Jamaica’s sporting star Usain Bolt has admitted that he has faced “strong” levels of classism and racism from Jamaica’s upper class throughout his rise as a global athletics icon.
The multiple world and Olympic record holder recalled how he was left ‘shocked’ by the reactions of neighbours when he moved into an upscale St Andrew apartment complex.
“Especially when I started out. It was more shocking than anything else. That was how I ended up buying my house,” Bolt told journalist Ian Boyne during the personality programme, Profile on Television Jamaica, Sunday.
“I was living in a complex and I had issues with a few of the lighter-skinned people. I used to live near a lawyer and when I moved in, he said to me ‘be careful, they don’t like to see young people strive,’.”
“When it started happening to me, I had to rush and build my house. A lot of them, because dem go school and work years and years fi reach, and me jus come up and because of sports mi get everything, dem nuh happy.”
The 29 year old said the “strong badmind” displayed by some members of Jamaica’s upper class was contrasted by the positive reactions of ordinary Jamaicans.
“The ghetto yutes dem and everybody else love me and happy fi si me,” noted Bolt who earned more than $2 billion in 2015.
Bolt’s admissions come several months after a rant from entertainer Jodi “Jinx” Henriques, who criticised him as a neighbour in upper St Andrew, renewing a national discussion on the impact of class and colour.
Jinx had posted on social media: “Between the bikes… loud, horrid music, parties and screams, I honesty wish he would go back to where he came from. He is a horrible neighbour. I cannot wait to move.”
Jinx later apologised.
It’s widely held that Jamaica has unsettled social class issues, largely the inheritance of British colonialism.
“People look at things as you’re coming up and you’re building yourself and a lot of people do not want to see that. It’s just life,” said Bolt who hails from Sherwood Content in rural Jamaica.
“I’ve learnt to just understand that not everybody is gonna appreciate what you have done.”