Blackness

(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.

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4 Responses to Blackness

  1. read.robin says:

    Ugh, trust me, you are not the only person who’s grown up with this. It’s utterly infuriating to have someone disregard your ‘blackness’ based on the way you speak. I never knew that saying either though. >.<

    And bully on them anyway. Half of them can't even speak Patwa properly, have no interest in reading/writing it and probably don't give the language half the respect it deserves. At least we on the outside, so to speak, can appreciate it properly.

    Nice pun at the end there 😉

    Like

  2. whylori says:

    Ya know, Kennywheil, I think people are lame. They like to tell what is black and what is white. In fact, you’re more Jamaican than they are… “Out of many, one people” ring a bell? At the end of the day, the purpose of language is communication. If they understand you, there’s no need to be Patwa snobs… and half of us don’t even speak “proper Patwa”, anyway.

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  3. theMarshan says:

    What is meant by being “black”? Is it being able to talk unbroken English, intimidate others just by walking in a room and having everybody staring at you like you about to steal something, (males) having more than one baby mamas and (females) having more than one babies for more than one men? All these are unfortunately associated with being black in some views, similar to the belief that all Jamaicans wear dread locks, smoke marijuana and say”irie” at the end of every sentence. Being black is not a culture and your race should limit who you are as a person.

    On the issue of you speaking patios, keep doing your thing man, I mean Patois is like any other language/dialect and it takes time to become perfect at something you have to learn. Don’t let the sound of your patois determine your ethnicity. Your black (African), and that’s you!!

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