PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Super Bowl Sunday is an all American tradition, one that I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to. However, I will admit that I watch more for the commercials and the entertainment than the X's and 0's.
A couple of weeks ago, clips of the multimillion dollar ads started leaking and I began scouring the web for first looks. Every year, I look forward to seeing the E- trade baby, the Budweiser Clydesdale horses and all the off beat extras.
Never in a million touchdowns did I think one of this year's controversial ads would touch on Caribbean culture.
This years VW ad that featured the Caucasian American speaking in full Jamaican accent was hilarious to me but called racist by other people of color, mainly African Americans.
This raises the fascinating difference between how people of color in this country view race compared with those of us from the Caribbean.
In the Jamaican Observer Sunday online edition columnist Tamara Scott Williams writes,
"Whatever the case, we think it's a good thing for Jamaica. Clearly our brand is known and mostly perceived in a most positive, life-changing light. So we are surprised by the 'likkle' bit of controversy that it has ignited on the international news, calling the ad a modern version of the 19th century 'black face' minstrel shows — a style of entertainment based on racist black stereotypes."
At a press conference last week, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said she thinks it is a sign that the world is watching Jamaica.
The truth is, in Jamaica that accent is universal for all races. It could come out of the mouth of a Jamaican of Asian descent, Indian descendant, British or African. The way someone speaks in the Caribbean has more to do with their level of education, than the color of their skin.
I spent my formative educational years in the Caribbean growing up in my parents homeland Trinidad and Tobago. When I moved to NY, I always got reaction from both my Caucasian and African American college class mates about the way I spoke. Having been educated in British school system, I spoke very "proper" with Caribbean accent. I was constantly accused of "not sounding like a black person," or "speaking white." Over the years, as I studied the civil rights movement, I began to understand where those stereotypes came from.
Society in the Caribbean is more divisive along class lines . Racism based on the color of your skin in a lot less pronounced or emphasized.
I have spoken with my Jamaican friends about this commercial, and they love the fact that the world is talking about them internationally because of this commercial; and yes "everything is Irie" as far as they are concerned.
On that beautiful island, pride is rampant, Jamaicans know who they are and they know you are laughing with them and not "AT" them.
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