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I wrote this about self-identification as a Black Brit

Warning: yes this will be from a "Jamaican" perspective, because I can't talk from an "African" perspective as accurately. But I'm sure what I've written as a "Jamaican" can be applied both ways. Most of the time when I mention "Jamaican" I mean British-born-and-raised-people-from-Jamaican backgrounds. I will do that lazy "Africans" grouping thing too. And this is just my view of the world through the eyes of a Londoner all here from a flow of thoughts. 

I had a conversation with a Londoner of Nigerian descent about Jamaica vs Africa the other day. It's always funny when Africans have a victim mentality of "Jamaicans always cuss us" like it's one way traffic. I didn't know we were still in the nineties.

Africans say ignorant things about Jamaicans like Jamaicans did and still do about Africans. In my experience, more people in general cuss Yardies than Africans in 2013. How many times have you read Africans cussing Jamaicans for not having a dad, crime or being uneducated? I see these stereotypes often on Twitter. Notice I say Twitter? These cussing matches/black-on-black banter based on ignorance doesn't happen in my real world, 'cos you are who you roll with and, well, you get my point.

Either way, it's definitely not just Jamaicans cussing Africans.

But away from "Who says the most ignorant thing about who" debate, the funniest/weirdest thing about it is the stereotypes Africans have of Jamaicans is based on very little in this day and age. Most Africans in London probably won't know anyone actually born in Jamaica. In fact, many British-born youths that claim "Jamaican" are probably in the same position.

Many British-Jamaicans are second and third generations meaning their grandparents and great-grandparents are their only direct connection to Jamaica if they're lucky to still have them alive. Aside from that, their main source of Jamaican culture is their favourite skin-out bashment song, the pleasant women at the Caribbean food shop, Passa Passa dvd or the loudly dressed and mouthed one in the street. I know loads of people over the age of twenty who haven't been to Jamaica since they were kids, preferring locations everyone else goes to like party islands, Turkey, Spain or package holidays to Egypt. Obviously USA is a popular one.

Most British-Jamaicans in London get their taste of Jamaica through packet of seasoning. Eating spag bol, Chinese, curry and stir fry throughout the week then dash a bit of jerk seasoning when dealing with chicken on a Sunday doesn't make you Jamaican.

I understand people claiming their heritage, I'm all for it, but understand what it is; you're more British than you will ever be Jamaican. Most African-Americans have no idea about Africa yet they acknowledge it (albeit just because its the only ethnic group they know), as someone born-and-raised in Britain, don't be afraid to own British.

I was once a member of the "I don't feel British, so I claim Jamaican" brigade until I realised I don't speak like a Jamaican in Jamaica 'cos I sound like the faux-Jamaicans I despise in Hollywood. (Actually, not that bad.) I also don't want the tourist price when I buy from the pan chicken or taxi man, so I get a family member/friend to talk. And they ask me to repeat myself in Island Grill because they don't understand when I ask for CranWata aka cranberry-flavoured water (that's "waah-ta", not "war-tur" or "war-uh" like us). Or that my perception of Jamaican females based on ones I see in London was a lot different to the ones I now know from Jamaica. Yikes.

And this is coming from someone that has been to Jamaica averaging every other year since 1990 (missed years made up with back-to-back) and whose dad is a born-and-kinda-raised, extremely proud Jamaican. I had a conversation with my cousin who grew up there and he certifies me, because even though I didn't grow there, I've been more than enough times to know there. But I know I'm not Jamaican.

(I've been on holiday to New York a couple of times and definitely didn't fit in there. Big up Jamaica Ave. though, 'cos I definitely enjoyed being a tourist watching gal on the road sides. Flaming heck!)

Likewise, I don't know a fry up without fried plantain. Or a Sunday roast without rice & peas. Or a party without big massive speaker boxes blazing reggae songs that weren't on "Now That's What I Call Reggae". Nor do I appreciate being told there will be food at the party that isn't curry goat, fried chicken, chow mein and potato salad. Bun turning up to see cold, finger food like pineapple, pickled onion and ham on a cocktail stick. And eat bun that isn't a hot cross bun and bread that isn't available in supermarkets (hard dough bread). Nor do I eat cold corned beef. So, I can't say I'm reflective of the British when I don't many of the things associated with British culture.

My speech comprises of cockney and Yardie slangs and I love that. There's some Americanisms too, but everything has pitfalls.

The Jamaicans I know and know of that do leave the island for education and jobs mainly go USA or stay in Caribbean (couple go school in Trinidad, few others go Cuba (big up the nurses)). Visa restrictions and prices are ridiculous to Britain. There are only two flights a week to England from Jamaica. Basically, the Jamaica to England migration isn't anywhere near what it was in the nineties at the latest. Added to the fact it's so damn cold most of the time, it isn't as desirable, so the types of people representing are not as varied.

The noticeable Jamaicans in London (usually "country people" playing up a downtown Kingston, '90s dancehall stereotype) are not a reflection of all Jamaicans like most Africans aren't starving with flies on their faces, fully depending on a centre set-up by benevolent white people donating £2 a month. In reality, Africans wait for the response to an email from a lonely white woman looking for love. Oh wait, that's another stereotype...

In fact, one day I was in Jamaica when a #YouKnowYoureJamaican thing popped up on my timeline. Ask me why my Jamaican people were confused by many of them. "Why were your Jamaican people confused?" 'Cos it was based on a British-Jamaican experience and, in many cases, really outdated things actual Jamaican-Jamaicans don't do. This goes back to the whole not having Jamaicans in their family apart from their grandparents up.

Africans tend to believe Jamaicans hate Africans or deny they're from Africa. Once again, it's a British experience. I can list you a crazy amount of Africa related songs in reggae. Bob Marley inspired Zimbabwean rebels. Peter Tosh spoke for the oppressed South Africans during apartheid. Marcus Garvey is a great in the pan-African movement and a strong part of the reason for the black star in the Ghanaian flag. Rastafari is all about Africa, therefore Rastafarian artists always refer to Africa as the motherland.

Jamaicans represented for Africa in a big way. Red, gold and green wouldn't be as commercially acceptable if it wasn't for Jamaicans. Rastafarians to be precise. Likewise, I know reggae artists are loved in Africa. And I spoke to a Ghanian man that said they love Jamaican culture. You can tell this by a lot of African music.

I'm not writing this like I've never made an ignorant comment about Africans. I've had to grow to get to know what I'm saying now. And to be fair, I don't regret the things I said because I didn't know any better. Pleading ignorance, straight!

My only view of Africa was through TV which is basically charity stuff like Red Cross and Oxfam adverts or Red Nose Day. I learnt otherwise by speaking to Africans, looking a little deeper into African history and culture, then understanding there's more that unites us than divides us. Now I'm much more interested in our similarities.

Funniest thing is, the "Jamaicans" chat the most rubbish about "themselves" and "their people" anyway. But what do you expect from people that claim a place they've probably never been or don't remember going?

Everyone pokes fun at each other, Pakistanis vs Indians, English vs Germans, French, Scottish, Irish etc. and Americans are too stupid to realise the rest of the world exists and doesn't move on American time. Banters all good and well, fun and can help break barriers if there's something useful like a discussion between people. I'll ask my African bredrin "Why do you lot do ____?"

Point of this is we are all here in this city/country. We have our differences, we have our similarities. There's no harm in banter, but to take this stuff seriously and judge everyone we meet from a particular background as one is flawed. Yeah, we have things in common culturally and class, but that experience doesn't shape everyone the same way. And we're all shaped by our experiences in London. Understand most of what we think and say aren't reflections of Africans in Africa or Jamaicans in Jamaica.

I have a dad and my parents have been married for almost 20 years (bang, bang bastard gang. I don't care, I got to experience my parents wedding. Sick day!), never smoked ganja, never been arrested and I'm quite jolly so I don't even relate to my own stereotype. Oh, and I actually go to Jamaica.


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