I wish that stuff like this didn’t bother me, but how can we watch our cultures wither away and do nothing but judge and shift blame?
This weekend in Boston I ended up crashing into the Cambridge Caribbean Festival. By “crashing”, I mean that I was sitting on the Red Line and was bombarded by half-naked young ladies in bra and panty sets with matching feathers and tons of other young people with flags and glitter and banners and other celebratory gear. I was actually continually bombarded with these images all day: girls in bra and panty sets and loud groups of teenagers with flags making noise and being generally obnoxious. I was pretty offended by the celebration: said naked girls dancing down the street while groups of people clad in spandex and flags posed and cheered.
I’m actually still nauseous.
Why I am upset? I’m discouraged because I know that that’s not what Caribbean culture is about. No, I’m not Caribbean. But I am African American. I get it, you know? I’m totally 100% excited about culture-fests. Just not like that. I’m also a girl. I like being sexy too. But there’s a time and place for everything, and I’m not about to put on a Kente cloth bra and panty set to show off my Black pride. I love being Black. There are just more productive and respectful way to show my love of the African-American culture.
I just have one question that just keeps bothering me: Why is it OK to portray your culture this way, but not OK for people to judge said culture based on the stereotypes that you give life to?
So back to this festival. Half-naked girls….check. Lil’ Wayne-clone guys in dreads, baggy tees and jeans…check. Responsible adults…umm no. There really weren’t any adults in the parade or watching the parade. And by adults, I mean respected members of the culture that are revered and remembered for their contributions to the community. Sadly, though, there were tons of children there. This begs the question: What are you teaching your children?
I compare this festival to the Boston Gay Pride festival, which takes place in June. Not only does Massachusetts have a huge LGBT population, but it also has one of the largest Caribbean populations in the country. Therefore, I feel that the festival/carnival-type things that go on in here are pretty reflective of the the culture as a whole. Yet, all I saw were bras and panties and feathers?
Let me backtrack. Of course, I was at Pride this year. It was amazing. Floats, banners and groups all marching together. Some were from gay advocacy and support groups. Some were churches. Some were gay communities. Some were politicians. Some were advertisers. Either way, it was a parade celebrating the existence of gay people in the world, and in Boston, and showcased all the things that you can do, and ways and reasons to love and support the LGBT community. Yes, there was some nudity. But it was all done to showcase culture.
Now, back to the Cambridge Caribbean Festival. Back to the lack of real coverage of the community as a whole, unless we’re now saying that the whole culture of people from islands can be summarized as underthings, alcohol and grinding. And I’m so sure that that’s not true.
But that’s what they’re teaching their children. That’s what they are presenting to the world. So why are upset or offended when they are stereotyped as being hyper-sexual and out-of-control? In the same way that African Americans really can’t be upset at how they are stereotyped now that they’ve let Kanye West and Beyonce be their spokespeople, Caribbean folk really can’t be mad if this is all they can come up with.
When will we realize that, while we’re having a good time and showing off and prancing around and “living the life”, our children are looking for role models and are becoming more and more lost. Soon it’s going to be irreparable. For example, these same girls, after the parade, decided to wear their bras and panties all day…on the bus and the train, all over Boston. Why is that OK? What are you showing little girls by walking around like that? The “men” at the festival were pretty much glazed-over, greyed-out shells, hollow and lifeless clones, void of any real purpose of point other than to look at girls and make noise. What are you teaching little boys? Why are you on the sidelines and not…well, doing anything.
We look at today’s generation and wonder why there are no leaders? I look at the absence of adults at the festival and realize that the answer is that when the blind lead the blind, no one goes anywhere.
I’m not just coming down on Caribbean people. I’m talking to all people regardless of race. It’s just that this was uncomfortably in my face all day, and, honestly, it’s very upsetting and disturbing.
What would have made this whole thing OK? A few things:
- Bras and panties and feathers = acceptable for the parade. Throw some jeans and a sweater on before you hop back on the bus. Show some respect, please.
- Dancing girls + bands + community groups + other dancing + something involves clothes = very amazing way to celebrate your culture
- Self-hate is not sexy! We’ve gone over this. Selling out to the gods of materialism, vanity and hyper-sexualism do not a proud cultural celebration make.
- Honoring the elders and the children. They are the now and future leaders.
To end, may I also say that it’s not OK to judge a whole other race of people for something and then get insulted when your culture is judged for the same thing. I mean, if it’s appropriate to judge and make fun of black people when they act like clowns and make fools of their culture, why is it insulting when I make the same statements of Caribbean people. Double standards? Really? And where does that get us in terms of unity? But that a whole other blog post…