On the Bank Job and colonial contempt, briefly

Finally watched The Bank Job, the plot of which depends heavily upon the activities of one Michael de Freitas, better known as Michael X – black power activist, pimp, and murderer.

Michael X was born and bred in Trinidad, a fact which the film continually acknowledges. Am thus extremely irritated by the thick Jamaican accent adopted by the actor who portrayed Mr X, and by the similarly alien accents of other supposed Trinidadians in the flick.

Discrepancies like these irk me, but after several years of living in London and having to contend with such ignorance on an epic scale, I have ceased to be surprised.

Maybe I am my hair

(Pace India.Arie)

I started growing my locs five years ago. Since then, I’ve fielded a host of questions from friendsfamilyclassmatescolleaguesrandomstrangers, including but not limited to:

– Do you wash it?

– How do you wash it?

– Can I touch it?

– Does it itch?

– Is it real?

– Does it hurt?

– Don’t you miss your real hair?

– Are you a Rasta?

– Why did you do it?

This last question, now as then, is the hardest to answer. My responses have varied, depending on the questioner, the context of our relationship and how I felt that day. I lacked a substantive, definite, “because.” I didn’t have “the answer” that the questioner – and I – was looking for.

Then I read this response to a column by Steven “Freakanomics” Levitt on the economic disadvantages of “sounding black” and of having a “black” or “Asian” name:

But if you’re intelligent and hard working, shouldn’t your resume get you in the door no matter what name is at the top? No, you’re saying. The world doesn’t work like that. But couldn’t it be said that the more HR people who encounter intelligent, hardworking people with names like Shaniqua Keisha Jones, the more people will stop pre-judging people with names like Shaniqua Keisha Jones.

Ditto “sounding black,” having a southern accent or a clearly Asian name. Deleting these things could be construed as self-hate, denial or disingenuousness. Is it better to be sneaky, calculating and take a “by any means necessary” approach in the workforce? Is “sounding black” something people need to apologize for? Do the people who “sound black” need to “invest in” the ability to sound more white? How best to bust a stereotype? By playing into it? Or defying it?

My hair is about defying stereotypes. To plagiarize myself,

I’m a twenty-something overachieving chick with dreadlocks and a predilection for wearing Converse to work

So there it is. I am my hair. I am challenging, I am defiant, I do not apologize.

And the next time some Wall Street multimillionaire or Oxbridge-educated middle-aged perpetually entitled white British editor encounters a twenty-something <insertracehere> woman from the Caribbean, or someone with locs, he will pause.

He will pause because he will remember someone else who was more than the stereotype.

Someone who was more than just her hair, or her ancestry, or her age, or her gender, or her accent, or her taste in shoes.

On badjohns, Brent Sancho and things in between

There is much about the local media that raises my blood pressure, but today’s feature in the Sunday Express on the origin of the word ‘badjohn’ is a beautifully-written exception.

I’ll cite only the beginning, but the piece – written by Kim Johnson – is worth reading in its entirety:

Of the countless jailbirds to tread this island, none has cast a longer shadow than John rcher, who set the local, probably the regional, and – who knows? – maybe even a world record with 19 criminal convictions, and whose very name would come to mean a ruffian and a bully.

This evening, Trinidad & Tobago will play Bermuda in a do-or-die qualifier for the 2010 World Cup. I will not comment here on the heartbreaking state of Trinbagonian football, but I will comment on Brent Sancho’s Q&A with the Express.

Which is to say, Brent Sancho turns me into a giggling school girl. No joke.

Express question: biggest turn-on in a woman?
Sancho: Nice long legs!
Me: Aha! I have great legs!

Express: Biggest turn-off?
Sancho: Smoking
Me: Woohoo! Don’t smoke!

Express: Best book ever read?
Sancho: The long walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela
Me: OMG, he reads? FTW!

Express: must visit before you die?
Sancho: Japan
Me: Dude! We were clearly meant to be.

Etc. Tsk.

Things are not going according to plan, where plan = move back to Trinidad, do MSc at UWI, sort country out. Not necessarily in that order.

Moving back to Trinidad is harder than I thought it would be, because I’m in housing limbo, the work about which I am most passionate demands that I be either in New York or London and UWI hasn’t even bothered to let me know whether I’ve been accepted into my hoped-for program.

That, and I’ve been here almost two months and have totally failed to engage with the country – I’m still working full time for my overseas employer, I’m not doing much any liming and I’ve switched from behaving like I’m moving here to acting like this is an extended holiday.

Except it’s not so much a vacation as an exercise in daily frustration.

So it go. As may I.