A Canadian politician, who is currently running for office, made short-sighted comments characterizing Jamaicans as lazy, unproductive weed smokers.
Member of the Legislative Assembly Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is running for leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives and slammed Jamaicans in a debate about Nova Scotia’s Cannabis Control Act as Canada prepares to legalize marijuana sometime this year, reports Vice News.
“I grew up surrounded by hard-working people who were clear-minded, sober, and productive,” Smith-McCrossin said. “I have a best friend in Amherst who is from Jamaica. She said to me, ‘Elizabeth, smoking marijuana in Jamaica is completely accepted, and there’s a completely different work ethic and very low productivity in Jamaica.’ I think we already have a productivity problem here in Nova Scotia. We do not need something else making it worse.”
Her comments were slammed and called racist and “anti-Black,” and the MLA put out a statement to VICE News apologizing.
“I am sorry if my comments were hurtful,” Smith-McCrossin said.
“I made a mistake and take full responsibility for that,” she continued. “I sincerely did not feel that my comments would be viewed in a negative light. Again, I apologize for my choice of words and any impression left that this was based on someone’s country, race or ethnicity. I am certainly open to meeting individually with anyone offended by comments to better appreciate their perspective.”
Smith-McCrossin obviously hasn’t heard the running joke made popular by the Headly family on comedy sketch show, In Living Color, which purports that Jamaicans have 14 jobs – meaning they are some of the hardest working people period. In fact, many of the Jamaican farmers travel to Nova Scotia every year to pick the harvest fruit.
“Who is picking the blueberries? Who is picking the apples?” asked El Jones, a poet, teacher and activist, when she heard the MLA’s statement over the phone Wednesday. “They’re working hard to send money back to their families and they get characterized as unproductive?”
“What’s amazing is just how casual this kind of anti-Black sentiment is,” she told VICE News. “That it’s something that can be just openly said in debate without any expectation that there will be a reaction, and that shows how ingrained anti-Black attitudes are and how acceptable they are.”
Smith-McCrossin quoted what she said a friend told her about Jamaicans. That friend’s son, William Gogan, took to Facebook to clear the air and said that Smith-McCrossin misinterpreted what his mom was trying to explain to her.
“What my mother was trying to say was that she has seen the effects that marijuana can have on people both in Jamaica and in Canada,” wrote Gogan. “I can assure you that Jamaicans are far from lazy. Next time you’re driving through the valley just take a look at who’s working in the strawberry fields.”
“I just wish people would take the time to find out all of the facts before they rush to judgment,” he continued. “Elizabeth is almost like a second mother to me and it hurts to read all the negative things being said about her when I know that they aren’t true.”
“I don’t think she’s a terrible person,” Jones said. But she said it’s important to “[think] about where those ideas came from [and] where she picked them up.”