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OP-ED: “Caribbeans Comedy”, A Reinforcement of Cultural Stereotyping

OP-ED: “Caribbeans Comedy”, A Reinforcement of Cultural Stereotyping

It is not new to see diasporic content creators draw on history, culture, and tradition for comedic purposes. And who does it better than the Black diaspora, especially when it transcends nations, and we can all relate. But the diaspora content creators – particularly in the UK community – are obsessed with creating what I dub “Caribbeans Comedy.” 

“Caribbeans Comedy” is not Caribbean culture, but it does rely on the stereotype that all of Caribbean culture is subsumed by one island: Jamaica. And even how Jamaican culture is viewed, perceived and consumed, there have been fixed characterizations of Jamaican people that we’ve seen across media. 

Jamaicans who are loud? Yes. Jamaicans who are sexually open and liberated? Of course. 

But this is not a representation of every Jamaican to have ever existed. Also, it should not be used as a generalized and dramatized joke for the amusement of non-Caribbean people. 

These generalizations are shelved under comedy so if one takes offense, it becomes an argument about creative freedom and whether you can take a joke. The content reinforces problematic stereotypes about Jamaicans and Jamaican culture.

A recent skit from creative and comedian A1 2 FUNNY fits the “Caribbeans Comedy” profile.  

In “How Caribbeans Train in The Gym”, A1 2 Funny dons a tam/Rasta cap with fake dreads attached and a colorful string vest, as the character he calls “LegDay Leroy ”.

This isn’t the first time he portrayed the “LegDay Leroy ” character. The first appearance was on his social media in 2019. It featured an acquaintance of mine and was recorded at a local gym in the area in which we both attended university. He has since uploaded several more of these skits across Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube. The skit was reposted onto GRM Daily’s socials and was well-received on Instagram but was deleted off Twitter after being met with swift criticism. 

A1 2 Funny  is not of Caribbean descent, nor is the only person creating this content. 

“Caribbeans Comedy” is something we have seen before. Famalam – a Black British skit comedy show on BBC Three – has featured skits falling under this category and by countless creators across social media platforms. In 2020, Famalam came under widespread criticism from Jamaica and its diaspora for one of their skits, “Jamaican Countdown”, a spelling game show that depicted Jamaicans stereotypically (ganga-smoking rasta, illiterate, and highly-sexualized). 

Jamaica’s Foreign Minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith, lodged a formal complaint with the BBC over the sketch, calling it, ‘outrageous and offensive to the incredible country which I am proud to represent along with every Jamaican at home and within our diaspora.’

Actor Tom Moutch, who is featured on Famalam, said the show played on all stereotypes and pointed out that his castmates included people of African and Caribbean origin and that they were “just poking fun on our truths and stereotypes.” In the Guardian, a BBC spokesperson was quoted saying, “Famalam is an award-nominated sketch comedy series starring some of the UK’s best black comedy talent, which explores aspects of contemporary life from a black perspective.”

I hate to be the bearer of unwelcome news but given the popularity and reaction (both positively and negatively), these skits will continue to happen.  

“Caribbeans Comedy” is xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, religious discriminatory, amongst other things. But why is it even a thing?

The term “Caribbeans” refers to anyone belonging to the Caribbean diaspora but whether knowingly or not, is uncultured and uneducated about the history, culture, politics of the region or the specific country they claim connection to. The exact origins of the “Caribbeans” term are unknown, but this is the word many people, especially those who belong to the diaspora, refer to themselves as.

“Caribbeans” is grammatically incorrect and the correct way to refer to any from the region as a collective would be Caribbean people and/or West Indians. Not “Caribbeans”.

Despite being reiterated on social media, some seem adamant to use the word and very often when a Caribbean person does, they tend to belong to the diaspora. Somewhere along the line, many twitter users unofficially agreed that “Caribbeans” best describes everyone who should know better. There are several examples of this, but the term is often used by someone on Twitter who has a Caribbean flag or three in their bio and they tweet what they believe to be Caribbean culture, common Caribbean experiences or Caribbean history and are simply wrong. I once saw a woman tweet that CARICOM referenced the Caribbean diaspora.

The UK Caribbean community has explored why the Caribbean diaspora is so disconnected. It has been argued that we make up a small population of society, and this is the reason we do not have a keen sense of community at present day. In 2011, it was reported that there were 594,825 Black Caribbean people in England and Wales, making up 1.1% of the total population.  Some say it is because people are several generations removed.  Others argue that since the Windrush Generation, the discrimination that the community experienced meant integration into British society and culture, which has led to the loss of our Caribbean culture. But also, it has been said some just did not see the importance of passing down our culture. Whatever the reason, there is no denial that there is a disconnect and this disconnect has contributed to this niche of comedy which reinforces stereotypes about Jamaicans, while applying this to all Caribbean culture.

Because Caribbean culture, not just Jamaican culture is global, very often “Caribbeans Comedy” skits resonate with people who encounter a Caribbean person (including the diaspora) and make assumptions from the generalizations portrayed in the media. Even I see some truth in some of the skits.I cannot deny I know at least one Jamaican person who fits those stereotypes presented in the skits. I have been known to tweet the accident comedic moments my mother gives me on a regular basis.

I say this as a lover of the “Caribbean is not a real place” clips, which highlights Caribbean people being their authentic selves going viral for how wild they are. I say this as an avid watcher of video skits from Caribbean content creators and comedians like Shebada, QueenLadi Gangsta and Quite Perry. On social media, I often share quotes and accounts from my Jamaican mother being herself, which brings laughter.

Some of the Black, diasporic content creators in the UK have been the source of problematic and at times inaccurate depictions of Caribbean people and our culture. What is even worse, this content includes our diaspora, which is then used as an excuse, explanation, and co-sign. If a diaspora person is not the creator or feature, then you will likely find one or more sharing their amusement at the “accuracy” of the portrayal or defending the content on social media.

It is all done to achieve virality. Case example – the highly circulated clip of singer Jesy Nelson attempting a Jamaican accent. 

This is not to say only the Caribbean diaspora should be allowed to create and engage with Caribbean-centric comedic content. Caribbean people love a good video of a non-Caribbean white person singing Dancehall or Soca lyrics in patois on social media

We are in a time where bad publicity is perceived as better than no publicity at all, but “Caribbeans Comedy” needs to end. Outrage only brings more viewership to the content. 

Clearly there is a warped perception of our culture, even from the Black diaspora, and our truths are quite different to what these creators understand. This is not Black comedy, Black British comedy, or Caribbean comedy, it is “Caribbeans Comedy” and it needs to stop.

The information and views set out in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of POTENT Magazine. POTENT Magazine accepts opinion articles and videos on any topic, including our online series. Interested in submission? Send your thoughts to:

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