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AIBU to think that this is racist?

(118 Posts)
usainboltsleotard Sun 15-Oct-17 09:16:41

Genuinely don't know if I am being over sensitive and want to hear your views. I name changed because this will identify me to anyone who knows me. (don't mind if people I know see this and I will discuss in RL but some of my other threads/responses are a different matter!)

I live in an area where people are very careful about racism/sexism/homophobia etc. It is one of the reasons we chose to live here, multicultural and positive attitude to different ways of life.

Last year my DD came home refusing to take part in the Nativity play at school because it was racist. I asked for a copy if the script and it featured '3 Rastas" instead of 3 wise men (amongst others 'hilarious' adaptations), with comedy dreadlocks and Jamaican accents. They brought coconuts, jerk chicken and a bob Marley CD to baby Jesus. The parts were played by 3 white children and no one else seemed to have any problem with it. I asked the teacher organising and was told it wasn't racist so we just took our daughter out for the days of the play and ignored it.

Yesterday in the town square there was a woman (white middle aged hippy-type clothing) busking singing Bob Marley covers in a cod Jamaican accent. I found it really surprising that when I mentioned it to 2 friends I was with, the saw no problem with it. I asked them they would view it if it was an Indian or Chinese accent and they said that was different but shrugged and laughed when I asked why? (very lighthearted conversation they weren't being unpleasant)

I am genuinely not sure if I am missing something/being over sensitive because I spent my childhood between Jamaica and the Uk and have many Jamaican relatives who are diverse and fantastic people or whether there is an acceptance of racism (certainly not any form of attack or degradation - just a reinforcement of cultural stereotypes and oversimplification of a rich and diverse culture) against some groups and not others.

Sorry if this is ramble - I've been up half then night with a very elderly poorly relative and am probably over thinking things!

usainboltsleotard Sun 15-Oct-17 09:34:39

I should say that although it's a very diverse town there are no Jamaican/Caribbean families at the primary school.

TheVanguardSix Sun 15-Oct-17 09:57:20

It's weird. I was prepared to say 'let it go' but actually it's inappropriate. If the school had a significant number of students of Jamaican/African-Caribbean background, it still wouldn't make sense. I don't see this particular nativity as a celebration of the African Caribbean culture at all. It's sailing close the wind, racism-wise.

I'm a white first generation American whose family came from Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany. I wouldn't want to sit through a production or be part of a production where the students would be putting on mock German accents, pushing the butch Germanic woman with hairy armpits onto centre stage, goosestepping (they always slip that in there), making iron curtain jokes, stuffing cabbages down their lederhosen, or doing anything that fed into the stereotype of my family's culture. My mother is Irish and I loathe it when people (especially at home in the States) assume that she grew up with leprechauns and green beer!

What your child's school is doing is dumbing down and inadvertently mocking a culture, not celebrating it. I say inadvertently because the staff obviously has no insight into their decision.

Don't get me started on the Nativity itself. Either do the Nativity as it is or do something else. I can't stand these 'themed' Nativities. If they want to soften the religious overtones of the Nativity then perform Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or something of that ilk. Funnily enough, I am not a particularly religious person anymore, but to me, the Baby Jesus is the Baby Jesus. No bells and whistles please. That's a whole other thread.

Phew. There's my Sunday morning rant, OP. wink

Babymamamama Sun 15-Oct-17 09:58:07

Yanbu it's cultural appropriation and shaky ground. I even thought Rastamouse on CBeebies was a bit off for the same reason. And the fact very few of the actors doing voiceover on that were even Jamaican. Glad you challenged the school.

CaoNiMartacus Sun 15-Oct-17 10:00:29

Yes, I'd say it's racist. At the very least racially myopic. Anyone "dressing up" as members of another race is on thin ice, I think. Why do it? What does it bring?

AtrociousCircumstance Sun 15-Oct-17 10:03:10

Yes, racism.

Probably the amaaaaaazing creative leap of some teacher who fancies themselves inventive but unfortunately doesn't have the intelligence to work out that it's pointless and offensive.

DancingLedge Sun 15-Oct-17 10:03:54

Stand out bit of your OP. - your DD could see the Nativity as dodgy. And decide not to participate. star parenting

DancingLedge Sun 15-Oct-17 10:07:06

Now feeling uncomfortable that I've given a good star like I'm the parenting monitor or something; but felt it reflected well on your DD and her upbringing.

ohmywhatamisaying Sun 15-Oct-17 10:09:42

StinkPickle Sun 15-Oct-17 10:12:40

Think you've misunderstood what the definition of racism is OP

AccidentalyRunToWindsor Sun 15-Oct-17 10:12:57

Very dodgy. I'm surprised the school thought that was Ok.

I love that your daughter challenged it.

usainboltsleotard Sun 15-Oct-17 10:14:40

Thanks for the rant grin
And all the opinions. It's v interesting that so far seems to be fairly unanimous in here that it's a bit dodgy but no one else at school thought so - food for thought.

DD had picked up on the fact that I slip into a string accent and speak patois with my close Jamaican family/friends (the way I spoke growing up) but have a northern English accent the rest of the time. She's seen me refuse to 'do the accent' as a party trick and explain why it's not ok so I think that's why she felt so strongly.

usainboltsleotard Sun 15-Oct-17 10:17:35

I knew they'd be 'you don't understand what racism is' messages.

Believe me, growing up in 80s northern England/Jamaica with a mixed race family I fully understand, but thanks for what I am sure is well meaning, if patronising, concern.

usainboltsleotard Sun 15-Oct-17 10:18:20

Atrocious - yes the head wrote the play!

CakesRUs Sun 15-Oct-17 10:42:20

My niece went to a big theatre production to see Scrooge, this Scrooge was mixed race and she said she just couldn't get into it because of it. I'm guessing it's the same with the busker, it doesn't seem authentic.

The ultimate, ironic, case of this is the blonde haired, blue eyed, Jesus who, bizarrely, was accepted because it is all we knew. We know now that this has to be wrong.

notanurse2017 Sun 15-Oct-17 10:46:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

oddexperience Sun 15-Oct-17 10:51:07

I agree the play sounds racist but the busking not so much. I’m a singer, if I have to sing a German song I sing in that accent. Same with any other song. I guess you can argue the accent is part of the song. As long as it’s not intentionally being offensive.

frostedleaves Sun 15-Oct-17 10:52:54

Stink no, she has not.

Explaining racism can be difficult. You have obvious and explicit racism: outwardly saying "I don't like p*kis" and so on.

Then there's humourous racism, which often is hidden, strangely, under so called PC sensibilities. It happens on MN a lot, with every thread about embarrassing toddlers being drowned under horrified glee that their little monster asked a man why he washed his face in chocolate. Often, these people love to think of themselves as right on, but just a little naughty and try to shout you down under their own huffy indignation, often offering the "victim's" good nature forward. "Well the man laughed and said chocolate is yummy!"

So. Here we are. Why wouldn't we fall about laughing as all Jamacian people are like Bob Marley, yeah?

Zoll Sun 15-Oct-17 10:53:13

Hm, I'd say the nativity thing is in poor taste, yes, but the singing is more complicated. She's singing Bob Marley's songs, that are inflected in that way in the original. She was probably doing it badly but being incompetent is not the same as being racist.

One might sing Mozart's Requiem in German Church Latin (basically an accent) for example, or a power ballad with rhotic Rs. Singing is specifically concerned with sound, inflection, accent, intonation - that's an integral part of it. Stereotypes about Rastas are not integral to the nativity.

MarklahMarklah Sun 15-Oct-17 10:54:01

Busker I can partly understand. Bob Marley was a great artist, so his songs could and should be appreciated by a wide spectrum of races. White person with dreads I can't get overly upset about. White person with faux Jamaican accent is starting to get onto shaky ground. Again though, perhaps as a person performing a song originally sung with a Jamaican accent could be construed as ignorant attempted flattery appearing racist.
School play though -totally wrong. If 90% of participants were black then it could be considered a bad attempt at cultural/racial stereotypes.

TurnipCake Sun 15-Oct-17 10:57:53

I asked for a copy if the script and it featured '3 Rastas" instead of 3 wise men (amongst others 'hilarious' adaptations), with comedy dreadlocks and Jamaican accents. They brought coconuts, jerk chicken and a bob Marley CD to baby Jesus. The parts were played by 3 white children and no one else seemed to have any problem with it

That is appalling angry

ILoveMillhousesDad Sun 15-Oct-17 10:59:30

I’m a singer, if I have to sing a German song I sing in that accent.

Can you give us an example please? I'm intrigued.

HeyRoly Sun 15-Oct-17 10:59:38

Careful OP, there's a strong element of racism denial on MN hmm I'm surprised no one has told you you're a) over sensitive and b) have a chip on your shoulder. That's Mumsnet Racism 101.

Of course it's racist to stereotype and imitate Jamaican people. You can't even argue that it's a ham fisted attempt at being inclusive - it's clearly supposed to be a joke and being Jamaican IS the joke.

LaughingElliot Sun 15-Oct-17 11:04:41

It sounds deeply cringey. I don’t blame your daughter for wanting out.

TurnipCake Sun 15-Oct-17 11:08:23

And good on your daughter for having nothing to do with that play.

The teacher needs a lesson on cultural appropriation and white privilege

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