Top Ten Stereotypes about Jamaicans

I was born and raised in St. Mary, Jamaica, West Indies, but if I didn’t tell you that, you probably wouldn’t have guessed. I moved to the United States in 2009. I have since been mistaken for a Dominican, Trinidadian, Haitian but never a Jamaican.  My very first, “OMG you’re Jamaican” moment happened in the cafeteria at work.  The surprise was different, to say the least, in fact it was borderline disrespectful. After acknowledging my nationality, the lady said, “you’re so advanced.” I hesitantly replied, “ok” and walked away. I’ve since been asked for my accent which I don’t think we carry around in our back pockets. I have also been incessantly asked why I don’t look like a Jamaican. Do Jamaicans have a look? When you find out, please tell me.

Here are  10 stereotypes about Jamaicans. We’d appreciate that you be advised accordingly. The responses are from Jamaicans living in the United States, Canada, Jamaica and the UK. We tried to get responses from Jamaicans living in Japan but that just didn’t work. Maybe next time

.ALL Jamaicans are loud or aggressive: THIS IS A NO. POINT BLANK. Stop it NOW!   We speak passionately about things. Yet, that passion is often misconstrued as aggressiveness.  Most of us do also speak normally and in hushed tones.  Please stop trying to label us as such.

 ALL Jamaicans are from Kingston: Jamaica has 14  beautiful parishes (like states, Provinces, etc). Kingston is the capital of Jamaica, we all can’t be from the same little place. To be fair, it is common knowledge that some Jamaicans will say they are from Kingston when a St. Mary dem come from. Stop it. Be proud of your bush. With that said, we are all not from “bush” or live in huts on the beach. We were raised in homes, some with cable TV, sometimes just an antenna, running water and yes, modern conveniences.

Jamaicans do not speak English/Jamaicans do not have a language:  The most annoying thing you can ask a Jamaican is to speak Jamaican. The second is massacring the dialect. Contrary to this widely-known misconception, Jamaica’s first language is actually English.  The mere fact that we were colonized by the British until our independence in 1962 should be a dead giveaway. Unfortunately, most people do not pay attention to historical facts.

Jamaica does have another language. Yes, patois, Jamaican creole or the Jamaican dialect but never “Jamaican”. Patois (Patwah) is the language spoken at home and in the streets. A friend of mine was asked if he learned English as a second language and we laughed. We are proud of our patois but we learned English in school. No shade but the real English.  The most interesting thing about the language is its fluidity; strangely, people from certain Parishes uses certain words that others have never heard of. Ask people from Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth. To help you with a little patois, you might want to check then Jamaican Language Unit at The University of the West Indies, Mona (UWI, MONA).  There is also a Jamaican  dictionary,  Authentic Jamaican Dictionary of the Jamic Language: Featuring, Jamaican Patwa And Rasta Iyaric, Pronunciations And Definitions, by Ras Jabari Reynolds.  I met the author and owned a copy.  No, this is not a promotion of any sorts, it is actually the closest thing I’ve read or had that helped with pronunciation and definitions. Not that I need it.

ALL Jamaicans smoke weed: THIS IS ALSO A NO! First of all, who raised y’all?  We know what our mothers and grandmothers would say about this so let’s not even go there.  Even as adults weed smoking is frowned upon.  Yes, our free-spirited folks will roll a big head in a minute but its really not something every Jamaican does or even want to do. Furthermore, some of us have asthma.