Jafaican? Jafaican’t.

A new Rob Ford video has surfaced (what else is new) of the notorious Mayor of Toronto in the midst of yet ANOTHER (apparently) drunken rant. Not as violent and angry as the others, but it does feature the same general incoherence and swearing. Ford did throw in one new element, though: a fake Jamaican accent. Or, as I like to call it, Jafaican.

Granted, Rob Ford was probably drunk/high/both in this video - although he claims he’s been sober since November (uh, yeah right). That’s not to say it excuses his decision to parody the Jamaican accent, but at this point it’s pretty par for the Rob Ford course. I don’t really want to give the Rob Ford side show any more attention that deserves, but this newest video is a perfect example of something that has been high on my list of pet peeves for a while now.

For all of you out there who think saying “No problem mon!” is the height of hilarity - stop it. The Jamaican accent was not created for comedic purposes, okay? It’s just the way people speak in a different part of the world. I’ve had Jamaican friends tell me that when they first arrived in North America they were constantly heckled at school because every time they opened their mouths, people couldn’t help laughing at their “funny” accents. 

Of course, this reaction isn’t restricted to Jamaican accents, as I’m sure North Americans who happen to be recent immigrants can attest to. It’s a conditioned response that comes from years of consuming comedy that relies heavily on culturally inappropriate jokes and making fun of people’s accents. After a while I think people start to believe that it’s okay, especially if they see a cultural group making fun of it themselves.

Newsflash: other people’s accents were not put on this earth for your amusement. Not that people can’t and don’t exaggerate their own accents in jest. If you pay attention you can tell when someone is inviting you to laugh with them at their accent or simply talking. Learn the difference.

And while we’re on the subject, here are a few more items from my Jafaican “Don’t go there” list:

  • Rasta dreadlock caps (why, just…why?)
  • Thisimage
  • People who, while enthusing about their awesome vacation to Jamaica, use the words “I love Jamaicans! No problem mon!”

PS: The only people who are allowed to legitimately affect a Jafaican accent are the children of Jamaican expats. Sorry, but I don’t make the rules.

Oh No They Didn’t!

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Once upon a time, when my brother was in elementary school, he got into trouble for wearing his hair in cornrows. His school considered cornrows to be “gang paraphernalia”.

I was reminded of that incident when I came across this story today. Basically, this 12-year-old honour student from Floridadecided to wear her hair natural, which for her is big and loose. Some of her classmates were bullying her about it so she went to her teachers, who told her that her hair is a distraction and that she has one week to “tame” her hair or she’ll be kicked out.

Excuse me?! You have some strange ideas America, but seriously! Is it now the job of the education system to tell kids how to wear their hair? Is it the school’s job to determine “good hair” from “bad hair”? By tame, I assume they mean she should flat-iron it every morning, or perhaps get a nice strong relaxer. 

Smh.

The silver lining of this story is that 12-year-old Vanessa VanDyke is sticking to her guns:

It’s puffy and I like it that way. I know people will tease me about it because it’s not straight. I don’t want to fit in.

(The Globe and Mail)

Wish I’d had guts like that at her age. Unfortunately, I was too busy wishing I had long swishy white-girl hair. It wasn’t until I went of to university that I became more comfortable with my own natural texture (I still struggle with that). One day I hope to live (and raise children) in a world where people are encouraged to love themselves just as they were born. I guess it might be a long wait….

Repeat after me: BLACKFACE IS NEVER OKAY

I know Halloween has been over for a while now, but I just heard about this story, so bear with me.

Again with the blackface! Apparently Julianne Hough, who is apparently a big fan of Orange Is The New Black, decided to dress up as the character Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren on Oct. 25. So she donned an orange jumpsuit - okay, cool - and did her hair in the white-girl approximation of bantu knots - alright, fair enough - and then she put on blackface - wait, WHAT!

No. Not okay. Granted, what she had on was more Xtina at her most orangey-brown than minstrel show (and aren’t we glad Christina outgrew that particular phase?), but what makes this different is that fact that she was intentionally trying to make herself look like a black woman.

So what’s the problem, you may ask? After all, in her Twitterpology the next day, Hough insisted she meant no offense. She’s a big fan of the show and Crazy Eyes actress Uzo Aduba, and meant no disrespect. She’s young, you say, only 25 years old. How was she to know the negative history attached to blackface?

The fact that her costume garnered so much negative attention tells me that not everyone is so clueless. I mean, you would have to have been living under a rock for the past decade to not know that blackface is never okay. Never. Just don’t go there. The fashion industry has gone there, multiple times - it’s almost as if they don’t care if they offend everyone? - and look at the uproar they’ve caused.

I can’t speak for all people of colour, but for me personally, the biggest problem about blackface is that it turns black people into cartoon characters, into objects of ridicule, which is exactly what blackface was designed to do in the first place. I may not have been born circa 1930, but I remember being aware of the images of blackface from an early age. I remember seeing an old picture book that featured a gollywog, a type19th century rag doll that caricatured black features with frizzy hair, big red lips, very dark skin. I also remember watching a feature on TV about black musicians in the 1930’s and how those with lighter complexions were made to darken their skin with paint when they appeared onscreen or onstage. 

So when I see blackface, what I see is the continuation of a really ugly tradition of degradation and disrespect. Which is kind of sickening, this being the 21ST CENTURY and all. Hough may have had the best intentions about her costume, but it would have been better if she’d left the racially loaded make-up at home. 

So guys, when Halloween comes around again next year and you’re trying to decide if a little dark make-up will make you Mr. T costume more authentic - please, I’m beggin’ ya: just say no. (Refer to my previous posts on blackface here and here in case you’re still confused as to what all the fuss is about)

What do you think? Is it racist?

Down With The Sassy Black Trope


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I’ve been dwelling a lot in this blog on racial issues - and again, if there is another issue you’d like me to explore pertaining to cultural appropriation or just something you find offensive, please let me know - but race is an issue that is of personal interest and concern to me.

On that note, I want to talk about the representation of black people in the media, particularly the portrayal of black women. This is kind of a follow-up to the post I did on black women in the fashion industry, where they are often seen, or at least portrayed, as exotic novelty items, but not a representation of the beauty norm.

I often find myself uncomfortable with the representation of black women on TV show and movies I watch.  It may be a well-acted show or film with a well constructed plot, but it always makes me cringe when the stereotypical Sassy Black Woman character appears onscreen. 

You may be familiar with the Sassy Black women. She’s usually a friend and/or coworker of the (often) white main character who dispenses earthy wisdom with a sassy snap of her fingers and a “Honey Child, you listen here!” It’s an outdated and extremely awkward trope, in my mind, especially since these portrayals are not balanced by black women in main character roles. And, for the record, I don’t count Tyler Perry movies or shows that appear on BET. I’m talking about main characters in mainstream TV shows and films.

It’s not just the sassy black female trope that bothers me either. There’s a distinct lack of black female characters cast as romantic leads, or if they are, they’re always paired with someone of their own race. How limited! And not at all a reflection of reality as we all know. 

Which is why my heart rejoices in shows like ABC’s Scandal. FINALLY! A show where the main character is a strong, stylish, intelligent female who just happens to be black. In fact, hardly a mention is made of the fact that she’s black, not even where her relationship with a white man is concerned. To me this is progress - we need more shows like this!

Still, that’s only one. Maybe you’re aware of other examples and if you are please let me know, but think about it for a minute: how many black actresses are you aware of?

There’s a reason why I posted this along with a picture of Mammy, a character from Gone With The Wind. Now, I have to admit, I love this movie. I find the character of Scarlett very interesting and the love story between her and Rhett fascinating, but the one thing that sticks in my throat every time I watch it is the portrayal of the black characters in the story.

We have to ask ourselves, have we really come that far from the days when characters like the shrill-voiced Prissy or the gruff Mammy were the cinematic norm?

whiteboysdatingblackgirls:

As a sort of prelude to my next post, and because its a cool gif that makes me smile :)

(via whiteboysdatingblackgirls)

whiteboysdatingblackgirls:

As a sort of prelude to my next post, and because its a cool gif that makes me smile :)

(via whiteboysdatingblackgirls)

Blackface For Christmas!

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offtrackplanet.com

I have the AP News app on my smartphone and a story about the time-honoured Dutch tradition of dressing up in blackface caught my eye the other morning. How could it not?

It all has to do with their version of the Saint Nicholas legend - whom they call Sinterklaas - and his trusty sidekick Zwarte Piet. That’s Black Pete for us English speakers. Apparently it’s a widely popular tradition in the Netherlands to dress up like Black Pete around this time of year, which involves painting your face black, wearing an afro wig, and painting your lips red so they look big and thick.

And the worst part is, this isn’t just an isolated few out in the boonies somewhere. Black Pete is everywhere. He’s even found his way onto a popular children’s television program. 

This practice has drawn complaints from some in the Dutch population, and not just Black people either. This is clearly an extremely racist tradition, they say, and Black Pete should be cut out of the Dutch Sinterklaas story altogether.

On the other hand, some Dutch people are defending the tradition, saying that it’s part of Dutch cultural history and should be preserved. Me thinks they doth protest too much….

The debate comes after a decade in which the Dutch have rolled back many aspects of their famed tolerance policies, and in which anti-immigrant sentiment has risen sharply. Zwarte Piet is frequently defended as part of Dutch cultural heritage, and those who don’t like it are often bluntly invited to leave the country. Many Dutch say Pete’s black face derives from the soot he picked up climbing down chimneys to deliver presents - although that hardly explains the frizzy hair and big lips.

AP News - Criticism of Dutch “Black Pete” tradition grows

So there you have it. There are a lot of comments that come to mind, but I can’t say it better than the popular Dutch news blog quoted in the AP News piece:

"The sooner we get rid of Zwarte Piet, the sooner we won’t look like idiots to the rest of the world."

* Check out the Toronto Star’s take on the issue.

Hands Off The Bollywood?

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I’m really torn on this one guys. I love Bollywood movies and the best part of any Bollywood movie is the wedding scene. The colours! The jewelry! The gorgeous bride dripping in silks and gold and henna body-paint! It’s a feast for the eyes. So who wouldn’t want to incorporate a little of that Bollywood flair into their own wedding festivities?

I have to say, I’m tempted, and not just in terms of weddings either. A friend of mine spent a few months in India and picked up some gorgeous saris which she wears to formal events. I bought a sari in downtown Chicago several years ago, though I haven’t worn it yet (mostly because I don’t know how to fold it right), but I really want to.

Neither my friend or I are Indian, though, like most people of Caribbean descent, I do have Indian ancestors. Does that count?

And back to the Bollywood-inspired wedding, do you have to be Indian or part Indian or getting married to an Indian to pull this off without being offensive? Is it just as bad as the Australian couple dressing up like Tiger Lily and her braves?

Help me out guys, what do you think?

Get Your Dances With Wolves On! Or Don’t.

So, remember when I said I didn’t realize this was a thing? Well, I stand corrected. Check out this Australian couple who decided to play dress-up on their special day:

weddingwindow.com - Crazy Costume Weddings!

perthnow.com - American Indian Themed Wedding

Cute, right? Wrong.