As the story goes, Lady Musgrave Road was cut to appease a petulant woman. In the early 1880s, Governor Anthony Musgrave’s wife would leave King's House and travel downtown via Hope Road. Then George Stiebel came along. Jamaica's first black millionaire built what is now Devon House at a major intersection of Hope Road. With unabashed racism, Lady Musgrave told her husband it was an affront to her sensibilities (bad mind get di best a them) to pass in front of that house. Her compliant husband cut an entirely new road so she could avoid it.
For years, countless Jamaicans have called for the road to be renamed. This month alone, thousands of Jamaicans sign petitions, lobbying for the KSAC to change the name. Many suggest renaming it for her nemesis (Stiebel Road does have a lovely ring to it). The movement isn’t without merit. As one petitioner noted: "It's time for us to remove the things that are associated with these racists."
Still, the influence of these racists goes well beyond names and places. We see it in our beauty standards, our schools and our socioeconomic structure, where poverty is a burden that is mostly carried by our darkest citizens.
Some people even try to pretty up colonialism, advertising great houses as places with a "celebrated past" for tourists to delight, or where they can wed. The unadulterated cruelty and violence that regularly took place on plantations should make your skin crawl.
While seeing Lady Musgrave lose "her road” may satisfy our vengeance, that won’t be enough to banish the spirit of colonialism? As we attempt to right this fundamental wrong, let's be clear that systemic racism will not leave with Lady Musgrave. There's still much more work to do, at many levels.
"Until that day, the dream of lasting peace...will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained."