Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Chinese Jamaican goes home

I generally applaud myself for being enlightened about race. I should know better. The minute I pat myself on the back for being conscious, something happens to remind me that my view of race and nationality can be as narrow as anyone's.

Did you know there is a thriving Chinese community in Jamaica? I didn't. In her latest post, Jennifer at Mixed Race America writes passionately about her Uncle Frank who, though he lived for years in the United States, never lost his connection to his homeland.
For my Uncle, he would have told you that being Jamaican was in his blood (and
he wouldn't have cared if you quoted anti-essentialist rhetoric at him). His
license plate on his car read "rahtid," he cheered for the Jamaican soccer
(excuse me, football) team every chance he got, the Jamaican flag and variations
of it (the Jamaican colors of black, green and yellow) adorned his home, Reggae
music (and I don't mean Bob Marley--no disrespect intended, but my family tends
to scoff at Marley and think he's popular with non-Jamaican folk mainly) would
blast from his car, and the foods he most craved were those of his childhood:
stew peas, ackee with saltfish, and ox-tail.
According to Wikipedia:
Most Chinese Jamaicans are Hakka and can trace their origin to the Chinese
labourers that came to Jamaica in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. 75% of
all Chinese indentured labourers dispatched to the British West Indies were sent
to British Guiana in the late 1800s, but many later moved to Jamaica. About 96%
of the Chinese who migrated to the Americas in the 1800s came from a small
region in southern Kwangtung on the Pearl River Delta near large cities like
Hong Kong. The very first Chinese-Caribbean people were the 60 men aboard the
Whirlwind, which set sail from Hong Kong on March 11, 1860.

Interracial marriages came almost immediately, and along with continued
immigration the Chinese Jamaican community grew, so that it became the
second-largest Chinese Caribbean population, behind only Cuba. The 1946 Jamaica
census recorded, 12,394 Chinese Jamaicans: "2,818 China-born, 4,061 local born,
5,515 Chinese coloured," with the latter referring to multiracial Blasian
people.

Assimilation has taken place through generations and few Chinese Jamaicans
can speak Chinese today; most of them speak English or Jamaican Patois as their
first language. The vast majority have anglicized given names, and many have
Chinese surnames. The Chinese food culture has survived to a large degree among
this group of people.

Since the 1970s, there have been a significant emigration of Chinese
Jamaicans from the island, primarily to the United States and Toronto,
Canada.

Notable Chinese Jamaicans include kick-ass spoken word artist Staceyann
Chin.

Read more of what Wikipedia has to say here. (Jennifer, I hope you will chime in if this Wiki entry is horribly wrong.) Visit Mixed Race America to read Jennifer's post.

Are you registered to vote?

With primaries looming in every state, and a crucial presidential election coming in the fall, the best thing you can do to keep this country great is to VOTE. Black people and women fought long, hard battles for the freedom to exercise this basic right. Don't let our ancestors' sacrifices be in vain.


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