Welcome to another post in my Tales of the Solo Black Girl series. This thread of posts centers around moments that made me feel out-of-place or highlighted my “token-ness.” In this post, we’ll discuss being ashamed of my Jamaican heritage.
Being ashamed of your culture is such a weird feeling. It’s odd to dislike your roots, the foods your were raised on, the music you grew up listening to, isn’t it? But it wasn’t odd for me, it was (almost) normal. So how can we start to love our culture and thus, ourselves? That’s the main point behind this Tale of the Solo Black Girl.
Let’s jump right into heritage shaming and how to overcome it…
Reasons for Feeling Ashamed
The first reason is simple. As a small child (5-12) who didn’t spend much time around other Caribbean people outside of her own parents and brother, I just wasn’t exposed to “how things are done, the Jamaican way.” So when I would compare my family to others, my family was the weird one.
Second, my parents and I clashed a lot. I had this idea of how they would react to certain things based on my friends parents, naturally, but then would be completely blindsided when they’d flip shit. I should have known but I didn’t–I was young and naive.
For example, my high school friends and I used to chill every Friday, like every Friday, after work. During the summer we started hanging out later and later and next thing you know it’s 12, 1am, 1:30am. My parents weren’t having it and they also weren’t picking me up from where ever I was. So I’d have to ask one of my friends to drive me home so I could make curfew at 12. My friends’ parents didn’t mind as long as their kid made decent grades and made it to work, which WE ALL WERE DOING.
Needless to say, Black parents do not react the same as white parents. Lesson learned.
And third, was realizing at a much older age (like 3 years ago) why I felt so ashamed of my Jamaican heritage. It boils done to the shame of not knowing my heritage. It kept me from researching and finding out more about the music, food, people, customs etc. It’s like, I felt so bad about my lack of knowledge that I just kept away from all things Caribbean.
How to Deal
Below are 3 ways I found have helped me overcome being ashamed of my Jamaican heritage that can easily help you if you’re feeling the same about your culture.
Participate in the Culture
The optimal method to overcome any shame of your identity is to fully participate in it. If possible, spend as much time as possible with people of your culture learning customs, traditions, and stories. Focus on learning how you relate to that culture and how that culture came to be.
If you can’t participate immediately, do your research! The internet was created for things far greater that dank memes! YouTube will do you wonders for visuals, Pinterest is great for discovering a tasty new recipe, and use Google to find cheap (but safe!) hotes so when you’re ready to visit, you’ll know where you want to go.
If your culture is particularly festive, look into any celebrations or parties that might be in your local area. Being primarily Jamaican and Trinidadian and being in South Florida, it’s hard NOT to find a Jamaican dance or a Trini Bakery with flyers for all the local events. The point is, just go meet people and enjoy yourself!
I grew up about an hour from any and all family. So I know first hand, that the influence of family can truly help with assimilation. Being amongst family, or close friends, that share a similar culture with you can help you feel apart of something greater than yourself. Ask older generations questions and I promise they’ll love you even more. I mean, people love to talk about themselves, right? But all jokes aside, our grandparents have so much insight into how things used to be and how to deal with daily life now because whether we like it or not, life hasn’t changed that much.
So, ask family members about your culture. There’s a pretty good chance someone has already gone through what you’re going through!
Take a Trip
The final tip I have is to save your coins and book a trip to your home country! If you noticed, earlier I wrote that I felt ashamed of my Jamaican heritage between the ages of 5-12. That’s because soon thereafter my family started taking yearly trips to the island. We’d spend at least 10 days soaking up the sun, eating damn good food, and watching everyday Jamaican life unfold. This is when I really started to normalize being Jamaican.
Spending a few days in another country allows you to understand a new lifestyle by throwing you directly into it. Eat the food, drink the drinks, speak the language, dance the dances, live yo’ life! If you don’t speak the language, you’ll have to take some courses but generally speaking, that’s a good thing! You’re much more likely to retain language skills if you practice them with indigenous peoples as opposed to just taking a course online or practicing on an app like Duolingo.
So definitely make sure you plan a trip to your home country whether now or in a few years, that doesn’t matter. Just make sure you get there!
Thanks to overbearing parenting during my childhood years, I was pretty ashamed of my Caribbean culture. Looking back on it now, it definitely had a lot to do with just feeling out of place in my own surroundings and wanting to assimilate. That’s why I recommend participating in the culture, increasing your family time, and taking a trip to your home country to overcome being ashamed. As an adult, I fully love and embrace my culture but it wasn’t always so easy. I hope these tips can help if you’re feeling in a similar way!
Want to know more about Jamaica? Check out:
Have you ever felt ashamed of your heritage? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time, stay blessed & unstressed!