For South Florida’s Caribbean community, there is a proverbial elephant in our room. Recent headlines have blared about the alleged criminal activities of one of our most influential female business leaders. Until a few days before the time of my writing, she had been held up as a beacon of accomplishment. She was the person that the people you trust told you to trust.
A few short days ago though, she was arrested for allegedly defrauding the IRS and clients out of millions of dollars. For those first few days it wasn’t spoken about publicly, only in hushed phone calls, private messages and secret texts. I posted a note of support on facebook and for the most part folks were encouraging, but one person told me to take it down. Our community just doesn’t like to talk about this kind of thing, especially when it’s hitting so close to home.
I’ve continued to hear whispers from one direction about how it all couldn’t be true, and whispers from the other about how people have been suspicious of her for a long time. But as the community rallies in remembrance of the good that she has done rather than the allegations that have now been levied, what I don’t hear talk of is the alleged victims. If it’s all true, then many of them may have been close friends and longstanding business associates who may still not even know that their affairs were mishandled.
If it is all true, then this becomes another chapter in the narrative that paints some wealthy Jamaicans as scammers, and many others of us as guilty by association. Please rest assured that this narrative does not describe the typical Jamaican, only the ones whose unfortunate stories are sensationalized.
But while we’re all praying that there’s a reasonable explanation, let us remember some truths that may be very confusing in this particular situation as well. In America we are innocent until proven guilty, there is good and bad in everyone, and we must always protect the victims. May our hearts be big enough to accommodate all these realities at once.
Calibe Thompson is the Executive Producer of the “Taste the Islands” cooking series, now airing M & Th at 7:30PM, and Sat at 3:30PM on South Florida’s WPBT2 (Ch 2). Her next television project “Island Origins” explores the concept of the American Dream from the Caribbean perspective.