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History of Jamaica - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
History of Jamaica
 ... as unearthed by Nalo Hopkinson.  She's one of those writers who likes to do serious research for her F&SF novels.

I would like to add: the perception of stupidity, laziness, and clumsiness is not an accident or a random stereotype.  It is a misinterpretation  of the tactics for survival and resistance by slaves against their owners.  If the master thinks you're rebelling, you'll be punished or killed.  But if you can make them think you're unable  to do better, they're surprisingly easy to fool and will let you alone.  So slaves quite frequently wasted resources, broke or lost tools, dragged their feet, let the livestock out, stole food, and generally did everything they could, as discreetly as possible, to make the masters' lives less pleasant.  

Those strategies linger in poor communities today.  Why bust your ass when all the benefit of your labor gets creamed off for the benefit of people who hate you?  You'll never be permitted to earn more than subsistence wages, so you might as well do that with as little effort as you can possibly get away with.  Where there is no reward for harder work, you get passive resistance.

So when you read my writing about the slave descended cultures of the Americas and Caribbean, you can see many of the same roots.  It's often there in the language, the personal and community dynamics, the food, and especially the ways people deal with problems.  Each place is unique, with its own local culture -- Jamaica is different from Cuba and from New Orleans.  They're related through the common experiences of colonialism and slavery, yet distinct in local resources and historic events.  The diversity is beautiful.  As that plays out in my storytelling, you can see how people from different cultures might handle things like superpowers (Haiti is one of the bottom-ten countries for soups) or getting kidnapped by alien slavers (in which various black folks used their family lore to devise survival strategies).

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cat_sanctuary From: cat_sanctuary Date: July 26th, 2015 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
The first African-American (mostly) kid I knew just might have been a champion of "shuffling." He was one of the three kids at the Foot of the Class, whom my best friends and I, being at the Head of the Class, were assigned to try to tutor and encourage in grade three. This boy had repeated third grade once and apparently not learned anything. His ignorance was astounding. Maybe once a week he gave the right answer to any question. And he didn't even get enthusiastic about any kind of encouragement for stumbling across that. Funnily enough, outside of classes he didn't act stupid...sometimes I would've sworn the kid was "smart."

A few years later he pulled himself together, stopped repeating years, earned good enough grades to stay on the high school football team, and even made it into a local history book as being one of our all-time best footballers. Being 17 instead of 14 in grade ten undoubtedly helped.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 26th, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)


Likely so. Because you know what happens to smart blacks? They get murdered. Black comedians have remarked on the parallels to slave days in which the slaves were bred for physical labor and smart ones were killed. Today people give lip service to wanting blacks to get ahead, but actual attempts to do so are actively attacked by both blacks and whites. It's very frustrating.

So smart black kids frequently hide it out of sheer self-preservation.
cat_sanctuary From: cat_sanctuary Date: August 3rd, 2015 06:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Yikes. I hope things aren't that bad now, and weren't that bad for that kid...he'd be the same age as our President. (Lots of people predicted a violent end for President Obama. No matter how much I wish Obama had lost the election, I'm glad he's not been murdered.)

But if my classmate been competing for top grades in elementary school, he would've been (1) just another kid competing for top grades in elementary school, where grades won't even matter in adult life anyway; and (2) just another 14-year-old third-string footballer, instead of a 17-year-old instant star. So I suspect his "dumbness" was still part of a smart strategy.
cissa From: cissa Date: August 7th, 2015 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)
It's a broad phenomenon, and that's because it DOES make sense for the individuals involved. WHY break one's ass when one gets no benefit from it???

Put another way- the excuse for outrageous CEO salaries is that they NEED to pay such because these "talents" are motivated by money... but the same people who argue this deny that anyone middle-class or lower could POSSIBLY be motivated by money, and so be willing to work harder if paid better.

Doing just enough to scrape by is a viable life strategy when working harder will not improve one's circumstances.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 7th, 2015 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)



Dealing with CEOs is like dealing with the chaotic neutral party member who will argue whatever action benefits them the most, but shift if the same is applied to anyone else.
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