Dr. Clarke’s “Massa Mark” reference was a deliberate JLP election strategy

Dr. Nigel Clarke
Dr. Nigel Clarke (Photo credit: Jamaica Information Service)

Let me start by stating that I hold no brief for either of the two political gangs that populate Gordon House in Kingston. That notwithstanding, I will not hesitate to call out wrongs done by either side and in the circumstances, I am compelled to call out the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and its finance minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, for comments made during his closing remarks to the 2023/2024 Budget Debate this week. In fact, what makes Clarke’s comments so significant is that this was not the first time that a JLP member of Parliament had made this racist reference to the People’s National Party’s (PNP) leader, Mark Golding. At a JLP meeting on Sunday 6 November 2022, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Everald Warmington, referred to Golding as “Backra Master” due to his colour and his parents’ origin.

Clarke’s use of this racist trope in the Jamaican House of Parliament demonstrates that we are now at the bottom…way, way past the mud. What is even more significant is that the government members of the island’s Parliament saw no problem with the use of such a racist trope by its parliamentarians and spent considerable time squabbling with MP Dr Angela Brown-Burke who had risen on a “point of order” over the reference. The behaviour and responses of the government members demonstrate that, as a country, we have arrived at that point of no return. It confirms that the once labelled “creeping arrogance” of the members of the administration is now its modus operandi.

Make no mistake that Clarke’s “Massa Mark’s” comment was said in jest. Spoken outside the Parliament as Warmington did, was bad enough, but inside Parliament, that represents a “throwing down of the gauntlet” and from Nigel Clarke who, without question, is among the top one per cent of the best educated of Jamaicans and perhaps the best educated in that Parliament, was no Freudian slip. Clarke knew exactly what he was saying, and his comment was calculated and stated not once, but twice, for verbal and psychological impact.

The term “Massa” is a denigrating reference from our darkest days of mankind’s worst ill, that of Negro slavery. This was the term used in reference to slave masters, plantation overseers and foremen, under the reinforcement of unspeakable brutality. This term, used in reference to Mark Golding was meant to be disrespectful – not only to him, but also to those Jamaicans that would support the PNP that he leads and as opposition leader. The reference by Clarke was meant to be not only disrespectful, but also to deepen the political divide in Jamaica. In fact, there is a document being circulated among the JLP throng showing Golding’s lineage and tracing the same back to a David Cohen four generations back who may have been part of a slave owning family. It makes no mention of the fact that Mark Golding was born in the parish of St Andrew, Jamaica, or of the fact of his father Professor, Sir John Golding’s yeoman contribution to medical science in Jamaica, or his work in treating the outbreak of poliomyelitis in Jamaica in the 1950s.

It is a pity that Clarke and the JLP minions have all failed to appreciate that by raising such a reference, they have succeeded in pointing out the elephant in Jamaica’s room. The current administration has, by its policies, proven that it is in power to serve, mainly, the people that look like Golding. This is so as the lion’s share of Jamaica’s economic wealth resides in the hands of the membership of this small group of Jamaicans and has been so since 1838.

That the administration has proposed a budget for the new fiscal year that provides a few shiny trinkets that will trickle down to the majority Black masses is little comfort as when the broader picture is viewed, it is the membership of this small group that will reap the real rewards. Might I add that the profits of which will be siphoned off to offshore bank accounts from which they will pay little or no taxes to Jamaica – no better than the White British planters who raped Jamaica for more than 300 years.

Let me use this opportunity to thank you for reminding us Dr Nigel Clarke, of exactly where we stand.

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