Hello boys and girls, today we will be looking at the issues of heritage, labels and stereotypes...FUN FUN FUN!!
Today's post is a reflection upon a recent encounter I had with a friend. Although the tone of this encounter was not malicious and could probably be described as 'banter' I was a little offended by a label placed on me. As you may have guessed by the title; the label I was given was that of a 'yardie'. *Hangs head in shame*
Urban dictionary has several definitions of the word yardie:
- A Jamaican (usually from trenchtown... the 'yard'). Also derogatory referring to how they work in the yards of wealthy land owners in the West Indies.
- A person whom is a native of Jamaica or his/her off spring
-The term 'Yardie' refers to Jamaican criminals. Many operate in London,dealing drugs and acquiring illicit money.Frequently seen driving BMW's (with) darkened windows, they like to visually display their status;expensive gold jewellery, designer suits and sunglasses! They will administer very quickly violence and (death) to those who show 'disrespect'.Life expectancy low as their deeds sooner or later catch up with them..
All of these are very different representations of the word Yardie, some more negative than others. For me a 'yardie' is not something I would like to be. In fact it encompasses some things that I am slightly disgusted and a bit afraid of . For me the 'yardies' are the people who congregate outside my local Caribbean takeaway, whom I generally cross the road to avoid. Those having unnecessarily loud conversations, in which the phrases 'Rass', 'Bloodclart' and ' Eeee Heee' are frequently used.In essence,the word yardie has never had any positive connotations for me, representing a lack of class and decorum.
However I have now come to see that my interpretation of this word may not be entirely valid and the previous paragraph does include some stark stereotypes. What may be a derogatory term for me may actually be an empowering or positive term for another.There may be societal, cultural and racial differences in the associations of labels such as 'yardie'.
My heritage forms a integral part of who I am. I relish in my half jamaican/ half guyanese ness. Being of Caribbean decent, being influenced by Caribbean culture and values has enabled me to be the person I am today and for that I am eternally grateful. I know this is something felt by many, regardless of their heritage or background. For me it is essential to know your history in order to know yourself. However I'm learning that issues of heritage and background can be a complicated affair.
Let's return to the issue of the term 'yardie'. In discussion with two friends regarding this mis-labelling I was exposed to contrasting views.
"I didn't think a yardie was something bad, I just thought yardies were just like those jokes Jamaican men in Brixton. I didn't know it was something offensive", one friend of Polish/Austrian descent.
"Nah, he called you a yardie! That's out of order. Does he even know what a yardie is, your so far away from a yardie it's a joke", the other friend of Caribbean descent.
It was these two different statements that made me consider things in depth. It's not really about what labels are given to you, it's about how you interpret those labels and whether they are applicable to you.
Let's take the issue of the word 'nigger'. A commonly used example of a label that has changed over time. As we all know it was essentially a negative term used to describe black people but now a days it is word commonly featured in the vocabulary of some black people. Whilst some still recoil in horror at the use of the word and it's demeaning origins, there are others who are not phased and may even see it as a term of endearment. With contrasting feelings such as these, it is often difficult to take a stance of right or wrong within the context of labels.
To conclude I have learnt that there will always be labels and stereotypes and people will continue to use and misuse these for centuries to come. Should this stop us from identifying with our culture or discovering our roots? Should this hinder our progress in the world? Definitely not. It's a matter of identification and acceptance. You can choose to accept or reject various labels attributed to you. For me I reject the label of a 'yardie' because I don't think it is a valid representation of who I am. However I am more aware of the variability in the way labels are given on a personal and subjective level. Like many things labels, names and stereotypes have two sides: positive and negative. That is just the way life is.
The important thing that I would like to take away is a sense of knowledge and pride. I know where I came from, I am aware of the plight of my forefathers, I have a cultural awareness and a respect for my heritage and I also have a longing to discover more and go deeper into these issues of heritage. And that in itself is a beautiful and exciting concept. It doesn't matter what label I am given, or which I give myself as long as I retain an identity that is true for me. So go ahead, call me a yardie one more time......