Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Knowledge Of Self

I had a conversation with an older Jamaican woman last week about our kids today. She went on and on about how Jamaican kids and other immigrant children come to America and become corrupted by our young black Americans. She spoke defiantly in her Jamaican accent, "These chil'ren have no respect and they don't respect their parents! They put their hands in ya face and say, 'whatever, whatever.' I'm telling you that they are not like us Jamaican people."

Now, keep in mind that her experience in the states has been limited to the Washington, D.C. and New York. Well, I tried to give her my perspective on young black America since I grew up here and spent time living both north and south. I explained to her that while black children in/from the city are not always respectful to people outside their home, very few act that way around their parents. I know this from my own family and from teaching in predominantly black neighborhoods. The worse children will clam up when their mother or father showed up at the school.

"No! No! They do not respect their parents! They are disrespectful these chil'ren. disrespectful!" She stated. "We (Jamaicans) are a fighting people! That is why we were released from slavery earlier (1834) than blacks in the states (1865). They (Black Americans) don't know how to fight," she continued. Well, that's another post, but I began to ask this woman about black American culture and she had no knowledge of it. "I don't know anything about black Americans," she said in a dismissive tone. So, I began to speak a little on the subject and I told her about some famous black Americans including James Weldon Johnson who, along with his brother Rosamond, wrote our Negro National Anthem. She looked puzzled. "You (black Americans) have your own anthem?" I went on to tell her that we had to sing it every morning in elementary school along with the American National Anthem and "We Shall Overcome." She was surprised! I told her not to worry and that there will be more history lessons to come. So, this is for you Tricia. She ended up being a nice lady at the end of the evening. She promised to make me some curry chicken. I guess that she likes this black American.

As for the Negro National Anthem, it was not created by these great men to be divisive. They felt that it was something blacks in America needed to uplift their spirits. They also realized that the original anthem in America was not created with people of color in mind. It was said that James Weldon Johnson once came to tears when he heard an auditorium of black school kids sing this song.


P.S. Tricia, you should listen more to your countrymen, Bob Marley, whose lyrics and music didn't portray us as different but as one. He constantly sang about the connection between blacks in the Diaspora. He also spoke of our human connection with the world. So, any problem that we have is everbody's problem. Remember, "we are we."
Sources: www.semo.edu

12 comments:

Michael J. West said...

It almost seems as though Tricia is unaware even of her country's history, not just ours. The slave rebellions in Jamaica were not really much different from those in the United States--at least in terms of the actual actions taken and the level of fighting and violence.

The reason that slavery was abolished in Jamaica earlier wasn't because the Jamaican slaves fought harder. It was because black slaves outnumbered whites, slaveowners and non, 20 to 1.

No disrespect for Tricia intended, I promise; and maybe I'm overly nitpicky. I just have a hard time hearing criticism of America based on false premises.

Stephen Bess said...

MJ West-
Thanks for expounding on that slavery issue. I didn't want to get too deep because I that would just be one long post. Well said and thank you!

BTW, Tricia doesn't read this blog. This is just for anyone else that thinks the way that she does. Thanks for helping me to educate.

NML said...

Jaysus, I'm Jamaican Chinese and according to my relatives, people aren't that well behaved in Jamaica. At all. This woman sounds like she's living in cloud cuckoo land. Admittedly there is this very strong respect thing in the Carribean but I agree that no matter where you are, if you're black, you still scared of your parents. At the end of the day, those same Jamaican's still end up corrupted, without having to put a foot off the island!

Stephen Bess said...

NML-
Haa haa! I know I was scared of mine. Yes, I knew that but I didn't want to take it deeper with this lady. She actually turned out to be quite pleasant in the end, but she has a real problem with black Americans. She doesn't realize that our ancestors come from the same slave ships and same coast of West Africa. The difference is that we picked cotton and you all did sugar cane (just to name something). I'm sure that there were mothers that went to Caribbean while that mother's son was dropped off in Annapolis, Maryland. Now, tell me how are we different? The only thing that separates us is the ocean and some damn good jerk chicken. :)

the prisoner's wife said...

well, my beloved is jamaican & so is his entire family, so being around this i heard this a lot. not as a diss to me, but mostly as commentary about NYers (they mostly live in Jamaica, QNS). they kept asking me if i or my family was from jamaica, probably hoping i wasn't a yankee *lol* but there is a bit of truth in this. i think kids in general have become increasingly disrespectful because their parents have either been non-existent because they have to work a lot, or they just haven't given the proper care & concern to their children & their actions.

it's easy to say that we need to do more beating & less time out, but i think that's exactly the problem. i've seen so many parents cursing & hitting their kids for the smallest things, that anger builds up. my little one is only 5 months old & when the time comes, he'll get a little spanking, but i will also talk to him like my mom talked to me to let me know why she had to discipline me. we definitely need more role models, even for the parents. if there is no one there teaching a young man or young woman HOW to be a mother and father, the children will be lost. we need responsible uncles, aunts, teachers, villages to raise our kids.

tryphina said...

Africans who were dropped off in Jamaica during slavery, got a real good deal out of this cruelty. At least they got their own country out of this mess. The only difference between the African soldiers in Jamaica and their American counterparts was and still is ratio. Does she know anything at all about the Buffalo Soldiers?? The USA has a massive propaganda machinery that has compromised the character and humnanity of Africans all over the world, especially those born in America!!

P.S. I only know the first verse of the African American anthem. Thank you for the enlightenment one more time :)

Stephen Bess said...

Prisoner's Wife-
No doubt about these kids are bad as hell, but we only have ourselves to blame. I can dig the whole "respect" thing because I grew up with that too. Anyone that grew up in the south knows about that. They are still respectful to this day despite the infiltration of the media and the breakdown of the family structure. I just wanted the woman to know that she cannot base the entire country on one segment of a population or group. African Americans make up a very small part of census. Do we really have that much influence on the larger groups? I don't know, but I do know that the problem is larger than just some disrespectful kids. It goes much deeper and I am not prepared to explain it? Thanks PW. :)

Tryphina-
Yes, the ratio was crucial. I did some research. I found that when the British abolished slavery in 1834, "Jamaica had a population of more than 311,000 slaves and only about 16,700 whites." Jamaica is about the size of Connecticut. Now, if you add some mountains and a few brothers and sisters who know a little something about guerrilla warfare (The Maroons) then there can be some serious reprecussions for those trying to maintain slavery. :) Personally, I don't think that the British were benefiting financially from slavery the way that the American colonies were. It has made America a very rich land. Thanks Tryphina! Learn that 2nd verse to "Lift Every Voice."

Btw, I got my info from africana.com

Brea said...

So sad that it is human nature to see the differences before the similarities.

Bougie Black Boy said...

Thank you for this post. Great! I think that's one of the biggest misconceptions people have--that because you and your counterpart may be of the same color, doesn't necessarily mean you are of teh same culture. Black Americans are different than those who are Jamaican. There are big differences (even physical features as well).

Importantly, i'm glad you enlightened her. I hear the same thing in NYC from people all the time, And I let them now, that you can't necessarily categorize the entire black american group because of your "bad" experiences in NYC or DC. As I always say, do you think that it's not necessarily a race issue? But rather a 1) generational and 2) class (econonomical) issue?

Something to think about. Not everything is rooted from racial makeup.

Stephen Bess said...

Brea-
I agree, but it makes them feel better about themselves when they can put another down. "We're not as bad as them."

SEJ-
I was trying to explain to her the differences in generation and how it was different when I grew up in the 70's. As you mentioned, it's also different in terms of demographics because the city seems to show a more harsh side of reality while more rural areas tend to have a better hold on the youth. The main reason is outside influence and socioeconomic conditions vary. Thanks!

Pamela said...

Wonderful post!

There are many reasons for Tricia's view on things, many have already been outlined in some the the great comments here...here is another.

Having spent time in Africa and having alot of involvement in African communities in the U.S., I too have seen what some may describe as reverse racism.

A disdain, fear, "better-than" attitude by many Africans toward African Americans. This stems from a lack of knowledge of the history of African Americans, a cultural disconnect, their own oppression (and brainwashing) by European colonialists, and the portrayal of African Americans in our media.

I have seen their own children assimilate into our culture by relating to their peers in the same dress and attitude Tricia describes but, they immediately leave it at the door when they return to their own homes and traditions.

The disenfranchisement and systematic genocide of the entire diaspora has been a global agenda. The agenda not only promotes self hate but, it discourages cultural connectivity. It is an attempt to prevent unity of the Black man as this is the one thing that threatens the white man the most.

I applaud your approach Stephen, to patiently educate this lady without hostility.

Stephen Bess said...

pamela-
my first impulse was hostility, but I've learned that people listen more when you meet their hostility with patience and understanding. it's the music that calms the savage beast. :)
I like what you said about the reverse racism that occurs in the black community. I do realize that there is a lack of knowledge and understanding and that many people of the Caribbean and Africa accept what they see in the media as the truth. My goal is to tear them down little by little. My wife, who is South African, tells me that I tear them down every time I meet someone in the African community. They are always amazed that I am American. Although I find that many black Americans are open to accepting Africans on a one on one basis many of them are also plagued by stereotypes and misconceptions about Africans. My wife helps to tear them down. Perhaps we will one day unite and become one community. That would just cause my heart to be filled with joy. Thank you for your very lucid and thoughtful comment. :)

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