prefer black men so black people need to stop the foolishness

  11. The problem is not with the contestants or the judges. The problem is historical. In order to change that you much change the Jamaican standard of beauty. That is a hard thing to do as the standard has existed for hundreds of years. Only government action can change it.

  12. The problem is not the judge or contestants. It is the Jamaican ideal of beauty. The only way to change that is to change peoples minds about what constitutes beauty. That conception is hundreds of years old and hard to change. Complaining about it does absolutely no good for anyone.

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