Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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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).
Tags: ethnic studies, fantasy, history, networking, reading, science fiction, writing
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