Recently on Facebook a friend of mine posted a video of a talk by the author Chimamanda Adichie:
I was immediately drawn to it as I had read her novel Half of a Yellow Sun and was just about to head to the library to borrow her other two books Purple Hibiscus and The thing around your neck. The best thing about watching it was how much it moved me and really made me think.
Firstly I thought about the stories that people tell and the stereotypes that are drawn from them and embedded in our minds, that have been embedded in my mind. It is true as well that so much of it is usually so negative maybe because these are the stories that have more impact. Then if the story is positive it is how much we have done to help others with the negatives, stories about proving ourselves to others. I want to now rehear and rethink the stories that I have been told about people. How objective can we be when we listen to the stories that people tell us? The challenge now is to really open my mind.
Then I thought of my own story, my own experiences in life that make me question who I am. What is my story? Maybe more scarily what is the assumptions that others have made of me. I remember my early University days when I joined the African/Caribbean Society and was forced to face the stereotypes of who I was supposed to be. I remember the surprise from others that such a thing as a White Jamaican existed. I used to always question how it was that people who were not originally born in Jamaica but were of Jamaican parents were more accepted than me, was it because they were black? or were they just doing Jamaican better than me? Then I used to consider that I lived in Jamaica and was only away for University. Now I am lucky if I go home every two years. Am I loosing my 'jamaicaness'? Who I am now is so much more than just where I came from and being Jamaican is just the beginning and maybe even a small part of what makes me me.
I used to always fill out those equal opportunity forms (does anyone despise these things as much as me) ticking white other and then wrote Jamaican. It wasn't until I started doing my social work degree that I was then really challenged about what difference and diversity really meant. And if you really want to question who you are do a social work degree! I guess the idea is you can't help others until you can identify with yourself. It was with genuine surprise that my supervisor during my first placement queried whether I should not being saying I was mixed. I realised I guess I was always ticking the box of what people saw of me from the outside. I guess his surprise was how little I felt towards this need to qualify what box I ticked, I mean the only thing that gives my ethnicity physically away is the frizzy curly hair! Me is more than my ethnicity and not just who I am but who I want to be.
As my story continues to develop I guess I will let you know!