10 January 2008

A Proud Jamaican--Not African American--on Race in America

I am a proud Jamaican. Born and grown in Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1988. The same year hurricane Gilbert devastated the country. You can say I’m West Indian, you can say I’m black. Don’t call me African American because I am in America only for school.

According to the story of slavery in Jamaica, people my skin colour would be considered a mulatto. This was the race brought about when white slave owners raped black slave women. It is a name given to mixed race children. But now, at home they call most people like me ‘brownin.’ That is a light skinned black person. The reason I’m light skinned is that my grandfather was white and one of my grandmothers was half Indian.

My identity was never an issue at home. Many say that “you are known be the company you keep.” Others say “ Birds of a feather flock together” That was never a part of my identity. My friends were always a wide variety of people so their personalities never affected me.

I am energetic, I can be loud and I enjoy dancing. There is a love in me for my Jamaican roots and music. Music was implanted in my blood from birth. I love the Jamaican food and culture and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Along with my love for my country and all in it, I also love art. I am known one of the few art majors in the black community of school I now attend. I love being creative. Ever since I was in school at the age of around 7 or 8 my mother used to complain. She would tell me that art is not all that matters in school, other subjects need my attention as well. Obviously I gave art my all. I am now a proud art major here to represent my country in the ever-growing art world.

The issue of race never bothered me and didn’t have any effect on the way I did or ever had to do things. Coming to America two years ago is the first time the issue was placed directly in front of me. I spent a year in Long Island doing grade 12 just to get used to the American education system. I was placed in a room with room mate from Hong Kong, as well as the fact that blacks were the minority as well. Take in mind I’m from Jamaica almost everyone is black. The only whites I have had to really interact with were tourists. Now, I'm in Fredonia, and again I’m a part of the minority. It’s weird for me, being brought up in an all-black country and then being thrown into two schools where I feel a bit out of place at times. Something as simple as the classes/courses I take per semester feels so uncomfortable at time because I would look around and see that I am the only black person in the whole class.

The Intro to Ethnicity and Race class was joined because the topic sounded interesting and I wanted a class I could look forward to during the week. I was also hoping that giving the name of the course, there would be a diverse student body. I walked in at 8 o’clock on the first Tuesday morning of the semester to be disappointed. Once again, im the only black person in the class! I was shocked. Nothing can totally explain how I felt.

Being in the tiny town of Fredonia I have experienced racism first hand. Racism has many definitions, the most common and widely accepted being the belief that members of one race are intrinsically superior or inferior to members of other races. I have never felt like that before. I was in a store in the area with my now ex-boyfriend looking for an outfit for an event that was happening on campus. There was a little old white woman in the tie section of the store. While walking towards the ties we noticed that she held her handbag closer and tightly to her chest and then left the left the area with great urgency. This shocked us, seeing that we are both Jamaicans and had never experienced racism in our lives. We laughed it off and said to ourselves, “Well I guess we have the whole section to ourselves.” But it really hurt us deeply so we never discussed among ourselves. There had also been one and two occasions in Walmart where people stepped aside when they saw us coming.

Despite those situations I have seen blacks at home treat whites better than the treat their own people. This upsets me because it sort of goes back to the days of slavery where white were at the top of the social ladder. One Saturday my friends and I were in Pizza Hut and we had ordered our food and were talking and laughing among ourselves. A group of white tourists walked in, and not too long after they had taken their seats the waitress yelled across the room and told us to shut up. This action was all because the whites were there. I have also witnessed people shopping and the white customer/tourist gets more assistance and attention from sales clerks. Sad but true.

Race is, as mentioned in the textbook, an illusion. We are all the same. Race is based on a social construction. Its seems, though, as if it is biological. Different people have different facial features, skin colour, body type, etc. We are also born in different countries and speak different languages. The issue of race in my opinion, was brought about by social standing and just people being ignorant and making assumptions.

Over the period of the semester I have realized a lot of things. Race as defined by dictionary.com is ‘a group of persons related by common descent or heredity, any of the traditional divisions of humankind, the commonest being the Caucasian, Mongoloid, and Negro, characterized by supposedly distinctive and universal physical characteristics: no longer in technical use.’

Genetics is closely linked to race and this I didn’t notice until this class. The definition of genetics is ‘the science of heredity, dealing with resemblances and differences of related organisms resulting from the interaction of their genes and the environment.’

Both definitions are closely linked. That was not expected. But the funny thing is that without genetics race may not exist. But according to Spencer Wells we are all 99.9% similar where genetics is concerned. We were all, whether we want to admit it or not, descendants of people from Africa. Prince Brown says, “current scientific investigations using genetic research and fossilized remains indicate that all modern humans evolved in Africa and migrated from there to the rest of the world.” This percentage though, contradicts Prince Brown, who states our genes are only 75% identical regardless of the population to which they are assigned.

Despite the many similarities among humans and races according to genetics a lot more contributes to our differences. Blacks were once slaves and people still believe they act as slaves to themselves.

This article stood out to me because it set aside black people aside and looked at their faults in their lives today. To some it may be stereotyping, but it is completely true. The author though is unknown. But the message has been passed over the internet over a number of years:

For those of you who heard it, this is the article Dee Lee was reading on a New York radio station. For those of you who didn't hear it, this is very deep. This is a heavy piece and a Caucasian wrote it.


We can continue to reap profits from the Blacks without the effort of physical slavery. Look at the current methods of containment that they use on themselves: IGNORANCE, GREED, and SELFISHNESS.

Their IGNORANCE is the primary weapon of containment. A great man once said, "The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book." We now live in the Information Age. They have gained the opportunity to read any book on any subject through the efforts of their fight for freedom, yet they refuse to read. There are numerous books readily available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com , not to mention their own Black Bookstores that provide solid blueprints to reach economic equality (which should have been their fight all along), but few read consistently, if at all.

GREED is another powerful weapon of containment. Blacks, since the abolition of slavery, have had large amounts of money at their disposal. Last year they spent 10 billion dollars during Christmas, out of their 450 billion dollars in total yearly income (2.22%).

Any of us can use them as our target market, for any business venture we care to dream up, no matter how outlandish, they will buy into it. Being primarily a consumer people, they function totally by greed. They continually want more, with little thought for saving or investing.

They would rather buy some new sneaker than invest in starting a business. Some even neglect their children to have the latest Tommy or FUBU, And they still think that having a Mercedes, and a big house gives them "Status" or that they have achieved their Dream.

They are fools! The vast majority of their people are still in poverty because their greed holds them back from collectively making better communities.

With the help of BET, and the rest of their black media that often broadcasts destructive images into their own homes, we will continue to see huge profits like those of Tommy and Nike. (Tommy Hilfiger has even jeered them, saying he doesn't want their money, and look at how the fools spend more with him than ever before!). They'll continue to show off to each other while we build solid communities with the profits from our businesses that we market to them.

SELFISHNESS, ingrained in their minds through slavery, is one of the major ways we can continue to contain them. One of their own, Dubois said that there was an innate division in their culture. A "Talented Tenth" he called it. He was correct in his deduction that there are segments of their culture that has achieved some "form" of success. However, that segment missed the fullness of his work. They didn't read that the "Talented Tenth" was then responsible to aid The Non-Talented Ninety Percent in achieving a better life.

Instead, that segment has created another class, a Buppie class that looks down on their people or aids them in a condescending manner. They will never achieve what we have. Their selfishness does not allow them to be able to work together on any project or endeavor of substance. When they do get together, their selfishness lets their egos get in the way of their goal. Their so-called help organizations seem to only want to promote
their name without making any real change in their community.

They are content to sit in conferences and conventions in our hotels, and talk about what they will do, while they award plaques to the best speakers, not to the best doers. Is there no end to their selfishness? They steadfastly refuse to see that TOGETHER EACH ACHIEVES MORE (TEAM)

They do not understand that they are no better than each other because of what they own, as a matter of fact, most of those Buppies are but one or two pay checks away from poverty. All of which is under the control of our pens in our offices and our rooms.

Yes, we will continue to contain them as long as they refuse to read, continue to buy anything they want, and keep thinking they are "helping" their communities by paying dues to organizations which do little other than hold lavish conventions in our hotels. By the way, don't worry about any of them reading this letter, remember, 'THEY DON'T READ!!!!”

From what I know, other races do not have this problem. And I can only speak from experience. The idea that black people don’t read is a problem all in itself. And this expands into other countries as well. Jamaica has the same problem. The money spending aspect of it spread all across American and even into the Caribbean. Blacks are known to spend so much money it is almost sickening.

A lot may take offence to this article but the truth hurts. It may not apply to all blacks but the majority spoils the bunch. We may not be slaves as we were years ago but instead, as the article states, slaves to ourselves. Admitting it is the first way to get over it.

Another problem that we are slaves to the whole situation of calling each other ‘niggers’ ‘bitches’ and ‘whores.’ It is a huge problem if white person calls us any of those names but is it ok if another black person does the same thing?

Whore is a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money. Now black women, especially black American woman take it as a habit to call each other by this name as it is okay.

Bitch is a malicious, unpleasant, selfish woman. A bitch can also be described as a lewd woman; this is another word commonly used in the black community. But if ever used to them by another race sparks major problems.

Nigger: this word has seen leaps and boundaries like none other. Dictionary.com states that it is a “term is now probably the most offensive word in English. Its degree of offensiveness has increased markedly in recent years, although it has been used in a derogatory manner since at least the Revolutionary War.”

Personally this doesn’t affect me and never really has. But just the fact that it offends people so much, I think, to be on the safe side, the word should not be used. People have died over the use of this word but the scandals and disrespectfulness does not stop. Again it goes back to the point that black people can be so ignorant at times.

I am black and I am proud of it and should be. But little things and situations like the one mentioned in the essay make me sad and the disappointment never stops.

Again, we are all the same in this world, all from one place with one common ancestor. The race issue is what we make it. It’s things we do as different cultures that make us see race as a big difference. Attitudes and lifestyles, class and education, that what causes race. We are all human beings and that is the fact. We all have two eyes, ears, hands, and feet. All have DNA but just in different orders. Race is what we make it. Genetics is a part of it but only a speck.


troll said...

To whoever wrote this article, I AM A PROUD AFRICAN AMERICAN, and I read this article a few days a go, oh wait no I didn't, i forgot I COULDN'T HAVE READ IT because in this article it says I can't. Whoever wrote this I can't comprehend how much courage you must have had to have to say this on

The Constructivist said...

Are you responding to the student who wrote this or the article she quotes? Or both?

The Constructivist said...

The article itself, by the way, is an internet hoax that's a sequel to the original Willie Lynch one; cf. William Jelani Cobb on the latter.

Anonymous said...

Mr. or Ms. Jamaica -- It is fascinating to me that the only way you have sought to define yourself is to negate other group-based identities. You clearly don't know enough about Jamaican history to claim that you are not "African American" since you really don't even know what "blackness" has and does mean in Jamaica and how that may or may not be different than how historically defined in the U.S.

How do I know this? You begin by claiming that your identity ("browning") has never been at issue in Jamaica. What poppycock - do you think such terms dropped from the sky or washed up on the beach or was dreamt up by some random deejay?

It seems to me that you need to take this class that you are enrolled in very seriously, if only not to march lockstep with your fellow Jamaicans in the US who take refuge in nationalism and patriotism and thus refuse to think for themselves.

Do your reading -- you obviously don't or you would have figured out that claiming that race is an illusion is not the same as saying race is not real.

And do some thinking -- the concept of race as a social construct (which is different from and antithetical to the notion that race is a biological construct) is a powerful one; it assumes that you take history - not simply as "past events" but as a series of political, cultural, and social shifts - very seriously. And you would want to, or you deserve the equally vociferous nationalist backlash you will experience from African Americans whose identities you so cheerfully denigrate.

You also would want to do your reading on what race has meant in Jamaica, and how, just like the US, the identities of Jamaicans like yourself are steeped in and shored up by racism and white supremacy.

So don't go thumbing up your nose and acting as if racism is an American problem, and therefore not yours. You did not discover racism in the US; you have been pitifully unaware, and are now being made to confront it in the US because you are not being unfairly rewarded by such poisonous practices in the same way that you were in Jamaica. Now you are seeing a tiny, tiny bit of what it feels like to be black in Jamaica.

You might also want to go find out what white supremacy has meant and looked like in Jamaica over time. Spouting off at the mouth makes you look silly; getting your "first degree" don't mean crap if you cant think your way out of a paper bag. No, thinking is not encouraged in Jamaica. Instead of being so resistant to learning, how about you surprise your parents and make their investment count for something. Do your research and find out exactly why you even have these attitudes, and what consequences they have for you and others.

How about you start with Edward Long's a History of Jamaica (1774). And then you can move on to read the work of Douglas Hall, Barbara Bush, Thomas Holt, Verene Shepherd, Honor Ford Smith, Michelle Cliff, Lisa Douglass, Natasha Barnes (esp. "Faces of the Nation"), and Gina Ulysse (esp. "Uptown Ladies/Downtown Women"). Only then are you even prepared to say anything on this topic.

Good luck! I hope that I run into you years down the line and can see that you took the prospect of education seriously -- anyone can have a degree; not everyone gets an education. Do yourself a favour and use the opportunities available to you.


Long Bench

conquero said...

Wow Longbeach,

You didn't have take young-in to the woodshed like that. But the boy needed to know the truth. Lol.

Carlton Overby said...

Your gay bitch

Carlton Overby said...

And your Dumb for listening to such bullshit from a no life called longbitch