Warning: this article contains stereotypes and generalizations. Proceed with extreme caution.
Like everyone else on the Internet yesterday, I saw this hilarious video:
And – like at least some of the people who watched this video – I, too, initially assumed Ninja Mommy was Ninja Nanny.
Was this racist?
Because – as we have already established – I am racist.
Although the thing that struck me most about Ninja Mommy’s appearance was not her race, but her look of absolute, total, unbridled panic.
Also her stealth exit. LOL!
But her reaction probably shouldn’t have surprised me. Because, nearing my first anniversary of living in Kashima (which is in Japan), it is something that I believe I have witnessed and experienced many a time before.
My first few months living and working in Kashima was – as you may imagine – full of new and challenging experiences. I broke down crying because of a cold apartment, I broke down crying because of a misunderstanding at the bank, and I got lost way more times than is advisable for the sanity of a single human being.
But one of the main challenges that I faced didn’t have to do with my personal life, it had to do with my work environment.
I just felt like
Was Freaking Out
All the time.
To me, it seemed like everyone spoke rapidly and in a very high-pitched voice. Movements were hurried and frantic. People rarely sat down and would literally jog across a room, instead of just walking.
And that was when everything was going well.
If anything happened to go wrong, there would be endless apologies and bows interspersed, along with a face that seemed to show pure anguish.
I vividly remember the feeling of wanting to stand up and shout in the staff room, “Okay, everybody, just CALM DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!” Unfortunately, that would probably have been the least calm-inducing thing ever.
And so I did the only thing I could do.
I calmed myself.
I literally came into work with a plan and an intention. I would sit down, tell myself to breathe and keep calm, and focus on what I came to do. And it worked.
Later, I was having a conversation with a coworker, and the topic came up of Japanese staff “freaking out”. And I was like, “Yesssssssssssssssssssssssss…whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?” He simply laughed and said that, to them, that was showing politeness.
I was the one who was feeling too stressed out, not everyone else.
Of course every human being feels worry, anxiety and stress. I just think that it is far more common – within the culture that I’m used to – to hide feelings of worry, anxiety and stress.
We may become so used to repressing these feelings that we convince ourselves we don’t feel them at all.
But – in my opinion – anxiety is a very natural human thing. Life may not be as terrifying now as it was in the past for our hunter-gatherer ancestors…or it very well might be – just in different ways.
So bear with me when I say the next thing I’m about to say, which is that (in my opinion and limited experience since I have not and cannot meet all or even most “Asian” people, and also because I don’t even know who exactly the moniker “Asian” refers to) Asian people seem to be more expressive of panic and anxiety than other kinds of ‘people.’
It’s neither positive nor negative – good nor bad.
It’s just an expression of a feeling.
And (to make use of another generalization, though a more commonly-accepted one) since women tend to be more expressive than men, it would most likely be more evident in women.
Which brings me to this.
Of course, this video is comedy, but – much like the unintentional comedy of the first video – this intentional comedy is precisely so funny because it’s both ridiculous and real.
Caribbean people (and by extension, Caribbean women)… wi expressive BAD.
I’m sitting here trying to think of an emotion we’re unlikely to express. I was initially thinking ‘panic’ but, if we’re being honest, wi can do dat to.
Again, I don’t think this is either good or bad.
It just is. (Probably?) Maybe.
But if there’s one thing I’ve always believed about humanity, and that my score and five has not proven to be false, it’s that we all experience basically the same emotions and have the same basic wants and desires.
The expression and prioritization may be different (and often makes all the difference in the world) but the basic gist is the same.
The problem is when we see these differences of expression and prioritization and decide that they are somehow in poorer taste, or less valuable than the ones we are more used to.
If we perceive inferiority in others, it is a sign that we harbour flirtations with inferiority within ourselves.
What we see in others is a reflection of ourselves. So, I saw my coworkers as being ‘panicked’ because, internally, I’m not the most calm and collected person myself.
Fortunately, this time I was able to take that situation and use it to work on, in myself, the very “problem” I had seen in others.
But the Caribbean #HurtBae video above also brings to mind one final thought about ‘Caribbean people’, which is that we are also often very expressive of violence.
Look, violence is not a Caribbean thing. It’s a human nature thing. If we don’t do it ourselves, we indulge in it by watching violent movies or playing violent games, or paying others in the military to be violent on our behalf.
In the past few months, I’ve seen many people both in the Caribbean and worldwide have been calling for an end to the overwhelming violence against women that – thanks to social media – is now more firmly in our attention. And I want to add my voice to those calls. We can no longer avoid it. We can no longer look away.
And to add another layer of complexity to an already complicated issue, we can no longer stand by and allow our kids to fall victim to violence either. In Jamaica (and probably all over the Caribbean) parents constantly subject their children to violence in the form of corporal punishment. And – based on my observation – boys are the more common recipients because we all know how “bwoy pickney tan”.
The same boys who are ‘beat’ by their mothers turn around and become the men who ‘beat’ our women.
So let’s try and do something more to break the cycles.
If you know better, do better.
I know this took a lot of twists and turns, and I appreciate you staying around for all of it! ^^
If you have any thoughts on any of these issues, please share them with me below. I really enjoy reading comments 🙂