(My first semi-Black History Month-related blog entry.)
Today, as I was hanging out with a friend and a friend of my friend. I don’t remember what I said (it probably wasn’t very nice…), but somehow my friend responded to whatever I said saying that I’m white on the inside. He then preceded to tell his friend that I have to force Patois. And that the day before, I had to ask him what a basic Patois expression means.
Well, it’s true… I’m not the best at the language of my own country. Sigh. In fact, later, while I was at work, someone asked me, “Yu a go iit aafta da work ya?” [Literally: Are you going to eat after this work?]
My answer: “Ye, wen mi go uom.” [Yes, when I go home.]
The guy who asked laughed (but not condescendingly, thank God) and a lady in the office said, “At least you learnt a bit of culture.” Basically, the expression was really concerned with whether or not I was getting any substantial income from my job. (You use money to buy food, after all.) I was embarrassed, but at the same time, not surprised that I’d confuse such a basic language/cultural concept.
The connection between language and blackness intrigued me. I have been called an Oreo many times before because of my ineptness at Patois. It’s not something I like very much. I’m not about to go Black Power on anyone, but I consider myself as black as any other Jamaican (and more than 90% of us are descended from Africans). But… I type very white. (My brother once told me that my typing is very American; and for Jamaicans, they tends to mean white.)
But sometimes I wonder if I should bother try to master Patois. I mean the fact that I have to try is depressing enough. It was actually the fact that I try so hard with Japanese and Hebrew that made me decide that I should make an effort with my country’s (I won’t dare say my) native language.
Whether I like it or not, my mastery (or lack thereof) of Patwa will forever be the yardstick used by my countrymen to measure my Jamaicanness. And my blackness.
Whoa is me.