One of our very own, US California Senator and Democratic Vice President nominee Kamala Harris, made a gaffe, so great, regarding the Jamaican stereotype that her Jamaican father publicly scolded her for the remark. While I understand his grievance, because as a Jamaican, we’re tired of being your go-to marijuana punchline — dressed in our armour, Harris should have known better than to perpetuate this false narrative, as it only continues to hurt us. However, she is a grown woman and the rebuke would have been best or more effective — an apology and a teaching moment perhaps — had the conversation taken place privately. Sadly, Jamaican parents are not the best at terminating parenting.
This incident happened eighteen months prior to Harris being named as the presumptive US Democratic Vice President nominee and upon her selection as VP pick, it was the first thing my childhood friends repeated to me. Yes, we’re always excited to see Jamaica represented and visible on the world stage. Of course we will support her success wholeheartedly, she’s the right person for the job, but we’re allowed to feel used, hurt and disappointed too. I get it, it’s cool to be Jamaican, but while I don’t speak for all Jamaicans, it’s my belief that we want to be the ones to determine what that looks like. And if we say it’s not ganja, it’s not. Now, can we leave it alone?
It’s not that ganja is “bad,” its use in fact has great qualities that would be of much added assistance to our economy and health in many cases. We’re just not afforded the same luxuries in its use and social purposes. Thus, as Jamaicans we find ourselves in a cultural quicksand of sorts to get rid of the negative and false stereotypes in an effort to be seen as individuals and to be respected. Affirming what others have said or believe only invalidates what so many of us work tirelessly for; change, equality, dignity and hope. We’re not your punchline.
And no, it’s not legal.