As a woman who has both Southern and Caribbean roots, I’m often caught in tug of loyalty as friends or relatives from differing backgrounds lament about the other — especially women. Of course I’d love for us to all get along. As women of the Black Diaspora, we have a lot more in common that we think. Most important, if we want to thrive as a race — particularly since “others” don’t differentiate between our cultural backgrounds — we must learn how work together. Here are some tips on how to ease tensions between African-American and Caribbean women:
1. Stop dealing in generalizations. We must stop assuming we know every person’s back-story. For example, all African-Americans aren’t connected to welfare and all West Indians don’t have multiple jobs. Take the time to get to know a person.
2. Understand the role oppression has played in our worldview. I find Caribbean women quick to say Black American women are lazy, or lack ambition. But they omit a major component: People of color rule most Caribbean countries. (Though, white imperialists still rule the world.) Growing up with a Black prime minister or owner of an oil company reinforces the notion that hard work can lead to success. African-American women have a different experience. Many are grappling with classism and racism, a hope-killing combo.
3. End the jealousy. I’ve heard so many African-American women call Caribbean women uppity. In addition, I’ve been party to a few tirades from West Indian women about how “lucky” Black women here are. The bottom line is simple: Our cultural backgrounds do lend themselves to different perks. For example, many countries in the Caribbean don’t offer credit cards or student loans. So Black American women do have the ability to do things that Caribbean women don’t, such as, finance education. Still, hustling does evoke a sense of pride. That said some West Indian women who have worked their tails off to make through school or to start a business might carry themselves with a sense of accomplishment.
In sum, there’s only one reason African-American and Caribbean women don’t get along: ignorance. If we took the time to embrace each other we’d find that overall we have many cultural similarities. Most important, we have one major thing in common. We are all Black women.
As a Caribbean or African American woman, what stereotypes have other black women projected onto you?