“You don’t look Jamaican” (another rant)





So here I am, bored out my mind, searching youtube for Jamaican comedy. I came across two precious videos which I thought I’d share with you. Let me start by saying I’m both happy to hear- but saddened at the same time- that other people are told that they don’t look Jamaican also.

Believe me, I understand when people see me wearing the hijab the last culture that comes to mind is Jamaican. Yet, I’ve had other Muslims say that I don’t look Jamaican either! When I ask what they mean by their statement people suddenly become quiet. What I think they don’t want to say is, “You’re not dark-skinned with pronounced African features.” NEWSFLASH, not all Jamaicans are dark-skinned. Not all Jamaicans have African features. Better yet, not all Jamaicans are Black. Sometimes people will say, “Oh, you must’ve gotten your color from your mom!” (Since she’s American.) I want to laugh. My dad comes from a Jamaican Indian background. He’s what Jamaicans would call a “browning” or African-Americans would call light-skinned…so no, I didn’t get my color from my mom. *eyes rolling*

Anyway, the Jamaican coat of arms is “out of many, one people.”

Hear from my gyal…can you imagine someone trying to tell you where you’re from? Some people have nerve.

Edit (Am adding this one too)

Watch a video she put together…bullet! bullet!

13 responses to ““You don’t look Jamaican” (another rant)

  1. Interesting videos… I love Super Cat. I remember reading that he’s of Indian descent. I was a little surprised just because I had no idea. Also didn’t know Tami Chynn was of Chinese descent. The name didn’t give it away.. :-p I understand the frustration that Jamaicans must feel when people make those sorts of comments. People often tell me things like “You don’t act like other African-Americans” or “You don’t really look African-American; I thought you were from East Africa.” It’s crazy. What does that even mean??!

  2. Assalamu alaikum,

    LOL, I have gotten that sooooo many times when I’m visiting overseas (I live in Jamaica). I’ve received that comment both pre-hijab and post hijab. I have also gotten..”you don’t sound Jamaican”,”you dont have a thick accent” , and people have commented on how they can understand my speech with ease, lol, mostly Americans. I don’t know what they were expecting, patois speaking ?, locs wearing?

    One of the most insulting comments I have received is “Oh you are from Jamaica huh, so you must smoke a lot of weed” this was from two white american guys. And someone asked me if I know Bob Marley…and they were actually shocked when I said he is dead (I am NOT kidding), that person was from Oman.

    I have also been asked (by Jamaicans) if I am Arab??

    Anyways it takes lots of personalities to make the world interesting huh?

    I’m Proud to be a JAMAICAN MUSLIMAH

    wa salaam alaikum

  3. Salaams,
    People see the other Islands, like Trinidad as mixed, but not Jamaica.

    Similarly, people have very narrow conceptions of what it means to be Black in America. Either you must be mixed or from someplace else. But they fail to realize that Black American is itself a mixed race category, just as Jamaica is a diverse country. Over the years, I’ve had a number of people insist that I must be from some place else. Pre-hijab, that other place was usually the “Islands.” Whatever that means. Then there are some of us Black Americans who people insist cannot just be plain ole Black.

    I remember my boss who knew my sister’s dad (who is white) was shocked to find out that me and my sister were in fact related. My boss said, “I didn’t know she was black! I thought she was Native American, Jamaican, and White!” I told my boss, “Yes my mother is part Jamaican, her grandfather was very much a Black Jamaican with African features.”

    On a side note, it is interesting to compare my grandmother and her siblings to other children of West Indian immigrants. Maybe it is because their mom was American, that my great grandfather migrated to Georgia as opposed to a place where there was a Jamaican community, or that he migrated a long time ago, but my grandmother and great aunts and uncles have no sense of Jamaican pride or even aspects of the culture. Is that the route that West Indian immigrants are trying to avoid, a full assimilation (with all its benefits and downfalls) into the Black community? Just some thought

  4. Assalamu Allaikum sister,

    Luckily, I have a lot of friends from the Caribbean and they did tell me they have all kinds of people there. As a matter of fact, in my situation, where I am of Pakistani descent, and ppl would ask me if I’m spanish, turkish, arab, or afghani/persian. So, alhamodilllah, I love it, I just let people guess and sometimes leave it like that. But, that’s nice to see diversity in areas with a low population, LOL i hope there’s logic to what I said. I can see why it would bother people if they tell them they’re from Jamaica and ppl won’t believe them cuz they have some sort of stereotypical image about Jamaica.

  5. Ugh…I hate it when people talk of Indians from Jamaica, but then show mostly pictures of mixed persons who are only part Indian. While a lot are mixed (and more will probably be in the future), most are NOT. Yet, at least half the people shown when “Indo-Jamaican” is mentioned are only part Indian. People always seem willing to admit that there are Indians in Jamaica only if they also take the chance to under-emphasise their distinctiveness. It’s like saying, “You can be acknowledged, but only if you’re acknowledged in the least Indian way possible.”

    Blacks are associated with Jamaica for three reasons. Firstly, the only thing most non-Jamaicans know about Jamaica is that it is the birthplace of Bob Marley, Reggae, and Rastafarianism.

    Secondly, because 90% of Jamaica is Black (and another 5% are part Black), most Jamaicans that they’ve seen are, in fact, Black or mostly Black. I mean, when was the last time you turned on the Olympics and saw a non-Black Jamaican sprinter?

    Thirdly, Black Jamaicans portray Jamaica as a Black nation. As much as Jamaicans don’t like to admit it, race is still an issue on a subtle level. True, it’s not as bad as before. When my parents were growing up in Jamaica, being Indian, they weren’t liked very much. According to Blacks, they were “coolies” who ate bushes like animals do, s**t on their roti before eating it, and had their tails cut off at port. They even tried to prevent my mom and her sisters from being allowed to get water for the family. (This was before running water. My grandfather liked to yell and brandish a machete; It convinced them to abandon this particular attempt at racial discrimination.) These notions aren’t polite to speak out loud any more, but to say that race is not important is far from the truth. Look at politics for instance, do you think Michael Manley used Bob Marley, a symbol of Black nationalism, in his campaign for nothing? It was an obvious attempt to be the candidate of the Black man. It went hand in hand with his socialist ideals of nationalisation and more equal distribution of wealth. Who’s wealth was being distributed to who? In 1970s Jamaica, the economic ladder had three levels: Upper – Whites, Syrians, Jews; Middle – Chinese, Browns, Indians; and Lower – Blacks. So, while there may have been noble intentions behind the campaign for socialisation, in the end, it had undertones of empowering poor Blacks to counteract the success of Upper- and Middle-class minorities. Even look at P. J. Patterson. He was in power for so long, yet people always complained about him. So, why vote for him? I’ve heard Black Jamaicans themselves tell me that his Blackness was a factor in his election.

    The misconception of “Jamaican = Black” is not just a result of ignorance, it is also the result of Jamaican Blacks portraying the nation as Black. The motto of Jamaica is just a verbal cliche to make it seem that race is not an issue, but it hides the history of subtle race politics. An example of how Jamaica portrays itself, in subtle ways, can be illustrated by the last time I was at Manley Airport. (It was about two or three years ago.) I was bored, so I started to read one of those poster things on the wall, the ones with Manley’s picture and some biographical information. I had read most of it when I got to the part that annoyed the heck out of me. There, on this wall in the airport, one of the first places foreigner’s see when they arrive in Jamaica, it boldly referred to Jamaica as a “Black nation”.

    So, ideas of race are still present in Jamaica at a subtle level. Plus, I still see a few Black people sometimes refusing to eat our food because they “don’t eat such things”, and I still end up being frustrated when an Independence Day sermon ends up being an ode to the Black race. I have nothing against Blacks, but it this type of Black hegemony that have contributed greatly to the deterioration of the Indian community in Jamaica. As an Indian who loves my culture, this is a painful process to watch.

    Anyways, sorry for the rant…

    – M.R.

  6. I definitely know how you guys feel about “not looking jamaican”. I am full Jamaican Indian and people sometimes dont believe im jamaican. I have to explain the whole story to them. And sometimes they look at my dark brown skin and probably think that I look jamaican or “black”. But the most sad part is when Trinis and Guyanese who are suppose to understand us more think im black!!!!! NOT EVERYONE FROM JAMAICA IS BLACK!!!! jamaica is just as diverse as america you just dont see it as much. I am tired of the ignorance me and my family have to go through on a daily basis!!!

  7. Nadine Donaldson

    I just want to say thank you so much for puting this video together. I am a Jamaican American and as a young girl growing up in the US I was alsways asked what are you or where are you from, etc. I would simply tell them that I am Jamaican. They would look at me and say well you’re not dark, or you don’t have an accent. My response would be that I was born here and that both of my parent were born and raised in Jamaica. It saddens me that although we are approaching 2010 people are still quite ignorant in regards to the Jamaican Culture. I told someone that “we are out of many one people” meaning we come from various cultures(i.e Indian, Chinese, European, etc.) And they still don’t get it. I am so prideful of being Jamaican and I appreciate the fact that my parents always made it a point to know where I came from!

  8. I am a proud half jamaican & half trinidadian, that was born here in the U.S. I am very glad that my parents raised me in the culture and I am very bold, and proud about being west-indian. I will tell someone in a minute that I am a caribbean, and proud so don’t get it wrong just because I don’t have a insanely strong accent, or have dreads and all that. I’ve heard the ” you don’t look jamaican ” or ” you don’t sound jamaican ” thing. Even more funny, when I tell people that I’m a british-jamaican because half the family are in the UK, and I was raised partly in England, they get even more confused because I still talk very proper but I can switch up and talk jamaican patoi if I want. lol I have to explain to them how jamaica was very british and go into a big history session with them haha. People need to read more history and then they would know the broad and diverse the caribbean is!! CARIBBEAN PEOPLE, HOLD YOUR HEAD UP HIGH!!

  9. Elisabeth Atherly


    Just enjoying this tribute to the diversity of Jamaica. I am Jamaican-born of Guyanese parents. My parents lived there for over ten years and loved it. My parents were Indian, Portuguese, Black and English descent. My sisters and I get a great deal of quizzical looks in the U.S. when we claim Jamaican heritage. I certainly know and understand the irritation; and I also often recount a history lesson of the Caribbean.

    I hope that the strong feelings about Jamaican culture and history continues as the diaspora broadens and assimilates, particularly in the U.S. where the melting pot is the goal.

  10. i have jamican uncles and cousins and aunt t . an they speak creloe and i have an accent . and people say i look jamican and sound like it. so i claim i have jamican in me. but they are from jamacia an moved to miami. but i really love reggae .

  11. yeah im not too dark but im dark with slick black shiny hair….and all the americans at school say u carnt be jamaican ur to cute n u hair is pretty…thats when i give a straight face and tell dem fi fuck off!!!!!! Im jamaican- of sri lankan, dutch, and sudanese decent u cock suckers!!!!! stop stereotyping my ppl

  12. Interesting because my mother is light skinned Jamaican and my father is a dark skinned Jamaican. My mother had distant Irish ancestry. I am more towards the darker side and my mother is what they would call a brownin. Good post. I love my Jamaican heritage and have more ancestral roots to Jamaica and Africa than I do to America. I love Bob Marley, reggae, Marcus Garvey etc. That is apart of my heritage.
    Yes, people can be so ignorant not knowing other races of people exist in Jamaica besides Black although about 90% of Jamaicans are Black and have Black ancestry.

  13. You guys suffer from the same delusion AND WHINING AMERICAN “MINORITIES” incessantly complain about… Wake up. Jamaica is 90% black, 9% or so mixed race, and 1% or so Indian, Chinese or White Jamaican. You’re a tiny minority group, get over it!

    America was 90% White in the 1960’s, 10% Black. Now we have a rapidly growing Latino population (really mestizo/amerindian/white mix). Asians are like 4%. But I hate when “whiny minorities” whine about “not enough ____________-Americans in __________” when they are too dumb to realize the answer to that question or complaint. For example, models in Vogue magazine are 70% + white, because America is 70% + white.

    Most people worldwide think Americans are “white”… are they that wrong in thinking so? The classic American look was considered blond haired, blue eyed.

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