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Singer Justine Skye Explains Why She Identifies as Jamaican Despite Being Born in America

Avatar • Jul 18, 2016

Singer Justine Skye took to her Instagram account to address those who challenge her choice to identify solely as Jamaican and not American, despite being born here.

I noticed some people getting upset that I say I’m Jamaican although I was born in America.. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone.. but I’ve grown up all my life, coming to Jamaica multiple times a year, visiting my Jamaican family with my Jamaican parents and grandparents, in a Jamaican house hold.
that’s the problem, everyone is so busy trying to tell everyone else who they are.. when they don’t even know what they’re talking about let alone know themselves. 
Hispanic kids not born in DR or PR aren’t Dominican or Puerto Rican? Asian kids born in America aren’t Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc? 
America is a melting pot, filled with people of all colors, shapes and sizes from different places in the world. different cultures.. who are you to tell someone where they come from?


Justine has a point. Many bi-cultural Americans identify solely with their non-US ethnicity (Dominican, Puerto Rican, Nigerian), and this could be for a variety of reasons — family influence, a stronger feeling of identification, feeling rejected within American culture. On the other hand, ‘othering’ in black culture is nothing new. Also it is disingenuous, on some level, to exist in, benefit from and be influenced by American culture without acknowledging it in any way. If we’re being 100% real, it’s not like Justine launched her singing career in Jamaica. It’s here in the United States.

Does identifying strongly with a home culture always boil down to othering? And do we allow for enough diversity *within* the black experience in America? What are your thoughts?

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Sorry, she’s othering. As mentioned, she launched her singing career here in America, where she was born, so it sounds disingenious to note that she identifies “only” as Jamaican (her ethnicity), but not her nationality (American). Which is puzzling since she’s clearly both. And another thing, her music is lacking in the Jamaican cultural influence that she’s so proud to be associated wit, so her need to identify as other, while doing the exact same r&b/pop/hiphop American songs that she was clearly influenced by, says this is a publicity stunt. I’m also from the caribbean, but I barely relate to… Read more »

Tracey Jean
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Tracey Jean

If her mother is Jamaican, then she is Jamaican. That’s our law. It’s now her choice to identify as Jamaican (or not) and she does. Her music has nothing to do with that. I grew up in Jamaica. My favourite music is rock/pop/soca. I’m not a fan of reggae/dancehall. That doesn’t make me less Jamaican. As to the argument about Caribbean Americans feeling superior, it’s more a case of Caribbean Americans not seeing themselves as inferior. We don’t identify racially. We identify nationality. Probably because our racial makeup is so similar and our countries are so small. I have never… Read more »

blogdiz
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blogdiz

Saying you are an African American does not make one any less American neither is it “separating “anyone as USA was just as much ‘separated” when the term was black , coloured or negro , anyone who knows a scrap about American History , knows white folks dont really need a name to discriminate With all due respect as a fellow Jamaican , you are doing exactly what you are criticizing others of doing that is not allowing people to identify as they see fit, it is not your place to tell African ‑Americans how to identify though our histories… Read more »

maralondon
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maralondon

‘it is UNHEARD of for any White Jamaican , Bajan or Trini (and we have quite a few ) to tell their black counterpart to ” Go Back to Africa ” ’ Not true. One of my Jamaican friends told me he was faced with this exact discrimination by a White Jamaican who told him that the only reason my friend was in Jamaica was because his white ancestors brought his ancestors there as slaves and he wasn’t simply giving him a history lesson. Let’s not pretend that The Caribbean was built on White Supremacy and it is still in… Read more »

blogdiz
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blogdiz

Nowhere in my comment did i pretend that the Caribbean is some post racial Utopia and that we were never enslaved, colonized or subject to white supremacy . I acknowledged that we share similar history but also had some differences with the Black American experience .which is why we tend to self identify differently In essence I was pointing out the fallacy of a Jamaican who on the one hand insists that Justine had the right to identify as Jamaican , yet on the other hand wants to admonish AA for identifying as African Americans which quite simply is not… Read more »

maralondon
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maralondon

My parents are from the Caribbean so I can relate to some of the sentiments on this subject. However, we may be the majority but trust me we are not running things the way we should be. We talk about our independence from the Colonisers but Jamaica at least still has a white queen as head of state and correct me if I’m wrong the education system, which was based on the European one anyway, refuses to include the education of Marcus Garvey in the curriculum. I love the Caribbean but it saddens me that a lot of our people… Read more »

Esha Fowlin
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Esha Fowlin

Hello!!!! Yet I see all these idiots posting that white yardie on they timeline meanwhile they will hide all their dark skin relatives kmt #fuckery and indoctrination

Guest
Guest
Guest

“If her mother is Jamaican, then she is Jamaican. That’s our law. It’s now her choice to identify as Jamaican (or not) and she does.”–That’s fine for Jamaica, but we’re speaking about the US, and the US that’s not how it works when it comes to your nationality. But she does indeed have a choice and how she chooses to identify. “Her music has nothing to do with that. I grew up in Jamaica. My favourite music is rock/pop/soca. I’m not a fan of reggae/dancehall. That doesn’t make me less Jamaican.”–I didn’t say her music had anything to do with… Read more »

naughtycorner
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naughtycorner

I agree with Justine identifying as Jamaican and was kinna with you until your last paragraphs, As a West Indian , I know that many of us identify with island of origin for patriotic reasons Not because we are ashamed of our African Heritage( The Afro-Caribbean ID may be used outside the region but at home is rarely used as the “Afro “is obvious or a given.) You however seem to be on some New black patronizing BS and are clearly not very educated about world history or socially aware with these type of comments “Africa is far removed from… Read more »

maralondon
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maralondon

Would you tell a white American that they should discount the fact that their ancestors were European.Their habits are not completely devoid of European ones and the majority of places in America were named after European people who decided that they’re status was above that of anyone else’s. The same in the Caribbean.

Ganadora Loteria
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Ganadora Loteria

‘And another thing, her music is lacking in the Jamaican cultural influence that she’s so proud to be associated wit, so her need to identify as other, while doing the exact same r&b/pop/hiphop’.…are you remotely aware of how many genres of music Jamaica/Jamaicans have created and/or influenced? Let’s see — hip hop, EDM, dubstep, grime to name a few. So this idea that she should stick to whatever ‘Jamaican cultural influence’ your refering to is irrelevant. And just because you don’t relate to the Caribbean doesn’t mean that applies to her. She clearly relates more to her Jamaican heritage than… Read more »

SpeakYoMind
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SpeakYoMind

Still black

A.P. Millz-CT
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A.P. Millz-CT

Hello!

Dee
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Dee

Ya’ll do know claiming your ethnicity has nothing to do with denying that you’re black right? Its possible for me to be proud of my heritage while being aware that Im black. Why should people from the Caribbean or anywhere else lose their cultural identity simply bc Americans will “still see them as Black”…And? no one is saying Jamaicans, Haitians, Africans, etc aren’t black. Just like Americans love to rep their cities, I like to rep my country! When people rep Brooklyn…do you also yell. “You still Black?”.

blogdiz
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blogdiz

Well, she never said she wasnt. She looks unambiguously black to me
One can be Jamaican and Black at the same time the two are not mutually exclusive
African Americans do not hold some patent on blackness

Danny
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Danny

She never said she wasn’t. Thats the thing. You see, people tend to look at black American culture as a monolith, it is not. Black people come from all over the world, speak different languages, eat different foods.… being from the south, or being a descendant of black American slaves is NOT the only way to be black. Eating cornbread and collards is NOT the only way to be black… She is correcting people. In Jamaica-we don’t “other,” ourselves, because most of us are black- we are the majority, unlike the US (which is also my home) and we look… Read more »

StraightShooter
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StraightShooter

I understand her point. Both of her parents are Jamaican. Therefore, she grew up with that perspective. She didn’t say one her parents is American, so she isn’t bi-cultural.

Esha Fowlin
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Esha Fowlin

Totally agree im jamaican American too and always thought this.?????

sdf house
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sdf house

nice blog. sdfhouse.com blackmoneymatters.co

Bella
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Bella

I definitely agree with Justine’s perspective. I identify myself as haitian or Haitian-American. If your household is ran 100% Haitian, Jamaican, Domincan, Ghanaian, etc and the language of your parents homeland, the method of cooking, the social norms, etc, you have every right to identify your self with that culture. Think about the latino born kids who grow up having THICK accents yet they were born right here in the US of A. If they say, I’m American, you’re going to keep fishing for their cultural background. She is Jamaican (or Jamerican if you’re familiar, lol) who just benefits from… Read more »

nnabueze...nnebueze
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nnabueze...nnebueze

I consider myself an “American-born” Nigerian, which people don’t always get. I’m a dual citizen of both countries, but my Nigerian and Igbo roots mean so much more to me. I don’t actually ever think of myself as being American until I travel abroad. I’ve suffered discrimination in America for being African, so triumphing over that and embracing my heritage and beauty in a very eurocentric environment is poignant for me. I live in America, so American culture is omnipresent. But my Nigerian and Igbo heritage are precious to me and they bind me to my family and to my… Read more »

Summer
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Summer

Also, I think this also has to do with the sort of superiority Caribbean-Americans feel over African-Americans. They will do anything to try and distinguish themselves, as if there is something wrong with being African-American. Even if they aren’t that close to their Caribbean culture, and actually even closer to American culture. It just seems like another one of those cases…

Island Girl
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Island Girl

African american is a specific ethnic group and based on my understanding refers to black people whose ancestors were slaves in the United States of America. I am not American nor do I live in America. I live and work in the Caribbean. However it always boggles my mind when Americans equate blackness with being African American. The two are not the same. All African American’s are black but not all Black people are African American’s. Also based on what Justine Skye said she grew up with both Jamaican parents and grand parents and she said she travels to her… Read more »

Myra Francois
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Myra Francois

I wholeheartedly agree with her calling herself Jamaican. Whatever your culture at home is defines who you are. Of course, she has been influenced by American culture to a degree but her roots are Jamaican. She is American by convenience of birth.

Danny
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Danny

I hear your point, but you also generalized a great deal. Carribean Americans actually aren’t African American (despite most having African ancestry). Sounds confusing, right? Let me put it this way. Would you call Naomi Campbell a African American? probably not, bc she isn’t American; she comes from a different culture…would you call a Afro-German an AA bc they touched US soil?? No, bc they are German…so why would you call West Indians, “African Americans” when our cultures are so substantially different? If you lived in Jamaica for let’s say–two yrs (im assuming you’re black American) would you then tell… Read more »

Katara c.
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Katara c.

“I hear your point, but you also generalized a great deal. Carribean Americans actually aren’t African American (despite most having African ancestry). ” It seems obvious that for any given person, they come with a mix of cultural background and exposure. Some people have family trees with their roots so deep in American history that they truly are African-American. Others though, they don’t, and that’s fine. Sometimes I wonder if black people in the US aren’t so focused on solidarity for political/social reasons that some people lose sight of the fact that they’re just as diverse a group as any… Read more »

Kay
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Kay

I don’t know why its a problem for her to say she is jamaican. That’s what she is. Jamaicans (who are black ) know they are black. I remember being told I’m not black and I’m not american all the time. (I grew up both in nyc and jamaica) from black americans. how many of yall grew up in nyc when ppl find out you have immigrant parents and all of a sudden you are not black? I’m saying this not to pass judgment, but to understand that when you are black in this country it is usually for african… Read more »

SpeakYoMind
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SpeakYoMind

My point exactly!

SpeakYoMind
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SpeakYoMind

My point exactly. I’m Black and American, my husband, Jamaican. Our daughter sees herself as BLACK American. We share, celebrate, and embrace both cultures. We recognize the African roots deeply embedded in both. We are well aware that together and as a race we are a Black family.

Dee
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Dee

Well, I believe black people should be free to identify as they want. We are not a monolithic group of people. I just get so annoyed when other black people try and put us in a box. No…let us be free. We know who we are. I identify as Black..clearly based on the color of my skin… However, if you ask me about who I am…I claim MY cultural background which is bigger than being Black in the eyes of White or Black Americans.

LovelyAfros
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LovelyAfros

Why do people have a problem with her only identifying with her Jamaican side? After all, Mexicans refer to themselves as Mexicans, and Indians refer to themselves as Indian.

Guestgal
Guest
Guestgal

Don’t understand why so many black Americans struggle. As a black American, you’re only identity is “Black American” because that is the only culture you know and can’t trace your customs to one specific area outside of America. Just as a commenter below said, being from the south and eating collard greens is not the definition of blackness. Black cultures existed LONG before the United States of America and continue to exist outside of the US. Black is a race, not an ethnicity. It is a color, not a culture. She says she is Jamaican because SHE IS JAMAICAN! Born… Read more »

Danny
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Danny

Well, bloop!

Adía
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Adía

I disagree. There is a black American culture that many people identify with. Aren’t there different ethnic groups in Nigeria? Same goes for America

Katara c.
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Katara c.

I don’t think that’s what she meant… When people talk about “Black culture”, they often mean “Black American” culture, which is its own culture to be sure. But the cultures of the Caribbean, of various parts of Africa, etc. will all be different from that. She’s saying that when you have close ties to a culture outside of “Black American”, it makes sense that you could identify with that culture, maybe even more than with Black American culture, even if you were born & raised in the US.

R.Cola
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R.Cola

YESSSS, this is exactly what I’ve spent years trying to explain to people. Anyone who has an issue with this type of thing must have an inferiority complex. And it’s funny because most people who refer to themselves as “African American” have never been to Africa, nor do they practice African customs, nor have any direct African upbringing. Funny how that double standard works.

Ganadora Loteria
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Ganadora Loteria

…America is not the center of the Black universe.’ THANK YOU!

maralondon
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maralondon

Why is this such a problem. I live in England and it’s common for those who have parents from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia other parts of Europe to acknowledge and identify with their parents birth place because culture or race may be stronger than nationality.

Ladylanita
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Ladylanita

Yes, but truth be told, when those British-born go back to their parent’s birth country, they’re viewed as British. And in actuality, they are!

I understand the conundrum and dynamics. When you’re in England, you’re never English, only British. You also have to deal with racism. But because you grew up in the UK–you act British, talk British, think British and walk British. Definitely stand out when you go back “home”.

maralondon
Guest
maralondon

Me personally, I would never consider myself English (they are white skinned) not even British. There are many Black people who have parents from the Caribbean, especially those my age who are far from the descriptions you give. They speak patois, the only time we might not is at the work place, eat the same food we ate growing up and I’m not saying that the British lifestyle hasn’t had any influence over the way we behave or do things but you can tell us apart. We’ve actually developed a street culture rooted in our Caribbean background which White and… Read more »

Esha Fowlin
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Esha Fowlin

You’re ignorant and wrong many people are referring to The Americas not just the United States of America when they say African American Naomi Campbell is a jamaican brit so not sure why you even brought her up smh that’s a false equivalency. My dad is a rasta from Dwaney park and my mom is from St Andrew and I’ll be darned if you would be uppity Jamaicans copying the stuck up traditions of the people who enslaved you are going to tell me different! Smh this is exactly why the black race can’t get any where because people like… Read more »

Island Girl
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Island Girl

I think you mean’t to tag Danny and not me since I did not mention anything about Naomi Campbell. Further I am not Jamaican, nor do I have any Jamaican roots and I have never lived in the States. I am a born and bred Caribbean person who actually lives and works in my country of birth. Hence the reason why I believe that I was tagged by mistake. However since I was tagged I will respond by saying this. People act like if black people are the only ones that are not united when low and behold when you… Read more »

Danny
Guest
Danny

That may be how YOU define yourself. And that’s fine. So I’ll tell you what: Define yourself by your own terms. West Indians have the right to culturally identify with it if they want! If they erase their West Indian heritage, what do they have left?

Why should they erase their food, dialect, and culture just bc they set foot in the US?

In a land where black people have had their african culture virtually erased, I am thankful to still maintain some link to Africa through mine.

Live how you want to live, boo! Good luck you!

Katara c.
Guest
Katara c.

Eh, I don’t think it’s a big deal. It really isn’t uncommon for someone to identify strongly with the culture of their heritage, even if they were born elsewhere — and it’s not uncommon for people to not identify at all with the place they were born and raised in. No biggie.

Katara c.
Guest
Katara c.

However it always boggles my mind when Americans equate blackness with being African American. ”

Haha, this reminds me of a guy I used to work with, but in reverse 😛 He was black, and always would talk about how this or that was so offensive cos of the history of slavery of his people… then one day we found out his family immigrated here (Canada) from North Africa (I think it was Djibouti?) and none of them had ever set foot in the US, much less been enslaved by anyone. It was so bizarre.

R.Cola
Guest
R.Cola

Ok so, lets flip the script for a second a take a look at Black Americans who call themselves “African Americans”?? Most Black Americans who identify as “African” American have 0 direct connection to any African country or their customs, in fact, they don’t eat African food in the morning, and they don’t have any direct family members they can trace to the Continent. In fact, if you ask many which countries in Africa their family hails from, they probably couldn’t tell you. 9/10 this is fact. Yet, somehow still refer to themselves as African… how does that even make… Read more »

maralondon
Guest
maralondon

Sis there are many AAs who have visited Africa and even settled there. No way is the Caribbean the Motherland don’t forget our Ancestors were taken to the Islands by force and were brainwashed by Europeans to see Europe as the Motherland. Black people didn’t name the Islands, the names we carry belong to foreigners, some of us still worship the British monarchy. I wish our people would indulge in reading our history more and not the one Europeans gave us we might understand the divisions we create amongst ourselves.

R.Cola
Guest
R.Cola

Honestly, I don’t care how many times AAs or anyone else have visited Africa. If you do not share the same cultural framework as Africans then you’re not African. If we go back far enough everyone is from Africa. Regardless of where the settlement began, we on the islands, have a very unique culture specific to our region just like every other region has a culture of their own. If you grew up eating collard greens, mashed potatoes and chitlins and you don’t eat Fufu, jollof rice and red sauce… how can you call yourself African? Makes 0 sense. You… Read more »

Ladylanita
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Ladylanita

I’m a black American and have no issues with this. But as someone that spent several years living around west indians and africans in London (including living in Jamaica) I have a more holistic view. 1- Americans are the ones passionate about hyphenating. Once you step outside of the US, Britain (fill in the blank), no one cares about where your parents or ancestors came from. They view you by your birth country or wherever you grew up. But it’s important to consider the next point. 2- People from developing countries tend to view living in the West as a… Read more »

Guest
Guest
Guest

“ ‘And another thing, her music is lacking in the Jamaican cultural influence that she’s so proud to be associated wit, so her need to identify as other, while doing the exact same r&b/pop/hiphop’ .…are you remotely aware of how many genres of music Jamaica/Jamaicans have created and/or influenced? Let’s see — hip hop, EDM, dubstep, grime to name a few.”–That maybe so, but that still doesn’t change the fact that her primary genre of music is American, not Jamaican. American music has influenced many other musical genres around the world as well, including the carribbean, but those other musical genres… Read more »

Ubethejudge
Guest
Ubethejudge

Both of my parents are west indian, but I was born and raised in America. I classify as West Indian American because that is who I am. In fact, my entire family is from the West Indies. People tend to stereotype based on appearances. If someone looks Puerto Rican, Asian, Indian…they are automatically classified as such without insight to where they were born and true ethnicity. I was raised like Justine so I understand her struggle. I am not trying to deny being a Black American, but I will never deny my West Indian roots…ever.

Garvey
Guest
Garvey

Let’s remember that CITIZENSHIP is acquired by birth or naturalization. CULTURE is also acquired by birth but also heritage & tradition. It all depends on how deeply one delves into other people’s traditions & customs. If for example all whites assimilated to the indigenous culture of the original tribes of North America you’d have some bonafide white American’s but as it stands what you clearly have in America is an extension of Europe with every ethnic class conforming to the English standard, customs & traditions & this only changes when other ethnicities refuse to conform or assimilate to the ruling… Read more »

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