An Immigrant’s Diary: Foreign Identity

Before you read I feel that it is best to tell you that the following is part of an essay that was for my psychology of women course.  I had to explain how cultural background affected my perception of gender.

….Well, I was born in Jamaica and everyone in my family, minus my sister, is from Jamaica as well.  However, leaving my country at such an early age (3) and living in another which appears to lack a uniform identity has left me with a rather ambiguous cultural background.  I refuse to claim myself as a Jamaica American, feeling that it is a misrepresentation or my origins and simply saying I’m American, though it be true with my citizenship, would be forsaking a large part of my identity for a natty collection of cultures neither thoroughly defined or developed but more so a reminisce of the real thing.  But when I answer the question “what’s your background” and say only Jamaican I feel like I’m lying, another impersonator.  It’s impossible to live in country like America and not be influenced, making me feel not like the real thing, real Jamaican but a wannabe.
If I had stayed in Jamaica I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today; maybe I wouldn’t be supportive of gay marriage, hold a cynical view to religion, or have a less traditional view on life being more selfish as a woman than what my culture may have intended.

In my various attempts to get an idea of what my culture is with little influence from America, I had once come across a book saying Jamaica is a patriarchal society.  The men are in charge of family workings, leading the community.  It must be an easy job.  From my own family it was my mother and it was her mother who made the decisions, organized the children and the money, ran the household, making sure uniforms were clean and ready for school.  I cannot say that I’ve ever seen a man lead in my family or at least they never displayed the typical qualities or characteristics that at first glance you would say, “That’s the man of the house.”  No, they always seem to be at ease, my granddad is very relaxed and so is my favorite uncle (they can both take orders).  In the mean time I’ve seen many mothers looking harassed.  Maybe this is what it means to be a leader of the family having the ability to push off your responsibilities to others like bosses and their employees.
Dr Bird. Jamaica’s national bird. Male is pictured.


There are moments were I believe that women in my culture just simply argue or disregard a man’s leadership roles.  I remember my brother giving me orders to wash the dishes.  I told him no, that if he wanted the dishes washed he should do it.  (I had been doing the dishes everyday for weeks without complaint or anyone telling me too; it wasn’t going to kill him just to do it that one time.)
I remember my mom ranting about making a good wife to a better man, “I can cook.  I can clean.  And I know how to dress and I’m not bad looking.”  Her other famous line was saying how smart my father was.  She’s always passing off my achievements to him watching over me.  I always wanted to ask “So are you saying you’re dumb?” and reply “Thanks mommy.  The dead guy did all the studying for me, and I didn’t have to do anything.”  It’s all annoying.

One thought on “An Immigrant’s Diary: Foreign Identity

  1. I will admit, now looking back, that I might have been too interested and aware of women's ordeal and circumstances to give an unbiased account on gender. I will not recant any of what I've said because in the moment those were my feelings and I am sure I said them the way I meant them to. But now with a month removed from my initial post and months removed from my original writing of my perception of gender shaped by my culture I cannot say I can see the other argument but I do know it exists. This is in reference to "patriarchal society" and "I cannot say that I’ve ever seen a man lead in my family or at least they never displayed the typical qualities or characteristics that at first glance you would say, "That’s the man of the house.""

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