Now in order for this post to make sense, I need to tell you a few things about myself. You may already know but for the sake of those reading for the first time…
I live on a Caribbean island. NOT South America. NOT Central America. The Caribbean. Close by, but a different region.
My grandparents, and to an extent my great-grandparents, owned their own land and built their own house. My parents did the same and I have older and younger siblings. We all still live on the islands, have never migrated and most of my immediate relatives are here as well. I don’t particularly care to tell foreigners where I’m from or my background because there are far too many misconceptions that I’d rather not deal with.
But back to why this is relavant, and I’m sorry if this becomes a semi-rant. I took the bus home the other day. It was the first time I took a bus in a long while and while I have no problem taking the bus, once it’s on time, I always meet up some characters there that make me… sigh …wonder.
Now there are the comical ones with the loud stories that by all intents keep the ride entertaining. There are the talkative old people, the harmless but ardent political debaters, and the rowdy school children. I can take them all, even the people who complain about the bus service from the time they get on the bus to the time they get off.
However, there’s only one group of people that drive me absolutely mad every time they open their mouth on a bus or anywhere else I meet them for that matter.
The ‘freshwater yankees’. Now, if you are from the Caribbean most likely you know what this term means. But for those of you who don’t…
A ‘freshwater yankee’ is someone of Caribbean descent who migrated to live in the U.S. of A for a short time, anywhere from a fortnight to a few years, and when they return they act as if they were born and raised in North America. After just a short time their accent and mannerisms drastically change to ‘resemble’ that of those who live in North America, and they suddenly claim to know more about the States than the people who were actually born and raised there.
The term ‘freshwater’ likens them to freshwater fish. Since Caribbean people predominantly get their fish from the sea, it hints at them being a fake, because they are not really from the ocean or the original source. They are pretending to be something they are not. Yankee, of course, is an old term for an American.
Now from what I understand this can apply to Caribbean persons who migrate to the UK as well but somehow the ones who go there tend not to return as often and even when they do their attitude is not as disgusting as those who migrate to the USA. I don’t know why.
The really annoying thing about this is that they come back to the islands, verbally proclaiming how wonderful ‘living abroad’ is and how great they are doing and how everything is 100 times better ‘up there’ compared to ‘down here’. All in a fake North American accent by the way.
Now, I am not even going to entertain any suggestions or criticisms about if the USA is or is not ‘better’ than any other country. This is not about that. I also have no problem with someone moving abroad to seek new opportunities or take up permanent residence. It’s your life, and you’re free to live it wherever you want.
The thing is… MOST people in the world have some kind of loyalty to the land of their birth, even a tiny bit. And while each country has clear differences in economic growth and stages of development, home is where your heart is despite your circumstances, or where you may move to. Most people can attribute that to not just a particular place or people but to a particular country or region as well.
For me, my heart is in my country, which makes it the best place in the world to me, and I’m sure a lot of people in the US or other countries feel the same way about their own country despite where they may live. Statistics don’t matter, what matters is how you feel about the place.
So if you come into my country and verbally bash my homeland in my presence in the most hypocrical way possible with your fake accent and ‘better than’ attitude (like you would know, you’ve been abroad for two minutes!)… breathes That is cause to get knock down. Plain talk, bad manners.
So there are going to be spurts of local twang during this post. I don’t normally use it while writing on my blog because I know people from different countries read my posts and they won’t understand what I’m saying. So I try to use the Queen’s English like I learned it in school but things like this make my blood boil and my only response comes out…. you know what, I’ll translate.
Freshwater yankees, hear nah, if yuh like de States, fine, me ain’ vex with yuh fuh dat. Buh stay dey, nah? If it so dread ‘down here’, whey yuh come back for? We doh like yuh head anyway so why botha come?
Translation: Freshwater yankees, please note, if you like to live in North America, that’s no problem. I am not upset about that. But if it’s so bad ‘down here’, why do you come back? Why don’t you just stay where you are? We don’t really like you anyway so why do you bother to visit?
I always wonder about this because most people I know cannot stand their freshwater yankee family! You always hear them complaining during the holiday season about how their family from the US are coming back and they can’t stand their attitude.
Please. We want nothing more than to immediately put you on a plane and gladly send you back to the States you love so much. So why do you come down here to trouble the souls of those who are happy to be living here?
And you see them on the streets during July-August Vacation or JAVA (yes, that’s what we call it! NOT Summer!) always walking the streets talking loudly about how, ‘crime down here is so bad’. Yet still, your handbag swinging freely behind you and nobody attempt to grab it yet. You’re eating, drinking, partying and coming home late at night without an incident. But crime so bad down here, right?
Listen. I’m not saying the islands don’t have crime. Far from it. I’m not even saying you can’t have an opinion and talk about current events. However, it’s the state of the world! Why the need to lambaste everything here as if your precious USA doesn’t also have its share of problems? There’s crime everywhere! People still travelling to Europe despite all the terrorists attacts and still going China for trade despite the Communist Party. Feel free to come an go but why yuh hadda get on so disgustin’? (Translation: Feel free to travel anywhere you want but why must you behave in such an intolerable manner?) I don’t know what world these people living in? Jah, put ah han’! (Lord, help me to deal with these people!)
How did this unfortunate semi-rant start? There was a particular woman on the bus, the freshwater yankee, who was talking about race. I hate the topic race. I am so tired of the whole twisted subject. However, I am especially tired of the way people in the USA dance around it, and between television, social media and the freshwater yankees, the North American do-si-do on race has permeated the soil of many a land outside of their borders.
Anyway, this lady on the bus was telling the poor senior gentleman who was probably regretting striking up a conversation with her that he is wrong for calling himself ‘mixed’ and if he did, it meant he was ashamed of being ‘black’.
Now I understand Americans have a different idea of what being ‘mixed’ means and it comes from their looong history of slavery. Now the Caribbean also has a looong history of slavery under their belt but somehow we managed to come out of it a lot less messed up than the States did. The backlash is serious like a heart attack over there, to the point that they are still paying for out-dated, never been true ideas of race and colour in the present generation who are trying to deal with all the mess.
But here’s the thing, the USA’s way of viewing race is not the right way or the only way. Countries have different histories, different backgrounds which would lead them to think differently and have different conclusions about their identity.
When someone says they are ‘mixed’ in the islands it’s because they ARE. Simple. It’s the truth! That’s all. They’re not hiding a deep seated fear or shame of being ‘black’, they’re just ans-wer-ing the question. And half the time they’re not going to be taking offense for you asking either. MOST people in the Caribbean are made up of more than one ethnicity or race. I’m sure there are people who aren’t but it’s so prevalent you can be someone like me who literally doesn’t know anyone who isn’t mixed.
That’s just the way it is over here. Everyone intermarries and is mixed up in some way or the other. It’s the norm, and there is nothing wrong with that. Most times the question isn’t if you are mixed but how you are mixed. But apparently saying that you are mixed is an insult in North America because this woman acted like it was!
I honestly wanted to tap her on the shoulder and give her a piece of my mind but I have long learned not to interrupt bus conversations, no matter how tempting and even if they are loud enough for the whole bus to hear! This woman had to be mad though! You have the nerve to tell off someone over how they are categorising their own ethnicity when you are misrepresenting your own nationality? You fake North American!
Who the hell said we have to believe or do as the UN or the US or any other organization or country does? This is NOT the USA. And just because you have issues with Caucasian America and insist on cutting them out of your ethnic background (her grandmother was apparently Caucasian) doesn’t mean you’re right. Go ahead and be a proud black woman if it makes you feel better but don’t try to force your ignorance down anybody’s throat.
The poor man took to telling her about what a nice man his Indian father was to try to convince her. It didn’t work. He even tried to change the subject but it only led to her talking about all the other ways the US is better than ‘down here’. I could see the venom in eyes rolling around the bus.
The man finally turned into a silent nodding robot. He was probably praying for her to get off before he did. But imagine that, having to defend the geniality of your father’s race to justify why you appreciate both your ethnic backgrounds because somebody’s projection of themself insists that you are wrong. I just wanted to…
And I see it all over American Twitter and Instagram. All the ‘biracial and proud’, biracial and beautiful’ hashtags and posts, and I am so confused. Yes, be proud of who you are but it almost comes off like they are trying to convince themselves that they should be proud which is madness! Why do you need to justify your mixed race at all?? You are what you are. But after listening to that woman I think I understand why. If there are people like her in North America who ‘race-shame’ mixed race people if they don’t conform to being labelled as just ‘black’ then… I don’t know. My head hurts. See why I don’t like this topic?
How about we make it simple. How about we recognise and salute every race and ethnicity that came together to make us? And then, how about we appreciate ourselves as a new whole, that exists because of and despite our parents varying backgrounds? Isn’t that a lot simplier? No headaches and going around in emotional circles and guilt traps.
I am just… thanking God she didn’t sit next to me.
Because I would have rightfully let her know that it doh wuk so ‘down here’. Here in the Caribbean, you are from the Caribbean. I know people who come from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and races living here and we all understand the same jokes, eat the same food, talk the same way, honour our ancestry and appreciate the land of our birth because we’re all Caribbean people. It doesn’t matter if Mummy was Chinese and Daddy was Syrian or Daddy was First People and African mixed and Mummy is an Indian ‘gyal’. Or if both your parents are the same race! What matters more is if you genuinely identify with the unique culture of the island you were born in, and to being a Caribbean person first!
And I think that’s why freshwater yankees rub us the wrong way, even worse than an uneducated tourist. You are from here. You are supposed to know better! You just jump in the USA and take on the accent, the culture and the way they think about everything just so just so and suddenly everyone else don’t know what they talking about? Give me chance and take your ingenuine self somewhere else please.
Please note I am not referring to those who have migrated to the USA or elsewhere (my darling Aunt being one of them) and still love their old country as much as their new one and speak no ill of either. And for those of you who can’t wait for your ‘yankee’ family to reach to love them up, bless you, you have some nice ones. That’s the way you are supposed to do it!
The rest of you ‘freshwater yankees’ take salt in your veins and let it burn with shame for acting like such know-it-all fools in your motherland. AT LEAST have the decency to have some damn respect for the land that first bore your ungrateful soul, even if you no longer call it home.
Have a good day loves! Remember, critics may lie. 🙂