Friday, 18 November 2011

"I'm Not Jamaican Like That"

My youngest sis and I were visiting with relatives and their friends in another city in Ontario some time ago.   Shortly after we had had dinner, a few of them, of Jamaican parentage, announced that they would soon have to leave.  One of them, who had remained reclined in the couch, replied, "No, I'm not Jamaican like that!"  The entire room burst out laughing!  No explanation of the "nyam an go weh" (eat and leave) kind was necessary.  For, it is thought, by many Jamaicans, that that is a behaviour which characterizes many a Jamaican.  It doesn't matter how long the length of time before the meal, as soon as the meal is finished, one can listen for the announcement of pending departure.

Of course, since that afternoon, sis and I use the phrase at every opportune moment to distance ourselves from things - and people - that would be thought to be undeniably Jamaican, but, at the same time, undesirably Jamaican.   "I'm not Jamaican like that" is quite a catchy phrase that accomplishes so much at one go.  It says, to me, at any rate, that the particular act/behaviour is widely-accepted as a distinctly (if not uniquely) Jamaican one.  Also, that the speaker is Jamaican, or of Jamaican heritage, and that he/she is more than willing - would be happy to - associate with other types of Jamaican-esque acts/behaviour.  And, for sure, it implies that it is necessary to make the distinction between "us" who would "never do such a thing" and "them" who "would do such a thing".

Does it sound like we're being selectively Jamaican?  Yes.  I hope so.  In the same way that we as human beings hang our heads in shame, or simply shake our heads in bewilderment, when we hear of a grotesque act committed against another. Well, it's kinda like that.  In Canada, once in a while the media carry a report about some Jamaican guy or another who has been charged with a criminal act, or a fraudulent act, or who has been involved in some kind of nefarious activity. I certainly and absolutely do not wish to be associated with that character!  I am not Jamaican like that!

Given the emphasis on multiculturalism and inclusiveness and diversity, it is generally thought that Canadians are likely not to paint everyone of a particular group (race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender etc.) with one brush.  But, whether we like it or not, everybody has a prejudice of some kind. And, what is more, some have not taken the time to pinpoint/evaluate their own level of awareness with respect to diversity and inclusion and all that.  That's an important step in the journey toward reducing some prejudices. But, they simply feel what they feel and that is that.

So, one might understand the need for the distinction to be made in certain quarters.  True, so far, I've only used the phrase among family members and friends.  It's used in a jovial, light-hearted way.  Like, finishing a drumstick and then chewing the bone. It's not a bad thing, but, I just don't do it.  Or, arriving late for an event. Again, many have heard the term, "Jamaica time."  But, having lived with my father who would practically be out the door without waiting, I'm punctual.  I've been thinking, though, how soon will I have to utter that phrase, in more public quarters, in an attempt to make a distinction; to clarify that, really, not all Jamaicans are like that?

Come to think of it, there was such an occasion where I had to make a distinction.  (But, I think it was before I had learnt the phrase.)  My colleagues and I were participating in a workshop and the presenter made reference to the intolerance of Jamaicans of homosexuals.  I explained that (1) not all Jamaicans feel that way (given JFLAG and other supportive voices) and (2) I could not be seen as a part of any "gay-hating" crowd - in Jamaica, Canada or wherever.  I have relatives who are homosexuals and they are relatives that I love.  After that session, in other conversations, I reiterated that my Christian convictions and the Word of God points, not to condemning the sinner, but the sin.  And no sin is "worse" than the other.  I'm Christian.  It is what it is. And, it is, mostly, about love.

People from other countries, I believe, would quite easily replace "Jamaican" for their own nationality.  I was honoured to have been invited to the wedding of a friend of mine last month.  But, she warned me, we'll be on Pakistani time.  And, so we were!  A start time of 7:00, ran into 8:30!   Similarly, I - any one of us - could look on in disgust at inhumane behaviour and go, "I'm not human like that."

Of course, I've also used the phrase when the converse applies.  That's when I gladly and readily associate with the triumphs and glory of the country; the people and things of which I can be proud.   Even in the little things, too, like eating Millie or East Indian mangoes and having the juice run down the elbow.

It's the acknowledgment of good home-training (broughtupsy); the recognition of that indomitable and resilient spirit; the ability to "tek bad tings mek laugh".  That is how I grew up in Jamaica and I took the best of my home training, and the best of how I was nurtured in Jamaica, by Jamaicans, to become a citizen of the world - as a former manager put it.  So, I gladly associate with things "desirably Jamaican" and, post-haste decry and dissociate myself from things "undesirably Jamaican."

So, whenever the acts/behaviour are in sync with my own values and beliefs, demonstrated by a Jamaican, or one of Jamaican parentage, then, yes.  If asked, I will say, "I am Jamaican like that."


No comments:

Post a Comment