Mardi Gras. Sort of. Not really. (orig. published Sept. 27, 2010)

01Jul11

These peppers have nothing to do with the entry in question; I took them at a Farmer’s Market and find them beautiful.

One of the places I went in my spirit of exploration and of getting out into the world was the annual Afro-Caribbean celebration in Brooklyn.  It was described to me as “Mardi Gras in New York,” and I love Mardi Gras, so I went.

Maybe I was in the wrong part of the celebration at the wrong time, but Mardi Gras it definitely wasn’t.  There was a parade, kind of; almost all of the floats and groups I saw were political candidates (this being an election year).  There were a few big trucks with bands or sound systems on them, and the people immediately surrounding the trucks were dancing (including one memorable crew of Caribo-American prison guards dancing calypso), but by and large, the parade was disappointing.

What wasn’t disappointing was all the people.  We typically label black people African-American, but seeing all these people–many of them swathed in the flags and colors of the island country they claimed as their fatherland–who considered themselves Caribo-Americans was eye opening.  To see all the food, and all the kids, and all the merchants, and all the color, was amazing.  I could have wandered around and stared at people all day.  We want to be inclusive and honor folks’ stories, and yet, the language we use can sometimes be so limiting.  I wonder how many black folk feel that terms like “African-American” don’t include them, not because they prefer the term black, but because they consider their families to be from Cuba, or Jamaica, or Mexico, and not from Africa at all?  I don’t really know, and have no good way to find out, and I could be way off base to even entertain the notion.  We all know that America is diverse; we all know that even within our general racial divisions (black, white, Latino, Asian, etc) there is substantial diversity.  But I think that we have a tendency to be intimately aware of the diversity within out own group, and to think of the “other” group as somehow lacking diversity, when the reality is we just don’t see it.  But we need to always remember it’s there, even if we don’t have the language to honor it.

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