Tired of being treated like an outcast, Oneil Brown approached THE BEACON at a football match in his community on Sunday, hoping that a public appeal will help to change society’s negative attitude towards him.
“Mi a beg the public just have some mercy pon mi,” he said, adding that some relatives, friends and prospective employers are among people who stigmatize him.
People’s attitude towards the resident of Lluidas Vale, St Catherine, started to change in August last year when he was diagnosed with the skin disease known as vitiligo.
“Some people call mi white man; some people ask if mi a bleach,” Brown lamented. “A nuh bleach mi a bleach. Mi a nuh white man.”
The father of two sons – a nine year-old and a 16-year-old, said employers also refused to hire him as a result of his ailment.
“Mi goh nuff places goh look work and people a gwaan like mi a di worse thing dem ever si,” added the mason, who has been pushed into self-employment to fend for his children.
He continued: “Mi a beg the public don’t be scared of mi. When you do that, it mek mi feel left out.
“Mi want mi friend dem who forsake mi fi just know seh wi a still friend. Not because mi skin change; mi nuh change. A di same heart mi have; a di same love mi have like everybody else,” the 40-year-old further declared.
He believes the negative social reaction is partly due to a lack of awareness about vitiligo, which is characterized by patches of the skin losing their natural colour and becoming white through depigmentation.
Medical experts said vitiligo is NOT contagious, effectively meaning that people can’t catch it by touching and making other physical contacts with patients like Brown.
The disease is also not painful and it does not have significant health consequences.
“Doctor said it is not a thing that is going to kill me, but mi haffi stay out of the sun; it doesn’t love sunshine,” Brown told THE BEACON.
“More time people si mi, dem gwaan like a me goh buy this thing for myself… Dem feel like I am the worst thing. Soh mi want tell dem seh, a nuh buy mi buy this sickness.”
Brown stated that, despite the contempt he faces, he tries to remain in high spirits.
“The greatest thing is that mi have life. Mi nuh matter the little pigmentation. Mi still do everything – work, and mi sport,” he noted.
Brown, who emphasized that he was a ‘very black person’ before August last year, underscored the importance of people being cognizant of their own frailty.
“Wi si today, wi nuh si tomorrow,” he cautioned, adding: “Anything can happen to any man.”
Brown, in the meantime, said he is sticking to medical advice, and is trying to be healed – something that is difficult, but not impossible.
“Doctor said, if I eat a lot of fruits, maybe I will get back my complexion,” he told THE BEACON. “Mi naah feel nuh pain, and the illness nuh stop mi from working… This is not something I should live and fret about at all.”
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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