by Valrose Minott
(Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
Jamaica50 Entry #4 -Jamaican Identity
I am quite delighted that Jamaica as a nation has a momentous holiday –Independence Day – August 6, in which the country celebrates annually. However, as parents to children born in North America, I do not understand why they ask “why do Jamaicans get upset when people call them Africans?”
My response is that we are not Africans. We are from the Caribbean, not Africa.
Too many Maroons, Arawaks and other Jamaican heroes fought and were slaughtered by both the English and Spanish in order for us to be an independent nation; for one to forget from whence we came.
I am not discrediting my ancestral heritage, but I will not say I am an African for I cannot substantiate on account that a century of backtracking will readily produce proof that after four generations, none of my relatives that have passed away have an immediate or direct link to Africa.
Furthermore, if I admit to individual(s) that I am African and a dialogue was to follow where one asks where in Africa are you from? I would have to admit that honestly I am not from there, but my ancestors were. Now, I am not suffering from an identity crisis.
Ignorance in saying that because we are of a certain ethnicity,“ aren’t we all Africans?” does not carry the same weight. As I once told an individual when asked “where are you from?” I replied saying “most Black people are from Africa or the Caribbean - I am from the Caribbean”; as usual their thought was that I was an African. Are all Caucasians’ from Europe?
At an early age, growing up in Jamaica, I personally view Jamaica as a true multi-racial country where acceptance is predominant. However, in North America individuals frequently ask your identity even though there are tremendous amounts of varying cultures throughout the society.
We must develop a tone of political correctness in telling curious minded individuals what they need to hear. Tell them, “I am from the Caribbean - Jamaica to be exact”. Am I suffering from an identity crisis, you be the judge. Mr. Robert Nesta Marley says “…Who the 'eck do I think I am …”. Read between the lines.
The Bible says “… turn the other cheek…”, but if an individual smite your right cheek, is it wise to turn the other so he can repeat the assault? I say this in response to the Caribbean, as a nation because when individuals speak of our heritage the Caribbean is not readily acknowledged.
Jamaica has accomplished a great many milestones thus far, and we as a people should stand proud and strong at all times and not relinquish our ties with “Jamaica land we love…”
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