As a Caribbean native and resident it is easy to stay from our beautiful paradise islands and look up at our African heritage counterparts up North, read: The United States of America, as a bad representation of the Black race. We’re taught that our ‘whine’ is better than their ‘twerk’ and our callaloo, pelau and escovitch fish are superior to chitterlings, candied yams and collard greens. After all, we have a culture and we’re proud of our heritage. Not to mention, our schools are better and our parents raised us better.
As an international student in small town Oxford, Pennsylvania, I did everything I could to highlight my difference from the other black students at my Historically Black College/University (HBCU). Though I don’t consider myself uptown, being raised amongst the UPT massive had influenced how heavy, or better yet, how light my Jamaican accent sounded. After my freshman year at school, I made it my priority to be around more people with deep Jamaican accents during the summer in order to make my Jamaican-ness more pronounced for the following semester. I didn’t want to be mixed in with their regular clapping while talking, loud, “bish whet” madness. My other Caribbean friends also felt the same way and we rode our thick accents wave while touting our high GPAs, with our noses in the air.
Even with all of that effort, I quickly learned that no matter how authentically Jamaican I portrayed myself to be, when the caucasians saw me all they saw was a black girl from the black school down the street. I was racially discriminated against while trying to go about my business at a local supermarket. It wasn’t until I began to speak, that the server happily paid attention to me. It was almost as if the supermarket employee was relieved that I was “from the islands.”
What message are we really sending to the white people about Caribbean and Black people? Is that message so bad?
In an article on www.blackgirllonghair.com, Writer Lisa Jean Francois spoke on her pride in being “different” from the African Americans and how it helps in justifying the caucasians’ viewpoint that African Americans are to be blamed for their position in the U.S. and deserve to be treated as such.
“Recently, Huffington Post writer Nadege Seppou, who is of Cameroonian heritage, penned an open letter to African immigrants, urging them to not fall victim to the same belief system.
White Americans will say you are better than American blacks, but please do not fall for this trap. You will be told you behave better, work harder, and are more educated than American blacks. You will be tempted to agree and will sometimes want to shout, “YES, I’M NOT LIKE THEM, WE AFRICANS ARE DIFFERENT!” Just don’t…don’t even think it.
The praise of your acquired characteristic and culture becomes a justification for white Americans to perpetuate discriminatory treatments towards American blacks. These statements of praise have an underlying message of, “If Africans can do so well then surely racism has nothing to do with anything, therefore, American Blacks are to be blamed for their condition in America”. This problematic line of reasoning sustains cultural racism. I beg of you, refrain from nodding in agreement when you receive such faulty praise.”
I agree that Black Americans are predisposed to their condition because of the late start they had after the disruption of Black history i.e. slavery. They are born into the projects, they, without choice, attend underfunded public schools and their men are predicted to live up to, say 25 years old. The Caribbean mind will point out that we also had terrible slavery and we decided to create our own school system, though with heavily British influence, and we picked ourselves up. We still have our own set of problems, like our horrible classist mentality, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve managed to make our lives count.
Francois says “Caribbean culture and African culture are different than African American culture. But when we celebrate our uniqueness, it should never be to shame African American culture.”