“Jamaica’s apparently peculiar position is usually explained along lines somewhat like this: We are neither Africans though most of us are black. We are neither Anglo Saxon though some of us would have others believe this. We are Jamaican! And what does this mean?” (Nettleford, 1998 p.23)
Jamaica is one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean and the world but the variety of races which make up our people, far encompasses the size of this rock we have grown to love. Long before, and after our independence, Jamaicans struggled to find a single term that could represent us all. With no success, the Jamaican motto “Out of many one people” was carefully crafted; these words ideally captured the true picture of the Jamaican citizens. Dr. Rex Nettleford in his essay National Identity and Attitudes to race in Jamaica highlighted that this desire to define ourselves still exist among our people today, and it is the word “many” that persons pay close attention to in the motto ignoring the idea that we have become one.
The quotation portrays the idea that though some Jamaicans have accepted that they are descendants of one or more race that were taken here during slavery, there are some who firmly believe that they are nothing but Jamaicans. I too share the view that many races have become one and we are Jamaicans. Although heavily influenced by the Africans and the British we have still found ways to acquire unique characteristics that set us apart as a people. Jamaican creole and Reggae music are two examples of such characteristics that define us, our foods and the crops we cultivate are other factors that have helped to mold us into an independent people.
Presently the Caribbean looks to North America, Canada and England as the guiding nations that influence and define us. They affect our media, how we dress and what we eat. Even though most of the countries are under the same influence they can still be individually identified because of their originality. We are black, but not Africans, neither are we Anglo Saxon: Out of many, one Jamaica. We are Jamaicans.
Nettleford, R. (1998) Mirror, Mirror. Identity Race and Protest in Jamaica. 2nd edition Kingston, LMH Publishing p. 16-33