What are Racial Politics like in Jamaica?

BY Gina Hargitay

What are Racial Politics like in Jamaica?


As a predominantly Black country, POC travellers are unlikely to face the kind of racial prejudice they might encounter in predominantly white societies. Nevertheless, there are some racial issues to be aware of.

In Jamaica, there is the prevailing misconception that all white people, as well as most foreigners who travel to Jamaica for holidays, are wealthy. Locals will assume travellers have disposable income and are therefore likely to overcharge you for goods and services or straight up ask you for financial support. It is difficult to avoid this, as without previous experience it can be difficult to determine whether or not you are being overcharged. It’s worth keeping in mind the general prices you encounter in order to make comparisons and have an idea of average prices for things such as street food. Also, there are many people begging in the streets, especially in the city. If you are white or you stand out as a foreigner, it is guaranteed that you will be the first to be approached for money.

Jamaica, like many former colonies, experiences prevailing colourism, meaning that even within the Black race there is a hierarchy based on skin colour. So much so that many Jamaicans bleach their skin in order to appear lighter, which is often seen as synonymous with being more attractive.

As someone of a mixed background, having a white European father and a Black Jamaican mother, as well as often being treated as a foreigner myself, I have seen these issues in action as well as having experienced them personally.