A Hate Story: Reflections on the Death of Dwayne Jones

Jamaican society’s contradictory responses towards its own Trayvon Martins.

gullyqueen2

The Trayvon Martin case has been keenly followed in Jamaica with people vociferously expressing outrage over the not guilty verdict that allowed Zimmerman to walk free. How could there be no legal penalty for unnecessarily taking a human life? How could the law protect Zimmerman’s right to stand his ground but not Trayvon’s? This was madness. Many Jamaicans keenly identified with Trayvon and his family, imagining that this was something that could easily happen to them or their loved ones in racist North America.

All over the Caribbean those with a human rights perspective were eager to point out that similar outrage was rarely forthcoming in numerous local instances of flagrant injustice, often involving victims of police and vigilante killings where the perpetrators are almost never held responsible for their crimes. Why were such folk, unmoved by the wanton killing of fellow citizens in their own backyard, so willing to take such an interest in a case so distant from their immediate lives and localities?

Clearly we must attribute some or most of that interest to the intense coverage of the case by mainstream media in the United States. Channels such as CNN, MSNBC, ABC and others are available via cable and voraciously consumed in Jamaica and many other parts of the world. It’s not difficult to get sucked in by the wall-to-wall coverage of a murder trial for weeks on end, particularly when its racial component resonates locally. This was the case with the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Let’s also give credit where credit is due. American media excel at focusing attention on the human interest in a story; at laying open the lives and personalities of those concerned, at making the viewer identify with the principals of a high profile news item. This is why the world cares more about 500 victims of a natural disaster in the US as opposed to 150,000 deaths caused by a Bangladeshi cyclone or an earthquake in Turkey.  American media puts faces on the victims, details their losses, personalizes them. The 150,000 victims of a distant cyclone remain just that—faceless, lifeless, abstract ciphers.

Not many countries have the sheer heft of media muscle that the USA can lay claim to. Our media in small places like Jamaica lack the infrastructure, the traction and the reach of American media. We also have far more deaths, murders and killings per capita than the media can possibly keep up with even if they had the will and the ability to do so.

Even in the United States there were complaints that cases just as heinous as Trayvon Martin’s or worse had received little or no visibility and thus generated little or no outrage. What makes a particular story a media sensation depends on the number of people who feel affected by it. Can they can identify with it?   But this is also a function of how much airtime and column inches the story receives.

In Jamaica the media almost never gives you enough information or gives it to you after the fact as in the case of the Brissett Brothers accused of the vicious rape of 4 women and an 8-year old girl. Now that DNA evidence has proven that they couldn’t have been the perpetrators the media has interviewed them at length, along with their family members who had given them a cast iron alibi, and basically got the story out. Had there been no DNA evidence the brothers would have been wrongfully convicted raising uncomfortable questions about how many such innocent people there are in prison.

The ongoing saga of Vybz Kartel raises similar questions. One murder charge has completely crumbled and the other may do the same, yet Kartel has been held without bail for more than a year now.

Alexis Goffe,  a spokesperson for the human rights group Jamaicans for Justice, recently observed that another reason there is little or no outrage about the legion of local Trayvons is that in these situations most educated Jamaicans identify with Zimmerman rather than Trayvon. Jamaicans are not Trayvon Martin, Jamaicans are George Zimmerman said Goffe.  After all Trayvon’s profile fits that of the ‘idle youth’ most gated and residential communities in Jamaica remain wary of and police zealously. They want the Jamaican equivalents of Trayvon Martin to be kept in their place, on pain of severe punishment and even death. Since the start of the year Jamaican Police have killed 114 citizens, yet it’s business as usual in this tourist paradise.

For most Jamaicans such deaths when they happen are non-stories–like the slaying of young Dwayne Jones aka Gully Queen a few days ago near Montego Bay. 17-year old Jones was at a party on the night of July 22 dressed as a female and dancing when he was outed by a woman who knew he was cross-dressing. Details are sketchy but early reports said that Jones was killed by a mob that stabbed and shot him to death, flinging his body into nearby bushes.

In most countries a lynching such as this would be front-page news but not in Jamaica, known far and wide for its hostility towards homosexuals. The police have said that they can’t prove that there is a link between Dwayne’s cross-dressing and his murder and the media has barely taken note of the gruesome slaying. Judging by comments made on social media most Jamaicans think Dwayne Jones brought his death on himself for wearing a dress and dancing in a society that has made it abundantly clear that homosexuals are neither to be seen nor heard.

Attempts to portray the mob killing as a hate crime have also been futile. “Dwayne Jones chose to tempt fate” seems to be the popular feeling, “and he got what was coming to him.” Which is like saying Trayvon Martin tempted fate by lingering in the wrong neighbourhood; he got what was coming to him. Dwayne Jones decided to wear a dress and dance and for that he was put to death by a motley crowd. Most Jamaicans seem to think there is nothing at all wrong with this judging by the lack of outrage, scant media attention and silence from the political directorate.

Author: Annie Paul

writer, editor and avid tweeter anniepaulose@gmail.com

23 thoughts on “A Hate Story: Reflections on the Death of Dwayne Jones”

  1. The lynching of Mr. Jones was barbaric and in Jamaica the lives of the average person is off very little value. We are blood thirsty people who settle simple disputes with violence. Jamaica is tethering on the edge of become a failed state. Granted there are sectors of society that have already failed. Law enforcement & the criminal justice system had failed us many decades ago.

    -Love & Peace

  2. Well, they are wrong. This was/is horrific. And I hope in her honor (because I believe this person was transgender), this spurs on activism against any other such restraint/approval.

  3. Thank you so deeply for bringing voice to some of my thoughts in such a mindfully crafted way. It is so intensely terrifying to me that the veil that covers our eyes can be so thick. We need to take a stand against transphobia and violence in general but there is something in the vibration of these hate crimes that especially chills my bones.

    In the Catch A Fyah Caribbean feminist network we are discussing what intersectional movement in response to the brutal murder of Dwayne Jones can look like. Anyone who is interested in being involved in the process can email me at groundationgrenada@gmail.com.

    Malaika

      1. you too! I look forward to sitting down to chat with you next time.

  4. I really commend your for going forward with this cause. It is heartbreaking to see the lack of response from those who should be speaking up. Thank goodness for people like you and JFJ. This was someone’s child who by a twist of nature could not be what he was physically made to be. He must have felt safe where he was and the act of betrayal and violent ending to his young life must have been awful. May his soul rest in peace.

    1. Yes, its really tragic, and what’s more distressing is the callousness of fellow Jamaicans who insist there was nothing wrong with what happened and DW ‘had it coming to him’. It doesn’t bode well for this country…

  5. I was saddened to read of such uncivil behaviour occurring in Jamaica. It would be frightening to vacation in thi country which has such intolerance.

  6. Jamaican society is a Godly nation that keeps God’s commandments against the crime against nature: sodomy.
    Notice how our former imperialist colonial master Great Britain is promoting homosexuality and other aberrant behaviors in BLACK AFRICA!! Britain has threatened to impose sanctions against Christian nations such as Uganda who like Jamaica are hostile to satanic behavior.

    This satanic homosexual batty boy met his end because he dared flaunt his corrupted lifestyle to Godly Jamaicans who in righteous indignation doled out divine retribution. PRAISE JAH! and JAMAICA! sodomy=death.

      1. Yes! mamma africa is blameless! our ancestors were sold to slavery by the white men!

        here is proof (should you care to read it) how Britain is pushing satanic policies such as promoting sodomy:

        “Cameron threat to dock some UK aid to anti-gay nations”

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15511081

        Jamaica should stand up, rise up, against sodomy! it is JAH’S COMMAND!
        Dwayne Jones met the wrath of God!.

    1. Does it ever occur to Black Christians to put down the bible for a minute and pick up a history book? Long before Christianity and colonisation were forced on black people, we had our own religions.

      You pick and choose how to react to things based on an ancient set of rules. You talk of Jesus’ love when you want to fill church coffers and preach hate of homosexuals without questioning whether these scriptures are indeed the word of your god.

      Your bible gets things wrong because it is a human construct, and it’s followers get it twisted because we are after all only human. Nature never gets it wrong. Look around you at our connectivity and differences and put down your hatred.

      UBUNTU: I am because we are.
      That is all.

      1. How eloquently you’ve made these important points. That’s the joke of it some person with gold teeth, dark glasses and supersonic sneakers saying that homosexuals must tek weh themselves coz they’re not “natural”…such delusions…instead of questioning the harmful culture they’re embedded in and its roots in European Christianity they make elaborately convoluted arguments about homosexuality not being welcome here…

      2. @Shadesofblack and Annie. Let me say first of all that I am firmly opposed to what happened to this young Jamaican boy and I am deeply saddened by this incident and many more like it which have happened in the past. I say this as a Christian Jamaican who is deeply concerned about a culture where people think that it is alright to kill people who don’t share their views and in doing so mistakenly think that they are representing Christianity.

        In truth, there is a lot of religious zeal expressed here in Jamaica by many who themselves find it difficult to separate genuine Christianity from its psuedo versions of Moralism and Religion. The truth is anybody can quote the parts of the bible that support their agenda and conveniently ignore the rest of it that condemns their pride, self-righteousness, prejudice and of course their heterosexual sexual immorality.(Man fi have nuff Gal proponents are quick to bun batty boys while ignoring their own wrongs)

        On a point of history, Africa got Christianity long before colonialism. Secondly, I agree we are only human (all full of frailties and imperfections) so in light of that we should indeed put down our hatred. By the way those sentiments are as biblical as it gets.

        Peace.

      3. Thanks Marlon for this, it’s reassuring to hear true Christians speak up like this…as you rightly point out there is too much selective use of the Bible by people claiming to be Christians who don’t have a true sense of what to be Christian really means, to forgive, to be tolerant, and the many other things that go with being a true follower.

        Thank you very much for reading and taking the trouble to leave your comment.

  7. It is a terrible thing that your society has so much hate in it for people that are different. In Canada this kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable. I sure will never be coming to Jamaica for vacation, pity as it was a place I wanted to visit.

    1. Thanks Mike, i understand your reaction, can only say that there are many Jamaicans who don’t agree with what happened and don’t believe in violence towards those who are different.

      1. Well lets hope the police do their job and that some of the 300 or so party goers have the guts to stand up and identify the murderers. The previous comment from lion of judah is sickening. The religious zealots are out in full force. Why does religion always raise it’s ugly head ? What happened to just being kind and tolerant of each other regardless of race religion education wealth etc etc etc. It is indeed a broken and sick civilisation we live in today in some parts of the world. Jamaica included.

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