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Concepts of Black Identity

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 4052 words Published: 31st Jul 2018

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In the article “Skin Bleaching, Self-Hate and Black Identity in Jamaica”, Christopher Charles, tries to uncover the reason why Blacks in Jamaica decides to bleach their skin. In the article, Charles, uncover the word “Identity” which separates one entity from the rest. “Jamaica is a plural society” (Charles, 2003) and many black Jamaicans try to be accepted by the “superior” European culture. The major factor that contribute to the low self-esteem in Jamaicans are the black mothers telling their children “white is better than brown and brown is better than black” and “their nappy hair is bad”.

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Bleach has become so prevalent in Jamaica. The Ministry of Health and the Police force had to be more vigilant to crack down on bleaching. Many under-the-counter products were seized by the police but with a determination to have ‘another’ identity many black Jamaicans were creating their own home-made products. Female advancement to be light-skinned or fair was blamed by “the postindependence nationalist leaders”. There are many reasons why females bleach but the one that stands out is “their concerned with their body image” (Charles, 2003).

Christopher Charles made many interesting points as to why black Jamaicans bleach. The issue “even 10 year olds in school are taking bleaching pill” made me very upset. How could a mother or father put their own child through such a horrible treatment just so that their child can be brown skinned and be accepted by society? Bob Marley once said until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes. I agree with this statement because Jamaican women has lost track of what is important and significant about of “black beauty.” I also support the fact that parents should protect their child from all danger but endangering your child while trying to protect them “color-coded” or “keeping up appearance” is not accepted at all in my book. I think policy makers should put strict measures in place to severely deal with parents that strive to change the colour of their child skin and endanger them because “the desire to change one’s skin color to look different from one’s racial group is cause by the psychological scars of the hierarchical plural society” (Charles, 2003).

The statement “there are persons who are black, and they recognize this fact” is true as far as I believe. However, Blackness has less salience in the construction of their identities” (Charles, 2003). For example, someone (black) was adopted at a young age at about 12 by White parents. These white parents will teach their adopted child their “values, norms and symbols” because that is what the parent know to be right. The child identifying them as black but they still will not portray much of the black nominal. Another example of one embracing the nominal of other group is whites who become Rastafarian. They are not neglecting their own identity but “their self-affirmed identity is with the group or groups whose values, norms and symbols they have incorporated” (Charles, 2003)

In concluding, I do agree with Charles on many aspects. Most black women, especially Jamaicans, have no value for their skin color any more. Parents instill this norm in their kids at a very young age, and therefore they grow up with the same mentality to teach their kids. And therefore, the cycle continues. The colonial system has miseducated our people “into believing that the only standard of beauty is the one defined by European ideals” (Charles, 2003). “reeducation” (Charles, 2003) is necessary for our people.

Two Worlds by V.S Naipaul

Two worlds defines how V.S. Naipaul, of Indian background, had to deal with the reality of knowing just about nothing of his ancestors other than his grandmother’s house which had a little of the Indian history that their ancestors brought with them from India. He lived in a world where his Hindi language was minimal, only the alphabet was known among some, because the English language was penetrating through Trinidad. No one asked about India and when they decided to ask about it was already too late. As a writer his darkness became his subject. He wrote on India, Africa, the colony and many other topics. He traveled to India to discover what India was like because no one could have told him about India. He also traveled to different Caribbean region to learn more about the colonial setting.

“I can’t remember anyone inquiring. And now the memory is all lost” (Naipaul,n.d), this statement touch me because the Caribbean has a rich history as mix languages that was lost because of the constant change in the colonial master. In Grenada, many years ago we speak both English and French Creole but because of ignorance and selfish behaviors the French Creole language died with our great grandparents and was not pass down from generation to generation to preserve what’s ours. But in St.Lucia French Creole has been passing down from generation to generation because they see the need to preserve what makes them different from the rest of the world and the Caribbean. Naipaul, (n.d) stated that “All children, I suppose, come into the world like that, now knowing who they are. But for the French child, that knowledge is awaiting. That knowledge will be all around them. It will come indirectly from the conversation of their elders. It will be in the newspapers and on the radio. And at the school the work of generations of scholars, scaled down for school texts, will provide come idea of France and the French.”

The Mimic Men written by Naipaul, even if his intention was of the book was different but it capture a meaning of how the Caribbean is still on the puppet string being “Mimic” by the slave master. “Men who had grown to distrust everything about themselves” (Naipaul.n.d.). We are able to do anything and achieve anything on our own but once the former colonial master – no longer in control – get involved our ‘inner slave’ starts to show itself, no longer we believe but obey and the “Colonial men mimicking the condition of manhood” (Naipaul, n.d.).

In conclusion, Naipaul was lost in a world where he was born and a world where he was from. He travelled to India to discover where he came from, “his ancestral land” (Naipaul,n.d.) and also the Caribbean. Naipaul stated “the world is always in movement” and so we as Caribbean people need to move with the world for if we remind in mental slavery will and not up elevate our self our ancestor would have fought for our freedom in vain.

O Brave New World by Maryse Conde

The article “O Brave New World” by Maryse Conde raised some serious issues about “globalization” and what it means for the Caribbean. First he highlights, “Caribbean countries seem to be the most concerned with this future since they lack political and economic power” (Conde, 1998). This makes it difficult for Caribbean countries to compete in the global village against first world countries. Secondly, Conde, shamelessly states “Globalization does not frighten me” but “For me it means reaching out beyond national and linguistic borders both in actual exchanges and transatlantic influences and in the expressive imagination of diasporic black communities” (Conde, 1998). Here, Conde is showing that we do not need to have the largest economy nor political powers to break down barriers. We need to emerge together to overcome all obstacles as one people. Finally, Conde, highlighted “black people had no intention of solving individually the problems of their specific countries but looked towards the transnationalization of black culture as a solution” (Conde, 1998). He is mentioning that the barriers that once stood in front black people is beginning to give way and we “Negroes of all origin and nationalities with different customs and religious vaguely sense that they belong, in spite of everything, to a single and same race”(Conde, 1998).

Sitting here and thinking how it is that we Caribbean people find it difficult to come together as one and not stand as individuals. “Little Montserrat in the Caribbean, unknown to the majority of westerners, emerged from obscurity when it was threatened by the volcanic eruption of the Soufriere.” This is a perfect example of why we need to stand as one people and not wait for a disaster to bring light to the Caribbean. I believe that we need to take ourselves out of the backward thinking and move towards a future that’s transnational and global. Conde stated “No intention of solving individually the problems of their specific countries.” I don’t agree with this statement because problematic countries will consume a lot of the other countries’ resources which will create even more problem for the resourceful country. For example, with the difficulties facing some African countries it would be hard to assist them. After encountering people of the same race from different countries, the statement “Negroes of all origin and nationalities with different customs and religious vaguely sense that they belong, in spite of everything, to a single and same race”. On the religious aspect of the quote, I would have to agree with Conde. For example, in a black society of different religions: Rastas, Adventists and Catholics. Rasta believes that eating meat is bad, most Catholics believes that meat is good, while the Adventists think that pork (meat) is bad. Can everybody exist as one and not exist as multitude in the same race? I think not and this will create a lot of indifferences and cause a division between the people of the same race.

In conclusion, the article, O Brave New World, has shown us that we still have a long way to go as “transnational of black culture” and with an ever changing world and each nation wanting to keep its own identity I think it would be difficult for any black nation to exist as one.

Is Massa Day Dead?

In the introduction of “Is Massa Day Dead?”, Orde Coombs highlight “West Indian society is essentially a “pappyshow” society in which serious thought and dreadful calamities are acknowledge with the briefest of attention so that one can go about the business of one’s business” (Coombs,1974). In the West Indian society we give a blind eye to a lot of the serious issues or problems that plague our society in West Indian but in order to solve this issues we will have to change our way of thinking and remove “The American cultural juggernaut that smashes its way into the willing or unwilling psyches of all the islanders” (Coombs, 1974). Derek Walcott portrays a view that suggests he accepts both side of his heritage and cannot let one fade and one prosper but give both balance because both are important to his life. Brathwaite had a different view that we should accept our Africanness and neglect the other half of our ancestors. Whereas Millette and Rohlehr believe that black people need to stand up and “drive its intellectual dynamic against the deepening pressure of this age of neo-colonialism” (Coombs,1974). Hodge, Thomas, Hodgson, Stewart, Edmondson all speak of striving for equality among all black people and most importantly to take pride in our “Africannes” of West Indian society.

In the “Is Massa Day Dead?” Brathwaite “bids us a journey into the past to find the African and Amerindian in us, for only then can we become ourselves and measure the rhythm of our own creativity” (Coombs,1974). Braithwaite’s views are that we should forget about the European that is in some of us, for example, Derek Walcott, “like the halves of a fruit seamed by own bitter juice, that exiled from your own Edens you have placed me in the wonder of another, and that was my heritance and your gift”. Walcott have both African and European in him and he claims both heritage and not one over the other but embracing of both cultures. Braithwaite’s view which I think don’t apply in this global village but Walcott views pin point the direction that is being taking today as Coombs stated, “black people have begun not only to probe their commonality, but to understand that the shibboleths that separate us.

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There are “Many of the more serious thinkers of these islands who want to usher in a just society, who wants to abolish privileges based on race or class” (Coombs, 1974). In the Caribbean we are still, sort of “under the slave master” mentally because once islanders make a valuable contribution to the island “their ideas are not analyzed, but they themselves are put under a blaze of lights and their foibles and weaknesses exposed”(Coombs,1974. With this type of mentality by islanders the island development will remind one place and not move forward but floats around like a piece of plank for all eternity. May be this due to the fact that “Cultural juggernaut” has penetrate our minds more then we think and it will and lot of education of our people and take us out of this illusion that America is better than us.

In conclusion, I think that Coombs effectively displays a lot of the problems that we are faced with in the Caribbean. Among them, the inequality between men and women and how men still dominate and have high positions in society. However, in recent years, you will find women graduating with degrees and earning high positions in society. This clearly shows that woman are rising out of the mentally that women should be seen and not heard. Brathwaite and Walcott stand on their Africanness and Europeanness and for the many struggles that are still being fought by black thinkers to unshackle us from the “neo-colonialism” that still is with us today.

West Indians and their Language by Peter A. Roberts

“West Indians and Their Language” by Peter Roberts highlighted how geography, politically, definition, history and culture connects the West Indies language. The term “West Indian” as define by Roberts, it confers on the people of many different islands an identity or homogeneity which all of them do not want to be associated with (Roberts, n.d.). The term “West Indies”, does not have a precise meaning or definition but Roberts gives a general meaning” it refers to the very same islands or territories” (Roberts, n.d.). Roberts made mention of how geography and politics influence the “West Indies” connectively. Geographically, the islands are separated into the “Greater Antilles and the “Lesser Antilles” there were separated because of the size of the islands and the distance from each other. Politically, the ‘West Indies’ European policy determined the entities in the Caribbean by creating great distances or close links between the islands regardless of their actual distance from each other (Roberts, n.d.). Roberts, define the term “language” and “a language”. Language can be look at from the linguistic competence which the joining of the innate capacity (the child) and actual input from the society (words, phrases) (Roberts, n.d.). Languages in the “West Indies” change over time because of the constant chance of colonial (British, French) power which gives birth to the distinction of language throughout the “West Indies”. Roberts, highlights the varieties of language spoken in the “West Indies”. English which is said to be “good” or “proper”; English that’s not “good” or ‘proper” is dialect (Roberts, n.d.). Roberts also give details of Creole, Patois and Slang that is part of the “West Indies”.

Roberts enlighten me on “West Indies” language on how diverse our language is. I would have never thought that “dialect” is considered to be Standard West Indies English. Grenada, as history has shown, been through the French and the British hands for many years and finally become British about the 19th century (Roberts, n.d.). To look at why Grenada loss its French Creole I will take it from a cultural, educational and geographical point of view. First geographically, Grenada is located near to Trinidad than St.Luica and the other French Creole speaking islands. Cultural view because Grenada is now under the British rule, British will impose its culture on Grenada. Finally, from an educational view, British try or should I say eradicate French Creole through the use of school and teaching British language while the French Creole dead out.

In conclusion, Roberts give a comprehensive understanding of “West Indies” language on how it went through so many different circles till it ends up as it is today. French Creole and many other languages that was lost because we were washed away of our African language and taught the European language “English” which is still considered “bad” or “broken”. “West Indian English, however, unlike other dialect of English (perhaps excepting Indian English), has features which are significantly difference in nature, features which have resulted from the nature of the contact between African and European and from the circumstances of development of language in the West Indies” (Roberts, n.d.).

The Roots of Caribbean Identity: Language, Race and Ecology by Peter. A. Roberts

In the article “The Roots of Caribbean Identity: Language, Race and Ecology” Roberts links how European countries embrace their identity “which suggest that place, people and language are closely allied in the formulation of national identity” (Roberts, 2008) and in the Caribbean we have a great present of European influence such as the language, place and person. Also he highlighted “the notion of identity” (Roberts, 2008). We in the Caribbean are the same but yet we still are different and how we as “social being” differentiate ourselves into classes. Finally, “human societies are not static” but no matter how similar or different we are we will create a new identity that will either be accepted or not.

“Language is in part a universal human factor and in part a factor of place” this statement makes me think of how we as humans are the same but yet so different when it comes to our language. For example, here in Grenada we have this stigma (distinct language) between people from the country side (St.Patrick’s) and people from the town (St.George’s). “Recognize speakers from outside their community by their speech”. Someone from the country side will speak more dialect than someone from the town and someone from the town will speak “not restricted to use of a single language” because in the town people consider themselves as speaking standard English, considering they live on the tourism belt. Roberts stated that “a sound is in essence what language or variety of language they speak”. Many Caribbean islands national language is English because of the colonial ties with Britain. For example, if a tourist comes to Grenada; the taxi men and other people that come in contract with the tourist will know the nationality of that tourist base on their accent, for instance, if it’s a British tourist the taxi man will put on a British accent or if it’s an American the taxi man will put on an American accent. This is not a good way to appreciate our ‘own’ language because the tourist might not even be able to understand what you are saying and this is why we as Caribbean people need to hold on to wants ours and pass it on from generation to generation. As Roberts mention “while behavior may in some objective way be the best criterion for judging sameness, it is the sense of sight (colour/race) and sound (language) that provide the initial and usually most deep-seated conclusions about sameness and difference in identity”.

“The Antilles: Fragment of Epic Memory” written by Derek Walcott tells us of how the Caribbean move from a history of violence to what it is today. He mentions how the “Caribbean culture is not evolving but already shaped” (Walcott, 1992) and “its proportions are not to be measured by the traveler or the exile, but by its own citizenry and architecture” (Walcott, 1992). Which is true because when foreign looks at “postcard” they see blue sea, drinks with umbrella and they don’t see the true nature of the island, the ‘real’ history of the Caribbean. Walcott talks about how in Trinidad, the Indian people, reenact the Hindu Epic the Ramayana in the small village of felicity that shows the collective memory of its people which is the essence of human experience which goes way beyond any history that can be found in books.

After reading and internalizing “The Antilles: Fragment of Epic Memory”, I agree with Walcott on one fact, which I think has been plaguing us in the Caribbean for some time now and it still is going on even if many efforts are being place in school to teach us about ‘our’ history and not too much about the European history. As Walcott stated “Every endeavor is belittled as imitation, from architecture to music” for example, in Grenada the government is introducing to its school curriculum, consume making, with the intention of passing on some of our history to the youth. Today most of the youth are straying towards the first world culture. For instance, you would not fine a kid playing some of the Caribbean games no more but they would engaged in video and computer games or watch MTV or the Disney World channel or some foreign channel that don’t teach them about their culture or ancestors.

“This is how the islands from the shame of necessity sell themselves; this is the seasonal erosion of their identity” (Walcott, 1992). Walcott writes, “Visitors to the Caribbean must feel that they are inhabiting a succession of postcards.” The Caribbean is “like a Botanical Gardens, as if the sky were a glass ceiling under which colonized vegetation is arranged for quiet walks and carriage rides” (Walcott, 1992). The hidden beauty of the Caribbean is unknown by travelers (tourist) but known by citizens. The Caribbean seasons are like an “unending summer of the tropics not even poverty or poetry seems capable of being profound because the nature around it is so exultant, so resolutely ecstatic, like its music”, that’s a perfect description of how the Caribbean is and not a postcard that tells a million words but the true essence of its culture, its people and its way of life.

In conclusion, “A culture based on joy is bound to be shallow” (Walcott, 1992). Walcott speaks on how we take our culture, the people and the beauty and wonders of the Caribbean for granted. The Caribbean belong to us and we should portray it, not as a postcard, but a symbol of our heritage, our culture, our place of birth, as the song goes by Eric Donaldson “this is the land of my birth”, in essence, the Caribbean is the land of our birth and Caribbean people should not only express themselves when they are away from home, but should do so all the time. And in doing so, it should not be half represented. They should speak the true facts and paint the true picture of the land.


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