My cousin sent me this story bright and early this morning and I must say I am very appalled and disgusted in the way Shekina Walters of Jamaica was treated when she visited the island.
Barbados, is this how you treat your visitors??????? Total wotlessness!
Read Coretta Joe’s commentary below.
For an island that prides itself on our high literacy level, Bajans displayed some disappointingly backward behaviour on Wednesday in town when Jamaican tourist Shekina Walters was followed and ridiculed throughout Swan Street. For an island that supposedly embraces people of all colours, class and creed, and by an extension, people of all shapes and sizes, Bajans ought to be ashamed of themselves for how they treated the 21-year-old, who is said to weigh 300 pounds.
I had just left a class when my BBM started going crazy with people broadcasting photos of the young lady being followed by throngs of people who, from the looks of it, were taunting her and snapping photos like crazy. I didn’t think much of it because I had other things on my mind and I didn’t know the full extent of the madness. So imagine my surprise when I got into the office the day after and saw a photo of the very same young lady on the back page of the Daily NATION with the caption Thick Chick Turns Heads. It’s not the fact that the photo made the news that bothered me, but I was and still am disgusted at the insensitivity of Bajans.
Looking at the photo in detail with my trademark disgusted scowl, I realized that almost everyone had cellphones in their hands snapping away. The crowd of bullies included mainly women and I even spotted a security guard. What stood out to me was this woman behind her with her mouth open as if she were laughing and shouting obscenities. She ought to be ashamed that as a woman, she took part in pulling down another woman. In fact, all the people who played a part in the ridiculing of this innocent plus-sized woman should be very embarrassed to see themselves in the newspaper behaving in such a manner.
I’m sure that Ms Walters is not the biggest woman that Bajans have ever seen, so why make a circus attraction of her? Of course, I lay a fraction of the blame on her, because I do not think that her mode of dress was appropriate, especially for a woman her size. However, there are far more pressing issues that deserve ridicule.
I might ruffle a few feathers for saying this, but Caucasian tourists come to our shores and peruse our shops and stores mainly on Broad Street as they please and they are allowed to do so in peace except for the minor nuisances that are homeless men begging for money and taxi men hustling to make a dollar. And I’m sure that some of these women are at or around the same size as Ms Walters. But no, Bajans, docile individuals as some of them are, would see them and show maximum respect but will go to such lengths to ostracize a black woman and fellow Caribbean sister. Word is, stores had to be shut because people just wouldn’t leave her alone. And Captain Sawyer of Big, Fat And Thick fame, don’t think that you have escaped the wrath of my pen. No one cares that you sang about loving the full-figured ladies. If you truly loved them, you would have done something to help Ms Walters yesterday. Instead, you followed her like all the others. Shame on you!
Are we in the Caribbean so ignorant and small-minded that we need to resort to following people, teasing, taunting and jeering them? If the sight of the young lady was amusing, look, laugh amongst yourselves if you wish and look off! It is a public street, not a circus or a zoo.
This incident reminds me of Sara Baartman, one of the Khoikhoi women who was taken from her home, South Africa, in 1810 and was exhibited as a freak show attraction in 19-century Europe. Baartman “performed” under the name Hottentot Venus – now an offensive term. Known for her unusually large posterior and elongated labia, Baartman was publicly ridiculed for years until she died just five years later. Her skeleton and preserved genitals were on display in Paris until 1974.
Shekina Walters is a human being and should be treated as such, and no one should have to go through the ordeal that she went through.
Bullying comes in various forms, and the display that Bajans put on yesterday was one of the worst. Ms Walters was subjected to verbal and emotional bullying, and there is no telling what this experience can do to her psyche.
Everyone, no matter what they look like, should be able to conduct their business wherever they go without the harassment and embarrassment that she was subjected to. I hope that she will take this unfortunate experience as a lesson and I hope that Bajans know that their behaviour is not acceptable.
- Coretta Joe