It isn't racist to target Beenie Man
But it is to remain indifferent to the persecution of Jamaican gays
'I wake up in the morning not knowing whether today I will live or die," one gay Jamaican told me. Until three years ago, hardly anyone knew, or cared, about this reign of terror. Now the whole world knows about the suffering of Jamaican gays. At the request of gay Jamaicans, and working with black gay people in Britain, the gay rights group OutRage! has organised an international solidarity campaign that has spread across Europe and the US.
It is targeting eight Jamaican reggae singers whose songs incite listeners to shoot, burn, stab and drown gay people: Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Buju Banton, Capleton, Sizzla, TOK, Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel. Last week, we called on the organisers the Mobo awards to drop the nominations of the last two performers in the list. These artists have a right to criticise homosexuality, but free speech does not include the right to commit the criminal offence of incitement to murder.
Already, we have secured the cancellation of dozens of concerts. The huge financial losses incurred, together with the threat of prosecutions, have forced Jamaican music chiefs to consider abandoning murderous homophobic lyrics. These successes show our tactics were right.
We are now accused of racism by sections of the black community and the left. But I ask myself: how can it be racist to support black victims of homophobia and oppose violent homophobes in the music industry? The real racism is not our campaign against murder music, but most people's indifference to the persecution of gay Jamaicans. No one would tolerate such abuses against white people in Britain; it is racist to allow them to happen to black people in another country.