Some may be too young to remember: but there was a time that being Jamaican in the 80’s wasn’t cool. Yeah, we had Bob Marley’s transcendental music and Marcus Garvey already inked his influence in American culture-but for the most part being “Other” was frowned upon.
I know my mother experienced American women specifically expressing their displeasure for her very presence in places of employment. Phrases like “These damn Jamaicans taking our jobs” were common laments from American born workers.
I even remember being a kid at the bus stop–and American children taunting us: “Jamaican booty scratchers! Go back on your banana boat!”
The interesting thing is: these weren’t white American kids taunting us or white Americans questioning my mother’s presence: these were black Americans. They too had a complicated history with this country-but within this context they presented themselves being on the other side of “Other”.
It used to annoy me to no end when anyone Jamaican or American told me that I wasn’t Jamaican. “Oh, you’ve been here since you were a baby? You don’t have an accent. You’re not Jamaican then.”
Luckily, I don’t get annoyed anymore. I chuckle. The very idea that someone else can identify who I am is hilarious. Here’s the truth: I am Jamaican. I am also American.
I’m both. I grew up taking cod liver oil each morning, drinking cornmeal porridge and loving roast breadfruit and fried dumpling. I also loved our infrequent trips to McDonald’s for happy meals and ice cream trucks in the summer. My story is one of dual identity -a story many may know all too well. Peace and blessings.