This is why we can’t have nice things

So today, the Vanier caf hosted a Jamaican themed night. It was pretty exciting! There were all these people in green and yellow plastic necklaces who walked around asking everyone how it was going. Instead of the usual grub, we got fed Jamaican grub, which was significantly better than the normal food. I mean, really. They sold deep fried bananas with ice cream. I don’t even like bananas and I bought them because they looked so good. I wasn’t disappointed. And while I ate said bananas, there was really catchy Jamaican music being blasted from the speakers.

I had a lovely dinner.

While I was filling out this survey that they gave us (it asked how the food was, what we thought of it etc), I was approached by this random girl who asked to use my pencil to fill out her survey. Being the nice person that I am, I lent it to her. I was then subjected to her thoughts as she filled out the whole survey, which is what this post is about.

This unnamed caucasian girl told me how she HATED Jamaican night. She thought that it was completely offensive. As a white female, she thought that hosting a night dedicated to Jamaican food and music was despicable. She believed that the people involved in the running of it were horrible racist people who only used the Jamaican culture as a way to make extra money while selling food. She thought the green and yellow decorations were so tacky, and she thought the fact that they played reggae music to enhance the mood in the dining hall was horrendous, due to the fact that classifying a certain type of music as “Jamaican” was very constricting. This was my reaction:

This type of behaviour is EXACTLY why we can’t have fun things in res. Now, I see where she’s coming from. Maybe some Jamaican people here thought that it was completely racist to create a Jamaican-themed night! And maybe last month, the Germans thought it was racist to hold a German-themed night, and maybe the French thought it was racist to hold a France-themed night. Maybe I just don’t see all the facts about this as I should. However, when I saw the posters advertising “Jamaican Night in the Vanier Caf!”, I thought that its purpose was to enhance our understanding of other peoples cultures. Isn’t that what part of this University’s goal is? To learn about different cultures from around the world and learn to embrace them?! I know that I wasn’t sure what Jamaican people ate until today, and I’m glad I found out! Sure, the decorations were a bit tacky since they were from the dollar store, but they did try to represent the colours of the Jamaican flag as well as they could. And the reggae music? HELLO! Bob Marley is from Jamaica, and they pretty much just played his music. That’s not racist, that’s a symbol of national pride.

So maybe I’m all wrong on this, but I feel like instead of being so sensitive about someone’s fair effort to put on a nice evening we should learn to embrace the fact that people are trying to educate us about different cultures. Maybe we can’t have a Christmas tree here in residence because not everyone believes in the cultural traditions surrounding Christmas, but I know I wouldn’t be offended if someone put a menorah on the kitchen counter. Instead, I would be open to learning about their cultural traditions. We should be accepting all cultures and learning about them instead of just burying them all.

This could just be my tired brain talking, so if I’ve offended anyone, I’m really sorry. But good luck on the final stretch of the semester, and DON’T PUT THINGS OFF UNTIL THE VERY LAST MINUTE LIKE I DID OKAY?! Okay. Pce out erryone

2 Thoughts.

  1. Hi Megan,

    This is precisely why you should never lend your pencil to anyone – who knows what they are going to write with it, and what personal drama you will be swept up into while waiting for the pencil to be returned. There definitely is a fine line between someone reacting to the apparent racism of an otherwise innocuous theme night and the more obvious racism recently on display at Commerce Undergrad event this summer. At the risk of aligning myself with the supposed haters who seemed to spoil the Jamaica Night, I think it is great that there are outspoken people attending these events and telling anyone who would listen to them (ie. patient pencil-lenders) a piece of their mind. We still can have nice things as long as we are willing to put up with the occasional crank :-/


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