Royal Tour Caribbean - Jamaica
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Jamaica on their second leg of their tour of the Caribbean to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. The stop included meetings with the Prime Minister and Governor General, meeting locals in trench town, a football match, visits to frontline workers, school children and a military base, a diplomatic reception and a military parade. No small feat for the roughly forty-eight hours William and Catherine were there.
Full disclosure, I've debated about even writing about this part of the journey due to how charged this portion of the visit has been made out to be in the press. However, I decided to share what I personally saw and how I personally interpreted this leg of the tour. I shared some of my overall thoughts several days ago and I'd recommend reading that post first in order to have a baseline understanding of where I am coming from.
I do want to reiterate one point I made previously here so everyone understands: If Jamaica or any other Caribbean nations want to become a republic that is 100% their right and everyone (including the palace) would support that decision. It is their decision alone and nobody outside of said country and its citizens have a say in it. That being said lets begin.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge landed in Jamaica on 22nd March and were greeted by diplomats before Prince William inspected the Honour Guard. This is a fairly standard greeting on royal tours and offers the host nation a chance to proudly display their colours and celebrate their armed services. In this regard the Jamaicans present did their country proud, they put on an excellent display and showed themselves to be gracious hosts. I was lucky enough to be able to watch a livestream of the arrival and I personally saw nothing but a kind and courteous welcome for William and Catherine. The media, however, quickly began selling another story after a doctored clip ended up online allegedly showing Jamaican MP, Lisa Hanna, 'snubbing' Catherine. Let's be clear that this didn't happen and Lisa Hanna herself has since cleared this up.
Going into Jamaica, things were already more tense than they needed to be. There had been (from what I personally saw) a small protest asking for an apology and reparations. Let me clear that the protest is completely valid and I'm not dismissing concerns, but I personally didn't see the protests amounting to what the media was insinuating it was. There were not hundreds or thousands lining the street but a couple dozen dedicated and passionate Jamaicans letting their grievances be known. Again, completely valid, but not the massive demonstration the media described, by any means.
William and Catherine then went to meet the governor-general where the warm welcome continued. They had a polite conversation, William handed out some jubilee medals and they both signed the guest book. Again, another fairly standard visit on a royal tour.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's final visit of the day was to Trench Town where they were treated to some of the best of rastafarian culture, where they played drums and then met with Jamaican born, English football player Raheem Sterling. Prince William even got involved in a quick match where crowds turned out to watch, lining the fence of the field and sitting on rooftops for a peak. Now this is where the second 'controversy' occurred.
Fans came out for a chance to meet the royals and William and Catherine did just that. They were seen shaking hands of those who had gathered around the pitch (which has a permanent wire fence around it) and close up shots of these greetings sent the wrong message into the stratosphere. Social Media was quick to pick up on it and, even after clarification, people insisted that the intention didn't matter so much as how the greetings appeared. People are entitled to feel that way but I personally find the context around said images to be crucially important.
The way technology and the internet have advanced in the past ten years alone is frankly frightening at times. Just last week a deep fake emerged of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy telling his citizens to surrender. Now I am not for one moment attempting to compare the atrocities happening in Ukraine and Russia's misinformation crusade to be of equal importance of a cropped photos of the royals -- it's not but it shows a worrisome pattern. It always used to be that as a species we relied on what we could physically see and hear to help inform us about what is true but that is no longer the case. It is only too simple to doctor a video clip (as they did with Lisa Hanna) or crop a photo to negate context or to blatantly photoshop an image to create a completely false reality.
While I wish the fence photos could have been avoided, it shows yet another problem social media has. It is so simple to do a google image search, to find context around photos or videos, to ensure what is being reported is accurate, but confirmation bias has become much too strong. There are people who want to confirm their opinions about public figures, whether it is accurate or not, because it makes it so much easier to hate someone if you can offer some modicum of proof, whether its real or not.
These tactics have been used against all members of the royal family and have propelled forward some of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories to date. An extreme slow-motion video convinces some people that someone isn't actually pregnant and they are faking it. A wide angle shot at a sporting event ignores the context of security. A clip played backwards insinuates disrespect to the Queen. A cropped image erases the experience of hundreds of happy people. Nobody should be subjected to it, regardless of personal opinions of those people and we should all take a vested interest in fighting against this type of blatant manipulation.
I will be the first to admit that this manipulation is something I ignored for what was probably too long. I would see these blatant manipulations and genuinely laugh at them because I firmly believed they were so ridiculous that no sane human being could seriously buy into it. I didn't think anyone, let alone entire groups of people could be so entirely uneducated on technology and gullible enough to believe what was so clearly fake.I firmly believe that most people are genuinely good but I shouldn't have ignored the people with nefarious intentions.
But people will believe what they want to believe and, even when confronted with the truth, they will do what is needed to fit their narrative because cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable and challenging. It is a waste of time to try and change their mind or spam their replies because, inevitably, those types of people will continue to find excuses and means to avoid facing the reality they could just be wrong. After the fabricated social media storm these photos created, William & Catherine continued dutifully with their jobs.
The next day the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met with the Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, of Jamaica where the warm greeting they had received the day before turned much colder. There are three important things to note about this meeting and what occurred there.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are invited on tours in coordination with local governments. They do not go where they are not welcome and they do not force themselves upon a country against it's wishes.
William & Catherine are apolitical; they take no stance for or against a republic, they do not have any political power and they do not engage in political discourse.
All politicians, regardless of country, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, etc. are opportunists. As Prince William reiterated at the end of the tour, the decision to become a republic or not lies solely in the hands of the local government and the people.
I understand the reasoning behind the Prime Ministers decision to make the announcement when William and Catherine were there. The declaration received a ton of press, especially in the U.K. and U.S. that he probably wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Holness pandered to the republican movement that has been calling for a referendum that the PM has yet to deliver on despite campaign promises. It was a great move politically for him but, in my opinion, entirely inappropriate in the current company.
Holness understands William & Catherine have no power to decide Jamaica's fate, that lies solely in his hands and in the hands of his government, which currently has the majority. I take no issue with Jamaica becoming a republic and I encourage them to do so of that is what they want, but I do take issue with politicians using the royal family for their own political gains. The way the leader of the government so shamelessly used a couple who were there to celebrate the jubilee, local culture and the Jamaican people tarnished the rest of the visit.
Nobody in the media was discussing the rich local culture that promises a wonderful holiday to those interested, the dedicated work of the frontline healthcare workers, the commitment of the Jamaican people to their youth or the advancements of their military. While conversations around reparations are important, I am going to be blunt and say that if reparations happen at all, it will still be decades away, especially with Johnson as Prime Minister. My country discusses reparations every couple of election cycles and it remains a very dividing issue for the vast majority of people. All of this is to say reparations won't offer any immediate relief to the Jamaican people the way that tourism or if international attention had focused on the work of the Jamaican people, could.
It overall felt like a missed opportunity for Jamaica to focus on boosting tourism after a difficult two years, or to educate a wider audience on what makes modern Jamaica so special. I think that William and Catherine's team did a better job than the Jamaica on trying to center to conversation around the people they met and the work being done. Any government's main focus should always be on their people and making their lives better, not on political power moves and it was disappointing to see that certain members of Jamaica's government couldn't do that. The Caribbean tour was always going to be a difficult one for the royals to navigate in a modern world but, from my view, the conversation surrounding this leg of the tour didn't seem to help anybody. I don't see conversations around an apology or reparations moving forward with any greater speed and I don't see people discussing a desire to visit to Jamaica online following this leg of the tour the way I have with other visits.
After a day and a half of focusing on the people of Jamaica and the work being done, William and Catherine (finally) paid homage to the Queen during a military parade. While Royal Tours are an opportunity to spotlight host nations, Jubilee tours should have call backs or tributes to the Queens unprecedented reign. They did an excellent job of this during a military passing out parade, an appropriate venue for it as well since it didn't take away from the parade but enhanced it. Had this tribute been paid during other stops in Jamaica it would have focused attention away from the issue at hand so I thoroughly enjoyed how the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge managed to celebrate the Queen on their jubilee tour.
Final thoughts on this leg of this visit. I think the firm could greatly benefit from better explaining what it means to be independent while having the Queen as Head of State versus being an independent republic versus being a member of the Commonwealth, since they are all different things. I will give credit where credit it due because I think William has finally done something at the end of this tour that the Queen or Prince Charles should have done long ago. Finally coming out and clearly stating that the Royal Family is here to serve and support Republics, commonwealth nations and countries where the Queen remains Head of State, regardless of how that relationship evolves is vital. I am going to be doing a post just on Prince William's statement a bit later on but I had to include that here.
What did you all think about the visit to Jamaica?