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Have you ever been to the beach or pool and noticed who is swimming and who not, or sat in a meeting waiting as the attendees arrive, some early and others late? How about hearing that the record for the worlds deepest breath held/free dive is recorded, or that there is talk of a new GOAT in basketball? If you should close your eyes and imagine these scenes, what would it look like? There are certain cultural and behavioral associations with particular sets of people, that have left templates of sorts that categorize and marginalize us in our ethnicities. In the same light, we think of particular jobs requiring specific skill sets, not gender, and yet we associate them with the latter. for too long we limit ourselves and each other in what we are able to accomplish due to these “Traditional ethnic and gender roles”. Now is the time for us to evolve.
Growing up through the mid to late 1990’s as teenager was a colourful and exciting time, at the eve and dawning of a new Millennia. The internet was new only being launched August 6, 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee, and cell phones were being popularized and made more compact during the same time. It was a fascinating time for young people in particular, having easier access to information and connection to people around the world. Adults were also able to accomplish a lot more much faster and access people the world over as well. With this new technology we became privy to knowledge of people we were once disconnected from, save for those who had the opportunity to travel and have first hand experience of different cultures. The more the internet grew the more content we were able to consume and share, and with it our tastes, opinions and judgement grew as well. There was good as well as bad. The world became less segregated overall, but it highlighted ethnic, cultural and gender differences in a whole new way, and prejudices and grudges evolved from two to multidimensional.
The association of particular behaviours, tastes and activities to certain ethnicities, cultures and genders became more prevalent. It was no longer about choice or preference, you were labeled according to societal assignment and expected to behave accordingly. If you were a black child who liked to hike, camp or participate in “Extreme sports”, you were labelled an Oreo or, here in Jamaica, a roast breadfruit. It was to say you are Black on the outside but white on the inside. Traditionally Blacks are not known for Swimming, Cliff diving, SCUBA, Surfing, Kite boarding, etc. So those of us, especially of the darker hue, who dared these activities were labelled. Likewise it was not commonplace to see females and males in certain capacities. “This is a man’s job” and “This is no place for a woman” were retorts often heard when marginalizing women and girls, and “Be a man” and “Stop behaving like a little girl” were statements used to enforce a toxic masculinity in our men and boys. Women were to be home makers and Men, the breadwinners, according to traditional gender roles. You were less of a man to wash, cook, clean and tend to the children any a all, and women were not appreciated as much if she were a working professional who focussed on her career advancement and didn’t have much time for baby raring.
Things and Times have changed and we are now more cultured, inclusive and tolerant. Nontraditional sports have become a major part of the Jamaican economy, men and women work together to provide for a raise families and it is now more commonplace to have women in positions chiefly held by men, with even the disparity in pay grade for the same position held by both sexes being addressed. Black people can enjoy Art and the Opera and Caucasians can enjoy Hip Hop and Graffiti without the raised eyebrows. Black and white children play and socialize together without regard to race more commonly as we evolve in this blending world. While there is need to maintain balance in some traditional roles, the important thing to note is that we share the load together. we emerge from our comfort zones and broaden our horizons, evolving and reshaping history. With this evolution we forge a new world where limits are a concept of individual thinking rather than that of our cultural, ethnic or gender restrictions. Explore foods, dances, music, sports and literature, be open minded and increase diversity. Be an evolver.