Economic Distress In Jamaica
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The period between 1838 and 1938 was one of economic distress as the price of sugar plummeted. World events passed by Jamaica and the colony slipped into a languid period of decline due to the following:
- The power of the white plutocracy waned, while that of the "brown" middle class of merchants rose.
- Color and status became indistinguishable in Jamaica, with whites at the top of the colony, and blacks at the bottom.
- Blacks were continually stigmatized and referred to as "ex-slaves" or "freed slaves," connecting them with their former condition.
- The vast class of racially mixed persons, known as "colored," was an intermediate middle layer in society, and only those who were "socially white" were admitted into the power structure.
The year 1938 witnessed massive strikes and work stoppages on the part of the blacks. The British response was to, once again, apply severe repressive tactics to put down the perceived insurrection. For the most part, Jamaica peacefully transformed from a crown colony to an autonomous state in the next twenty-five years, with independence granted in 1962.
The constitution of Jamaica set up a parliamentary democracy. The head of government is the Prime Minister, with the Queen of England as the technical chief of state, The Monarch appoints a Governor General as her representative on the advice of the Prime Minister. The bicameral Parliament is composed of a 21-member Senate who are appointed by the Governor General (13 members of the ruling party and 8 of the opposition), and a 60 seat House of Representatives, who are popularly elected.
Socially, independence was a great change for Jamaica. Whites voluntarily gave up political power and a large majority repatriated to England. The middle and upper classes of modern Jamaica still cling to vestiges of British culture and education, believing it superior. This is in direct contrast to the people's culture of Bob Marley, Rastafarianism, and voodoo. Relations between these two groups (brown vs. black) have become as competitive and divisive as were the relations between the black majority and the white settlers during the colonial period.