It astounds me that i still encounter black british people of my generation that are so unaware of their heritage. This weekend gone by I had a conversation with my friends husband, and indeed my friend who I have known for nearly 15 years. I dont know exactly how we got onto our Jamaican heritage, but the conversation started about race and skin tone and the fact that they had very little to do with each other. I mentioned that my son (fair skinned, blue eyes and blondish hair) and his wife (brown skin, dark brown eyes and hair) despite being visually very different are the same ‘colour’ by the fact that they are a quarter White. I am totally aware that by breaking down people’s into percentages of their genetic make up only goes to reinforce racial profiling and stereotypes, however it is something that we as British people seem to need to do - in the same way we cling on to our class system. Despite being multicultural We are far from homogenisation. Anyway. He disputed the fact that they were the same colour or race because of my genetic makeup. He said that as my father’s forefathers had been brought to Jamaica as indentured labourers from India, that it made me less Jamaican. He said that my link to India was closer to his link to Africa. That in fact there was very little connection to Africa as he was half Jamaican and half Bajan. Now this isn’t a new argument or something that hasn’t been thrown at me before, but it didn’t stop me feeling completely affronted by his statement. Why do black british people believe that they have more of a stake in west Indian culture then anyone else? Why doesn’t our education system inform people about our colonial past? How can anyone still believe that there people are the original natives from Jamaica when the Arawaks were wiped out during colonisation - and that the original slaves taken to the west indies were actually Irish. Why does being black mean that you are Jamaican and not indeed African or of African descent? Why despite the fact my family has been in Jamaica since the 19th century do I have to say I’m Indian and not Jamaican. So many questions. So much anger and not at the colonial past, but at the present mass of people of all races that are so uninformed and so unwilling or uninterested that they accept the non-information given at school level and refuse to educate themselves about their heritage. A friend of mine who I studied with and who herself comes from a very mixed background, but is a proud St.Lucian once said to me that mixed race people are more aware/educated about their heritage because they have more to prove. I definitely think she is right. You see my friends husband is black, and there’s no denying it. If you didn’t care to ask, his identity as a black man is clear. Whereas myself and others of mixed heritage sit in a third space, which often makes not only ourselves but others uncomfortable as we cannot easily be defined. Which goes back to my earlier point of the British need to classify in order to comprehend - the anthropological definitions applied to in order to control the masses. Colonisation of our minds.
So back to my discussion with my friends husband - I finished off the conversation by telling him to look closer at the Jamaican coat of arms ’ Out of Many People Come One’. Says it all really.