Community divided on Ford’s use of Jamaican ‘patois’

By Admin Wednesday January 29 2014 in Opinion
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By TOM GODFREY

 

Some members of our community are still hopping mad at Mayor Rob Ford for a drunken rant in which his use of Jamaican patois was captured on video and seen around the world.

 

Mayor Ford could not only speak clearly on the video, but managed to drag Toronto’s proud Jamaican community into a negative wave of publicity that surrounded a confession that he was again using alcohol.

 

The minute-long video was secretly shot at an Etobicoke restaurant recently and showed what appeared to be an inebriated Ford gesturing wildly as he spoke to someone about Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair before muttering the Jamaican swear words “bumbaclot” and “rassclot.”

 

The video was posted online and went viral in hours and again became fodder for U.S. late night talk show hosts David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and others, some who even mimicked a Jamaican accent.

 

The use of patois by the Mayor has left residents with mixed feelings. Some are proud by his use of a second language that showed Ford was close, or grew up, with members of the Jamaican community to learn some choice words.

 

Others believe the community has suffered enough negative publicity in the past and there is no need for more.

 

We want to hear during this Black History Month about scholarships, medical and other breakthroughs being made by Jamaicans, and others from the Caribbean, and not profanities belted out by the City’s top magistrate, who has had much of his powers removed due to admitted drug use.

 

There have been calls from Jamaicans, who are very sensitive about their culture, for Ford to explain why he spoke patois, and not swear in Polish, Hungarian or even Italian.

 

“Why is he picking on Jamaica?” asked one woman. “Couldn’t he pick on somebody else?”

 

Many from the island claim they are already linked negatively by Toronto Police to gangs, guns, racial profiling and carding issues and there was no need for Ford to get into the fray.

 

“It is plain insulting to the community,” says former journalist Philip Mascoll, of the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation and recipient of his country’s Order of Distinction medal. “The Mayor is not Jamaican and should not be going around pretending that he is.”

 

Mascoll said the swear words will not hurt the community but shows a lack of respect.

 

And it is not surprising that many people have taken to the Internet to complain about the Mayor’s patois, with some writing angry letters, others poking fun or circulating the video.

 

“On occasion after telling people I was born in Jamaica, they will immediately start imitating the Jamaican accent, which is insulting,” wrote Greig Campbell of Montreal.

 

Most of us know that the Mayor is not really a bad guy. Members of the community are among Ford’s staunchest supporters and packed his barbeques last summer. Some are already gearing up to help his re-election bid in November.

 

Ford is not the buffoon that he is sometimes portrayed. He is intelligent and due to his condition that night did not realize his rant was hurtful and polarizing to a community that is supportive of him.

 

Jamaicans, or residents from any country, do not want their nation thrust in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, which some view Fords’ antics as being.

 

I have known Ford for a long time and he is not a racist guy. He has been coaching high school football for years and his most-recent team had a large Black contingent, many with Jamaican roots.

 

Just look at the Islington Ave. and Dixon Rd. area of Etobicoke, near where Ford resides. It is a melting pot, with a large amount of Somalis living in high-rises on Dixon Rd.

 

Ford grew up in the area, and his father MPP Doug Ford, represented that area from 1995 to 1999 and the family is well-known and liked.

 

Some prominent members of our community have rightly taken Ford to task to explain his words.

 

Michael Thompson, the city’s only Black councillor, called Ford’s use of the words offensive.

 

“We’ve been fairly silent in just waiting for the next thing to occur,” Thompson said last week. “It was only a matter of time.”

 

The Mayor, for his part, claims he suffered a minor setback and his use of patois was not offensive to anyone.

 

Some people though maintain Ford should improve his patois speaking skills and use positive words to describe the Jamaican community, whose members have been at his side for years.

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