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Caribbean stereotypes pigeonhole a pluralistic people - The Red and Black : Opinion

Caribbean stereotypes pigeonhole a pluralistic people

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Posted: Monday, November 19, 2012 7:00 am | Updated: 7:23 pm, Mon Mar 18, 2013.

If you are looking for a great place to live that is by the ocean and sunny every day, look no further than the Caribbean — all Caribbean people live near the beach, don’t you know. 

The best place to live in the Caribbean, however, is in Jamaica because all Caribbean people are from Jamaica. But beware and proceed with caution because Jamaicans are known for their wicked tempers. If you are ever feeling stressed out from all the sun, sand and surf just go hang out with some Rastafarians to smoke marijuana and mellow out to Bob Marley. 

If you do decide to visit one of the other Caribbean islands (and why would you), make sure to stay away from Haiti unless you want to get cursed by a voodoo witch doctor. If you travel to Barbados make sure not to make any deals with the locals because all Bajans are greedy and money hungry. If you are looking for a party head on over to Trinidad and Tobago, where the people party all day, every day — Trinidad is the only place where people party more than college kids. 

If love is what you are looking for, the Caribbean provides the perfect backdrop for a modern day romance. Warm beaches, exotic island food and beautiful sunsets could melt the heart of any man or woman.

These are some of the popular stereotypes associated with the Caribbean islands. All of them are ridiculous generalizations that, when spoken aloud, are not only rude but demeaning to Caribbean islanders. Many of these stereotypes I recognize because the media has created them and perpetuates them endlessly.

I have been guilty of conflating all Caribbean people with Jamaicans. Having family that is Jamaican and being surrounded by other Jamaican people when I was younger made me think that the only Caribbean islanders of note in America were Jamaican.

However, when I got older and entered college, I was surround by people of so many different nationalities. By participating in the Miss International pageant I learned about other Caribbean countries and the stereotypes associated with them. The experience opened my eyes and made me realize that most Caribbean islands are misunderstood and are not at all like their stereotypes.

Some of the stereotypes, like saying that all Caribbean people live near the beach, may seem positive, but even this makes Caribbean people seem as though they have nothing better to do with their time than play and have fun at the beach. Conflating all Caribbean people with Jamaicans obscures other Caribbean heritages and puts Jamaica on a pedestal even though other Caribbean islands have just as much to offer. 

Other stereotypes are downright offensive and paint a negative picture of the Caribbean and its people. These generalizations and assumptions are all erroneous depictions and non-Caribbean people should try to learn the truth about these islands and its people before they promote stereotypes. 

By portraying Caribbean people in a more positive light in the media and judging them based on how they really are rather than how they are perceived, we can change the attitudes of non-Caribbean people and show Caribbean people that they are more than their stereotypes.

— Khadija Dukes is a sophomore from Conyers majoring in journalism and comparative literature

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