My older sister’s dogs, “Hershey” and “Peppa,” a year apart, are both cocker spaniels breed and the two couldn’t be any more different. Hershey is a rambunctious outdoorsman, while Peppa enjoys the comforts and delights behind closed doors. My brother-in-law has this running joke that one is “the African” and the other, “African American.” We don’t need to ask him which is which, we already know the stereotypes being thrust upon these adorable pooches.
I’d hoped to take a week off to rest, read, restore and completely disconnect, but it’s 2020 — thus, forget about “plans.” Then a nice White lady, singer — songwriter and global star Adele — enters the chat room wearing a Jamaican flag printed bikini with her hair styled in Bantu Knots (known as “chiney bumps” in Jamaica — yeah, I know) celebrating the annual Notting Hill (virtual) Carnival. The reaction to the singer’s carnival look was mixed on social media, especially amongst Black and Jamaican Twitter. Black twitter was not having any bit of it. Many felt the line of what was probably intended to be appreciation came too close to appropriation. For the most part, Jamaican twitter saw nothing wrong with it and believed that because it is our flag, we should be the ones who decide if there was any wrongdoing. My favorite reaction to the image is a Jamaican rendition of the singer’s song, “Hello” — “HELLO PON DI OTHER SIDE.” Leave it to Jamaican influences to lighten the mood.
The differences in response doesn’t surprise me. I grew up in the middle of these two varying points of view. It’s also the basis of the joke’s narrative that identifies my sister’s pooches. What is beyond tiring is that after all we’ve seen and been through, especially in 2020, we are still unable to establish proper dialogue on issues that have an impact on us both and that are detrimental to us moving forward. Jamaican twitter stands behind a wall of disconnect and of privilege, having not lived the African American experience and thus throws stones at Black twitter, who they say “complains about every little thing.”
While members of the Black race, immigrant or not, experience racism in some shape or form, African Americans are at the front line of the fight for racial justice. Being a Jamaican immigrant, much of the privilege I am afforded today is because of the African American sweat, pain and lives given to the cause. My parents, although living during the period of Jim Crow, couldn’t share a single tale because their Jamaican background was a different kind of hardship. I think it’s short-sighted of us Jamaicans to shut down the conversation because we deem it “trivial,” “weak” or because “there are bigger things to worry about.” Of course there are, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time!
Black twitter, I know you’re hurting, but insults won’t bring us to the table. Yes, Black immigrants come to the States for a better life, but we “don’t live in huts.” Be kind.
Jamaican twitter, I get it, you want to “move on,” but so does everyone else. A little respect is due. A lot actually. If we can’t do anything else, we can listen. Telling another why they shouldn’t hurt is not being strong nor is it productive.
As for Adele, after pulling out the bantu knots, I believe she regrets this decision more than any of us.
For some perspective, two great reads that touch upon the background of the dichotomy of African Americans and Black immigrants are:
Americanah, a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae