19 June 2007

So Damn Tired (Part Two)

Those who find it strange that Jamaicans are so homophobic must interpret that attitude as a people saying: "Do not remind us of our painful and humiliating past!" A people saying: "Don't push from the back, because it is a painful act."

All right, let's climb out of this manure pit. I can't stand it anymore!

John Hardy didn't originate this colonial sodomy myth; like Decca Aitkenhead before him, he's just repeating it (and obviously adding his own grisly embellishments for effect). I'm sure this urban legend has been circulating in Jamaican society for a long time; it may have grown out of an actual abuse scandal dating back to slavery times.

Hardy's description is so detailed and compelling, you're tempted to believe the tale. There's just one problem: It's totally implausible! Were male slaves ever victimized sexually? Undoubtedly some were, and not just in the Caribbean. But . . . publicly? Nightly? As a disciplinary tool? For hundreds of years? And on such a large scale as he asserts? The notion is so far-fetched, you couldn't even sell it as a Hollywood movie script!

Let's take a closer look at Mark Steyn's editorial, and learn what he really thought about these allegations:

The "vilification of Jamaican homophobia", says Decca Aitkenhead, is just an attempt to distract from the real culprit: "It's a failure to recognize 400 years of Jamaican history, starting with the sodomy of male slaves by their White owners as a means of humiliation . . . slavery laid the foundations of homophobia . . . for us to vilify Jamaicans for an attitude of which we were the architects is shameful. Jamaicans weren't the architects of their ideas about homosexuality; we were."

I should have known. It's our fault: Yours, mine, the great White Queen's . . . if we hadn't enslaved these fellows and taken them to the West Indies to be our playthings under the Caribbean moon, they'd have stayed in Africa and grown up as relaxed live-and-let-live types like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who's accused Tony Blair of a plan to impose homosexuality throughout the Commonwealth; or Kenya's Daniel Arap Moi, who attacked the "Gay scourge" sweeping Africa; or Zambia's Frederick Chiluba, who has said Gays do not have "a right to be abnormal"; or Namibia's Sam Nujoma, who accused African homosexuals of being closet "Europeans", trying to destroy his country through the spread of "Gay-ism"; or Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, who proposed the arrest of all homosexuals, though he subsequently moderated his position and called for a return to the good old days when "these few individuals were either ignored or speared and killed by their parents".

But no doubt Decca Aitkenhead would respond that African homophobia is also the malign legacy of British colonialism. Who taught them to spear Gays, eh? By refusing to enslave them and take them to our Caribbean plantations and sodomize them every night, we left them with feelings of rejection and humiliation that laid the foundations of their homophobic architecture. The point to remember is, as the Guardian headline writer put it . . . "Their homophobia is our fault".

As for the notion that even the randiest plantation owner could sodomize so many male slaves that he could inculcate an ingrained homophobia enduring for centuries, that's a bit of a stretch even for advanced Western self-loathers.

Steyn borrows a quote from former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is of Jamaican descent:

"The British were mostly absentee landlords, and West Indians were mostly left on their own. After the British ended slavery, they told my ancestors that they were now British citizens with all the rights of any subject of the Crown. That was an exaggeration; still, the British did establish good schools and made attendance mandatory . . . West Indians had an opportunity to develop attitudes of independence, self-responsibility and self-worth."

Can absentee landlords be absentee sodomites? I'll leave that one for Guardian columnists.

Clearly, then, John Hardy misrepresented Steyn's words. He even changed some of them outright! He found one White journalist who shared his warped view of Jamaican history, but that wasn't enough; he wanted to find another one. Predictably, he couldn't, so he borrowed copy from a sarcastic White Conservative and subjected it to creative editing! Hardy's treachery destroys the illusion of journalistic integrity he hoped to project; but even if he hadn't altered quotes to support his sensational claims, they still wouldn't be credible!

How likely is it that the colonizers' well-documented aversion to homosexual conduct would reverse itself? How likely is it that such perverse methods of discipline would be adopted by a majority of slaveholders? How likely is it that they'd be adopted by even a significant minority? How could such an atmosphere of widespread depravity exist without it triggering constant slave revolts and insurrections? How could plantation wives have tolerated their husbands openly having carnal knowledge of male slaves? How could colonial churches have sanctioned such goings on? And how could such frequent and heinous public practices have been kept secret for centuries?

As they say in the colonies: What rubbish! It was the colonial powers, after all, which first imposed sodomy laws in the Americas; they're known to have executed many indigenous people for violating them (see my essay titled "The Pleasure Seekers"). Hardy would have us believe these Anglican Church stalwarts blithely looked the other way while forced anal penetration became a daily occurrence! He'd also have us believe nobody ever spoke of it off the island. News of rampant male slave rape would've leaked out of the West Indies sooner rather than later and spread like wildfire! Abolitionists of the day would've seized on such information, and with such explosive ammunition in their arsenal, I daresay the British slave trade would've ended much sooner than it did!

Unfortunately, a lot of African-Americans will swallow these allegations hook, line and sinker; a friend of mine did just that when I told him about them. He's a very intelligent man, but he believes that White slaveholders were capable of anything. Most Black people do! We know that slavery produced atrocities, many more than could be documented. If female slaves were raped, and there's ample evidence of that, why couldn't male slaves have suffered similar victimization? It's a logical conclusion to reach; but once the premise has been accepted, it's all too easy to throw open a door to wild speculation! The concept of same-gender rape is so inflammatory, it readily lends itself to rumor and exaggeration; that's undoubtedly how the urban legend came into being in the first place.

I'm convinced that John Hardy directed his Jamaica Observer editorial at the Black diaspora! He addressed it to Elder Nancy Wilson, but that was just a ruse. He knew most White people wouldn't fall for his cock-and-bull story. That didn't concern him; he couldn't have cared less what they think. His goal was to pit heterosexual folk of African descent against (mostly) White Gay activists! In this way, a political wedge strategy fashioned by Right Wing religious leaders in the United States can become international in scope. I strongly suspect Focus On The Family involvement here!

"So Damn Tired" continues with Part Three.