Sometimes I wonder if there’s still an unspoken resentment for the new world here in England.
Growing up on the other side of the world, we non-firstworld folks aspired to be like the American. Whether we wanted to admit it or not, we looked up to them as our external leaders. American leaders
usually set the standards for surrounding countries, politically and culturally. We celebrate thanksgiving and halloween, our governments follow American politics in an attempt to tweak them for our own requirements, we get american television on most of our tvs stations. Family members who left for America were praised for their coming opportunities for a better life and would send large barrels of gifts to folks back home who weren’t as lucky. I, myself, remember being sent Pokemon colouring books from an aunty abroad. I remember believing that the Americans got all the good stuff.
Moving to England for university gave me a right shock.
How could it be possible that the country and media I’d grown up looking up to as a goal was actually a cringeworthy embarrassment? This sentiment has followed me, the slight recognition of an American accent on my voice was enough for people to inform me of their opinions time after time. The truth hadn't hit me yet ; that many of the folks saying this probably grew up watching The Simpsons or Jerry Springer. I worried for the actual Americans subjected to these conversations, but also, more importantly, what the indirect implications were. What did these people think of persons even the Americans look down on?
Cultural arrogance is an insulting way of thinking and behaving that comes from believing that ones own culture and way of life are better than another’s.
My first personal experience with Cultural Arrogance, small as it may seem, happened when I called into a university to register before classes started. After a long conversation with one of the admissions agents, she took down my details, including my name (which I spelled out), contact details and address, including country. We spoke briefly about my Caribbean upbringing, to which she seemed vaguely interested. The next day, for some reason I needed to call again. The new admissions officer speaking to me asked for my country of origin in order to find my file. They couldn’t find it. They had already searched my name and found no files either. Finally, after being put on hold for a while, they were able to find the information. It was saved under the wrong name and the address was saved to Jamaica.
Since then, this has happened to me many times both socially and professionally. I introduce myself and people ask me where I’m from. I answer, they seem interested, only later to be called a Jamaican. Are English people so ignorant about the world map out of Europe that they find it difficult to retain the names of Caribbean countries outside of Jamaica? Or are they just too arrogant to care and so don’t feel the need for the distinction? Most brits, I suspect, couldn't tell the accents apart if you paid them. (not like I can tell the difference between liverpool and manchester, but at least I know there's a different.)
I suspect this has to do with the stripping of the Caribbean culture here already. ‘Caribbean' in England is synonymous with Jamaican, due to the large number of Jamaican immigrants that moved here as part of the Windrush generation. Caribbean food has been caricaturised to include variations Jerk Chicken and fries with plantain or a mediocre 'rice and peas' recipe devoid of any brown sugar or even meat. Our music has been reduced to dancehall and calypso from the 1800s. Our lives have been reduced to weed, poverty and otherism. And for clarification the ignorance comes from persons of all races - clearly evident in the recent BBC Three skit 'Jamaican Countdown' written by black Brits about Jamaica - which hilariously and ironically ended with a soca song. (Why not? It’s all the same, right?)
Why does there seem to be a veil over the eyes of the British citizen? Even in jest, the sentiment runs true - “We’re better than you. We’re allowed to pick and choose the parts of their culture that we want to see and we'll make fun of it.'
The sad, somber truth echos through us and our ancestors; something that any first generation Caribbean person can tell you - this is not us. This is what you’ve been told we were.