It’s irie mon

There were a number of things that were memorable about Super Bowl XLVII; the reunion of Destiny’s Child, the stellar win by the Baltimore Ravens — which sent Ray Lewis into happy retirement, and, of course, the commercials.
But there was one ad that stood above them all: Volkswagen’s “Get in. Get happy”. It involves Dave, a Caucasian man originally from Minnesota, speaking in a Jamaican accent — in an attempt to bring joy to his frustrated co-workers. He then drives some of his co-workers, along with their boss, around in his car, and the entire group speaks in a similar fashion. After it aired, critics were quick to label the ad racist.
How is it racist though? Speaking as a born-and-raised Jamaican, I believe that the ad serves as a great advertisement, not only for Volkswagen, but for Jamaica — as a happy place where you can come and get happy.
As such, I believe that the meaning of the word “racist” has become misunderstood and misused. As defined by Merriam- Webster’s online dictionary, racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”. I don’t think that is the message poor Dave was trying to deliver
At NSU, we are lucky to have a community filled with people of all different races, color and creed, which gives us the rare advantage of learning something about a different culture almost every day. But how many of us have friends with different accents, who we attempt to sound like — even if just for jokes? Are we being racist? I have had people try to speak to me in a Jamaican accent almost every day and, to be quite honest, I find it very amusing.  I feel flattered, not racially inferior.
Jamaica’s motto declares “Out of Many, One People” and I believe Volkswagen’s ad exemplifies that message. Jamaica is not only made up of blacks; we are a melting pot of different races, colors and cultures. This diverse mix can be seen throughout the island, especially in our cuisine. To say that the ad is racist, or — as New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow said during his appearance on CNN — “blackface with voices” is to totally disregard white Jamaicans, who look and speak just like Dave.
Furthermore, how could the ad be an example of racism when the person singing the song “C’mon Get Happy” is Jamaica’s own son of the soil Jimmy Cliff?  The Gleaner, a  Jamaican newspaper company, took to the streets and asked Jamaican people for their opinion on the ad; no respondents said they found any hint of racism.
In fact, Jamaican Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeill thinks the ad will bring more tourists to the island. And the funny thing is that, when these tourists do come on the island, they ask us to teach them Patois — also known as Jamacian Creole — so they can go back home and share it with their families and friends.
Racist? No! I think the word the critics were looking for is “stereotypical”. In my travels, whenever someone asks me where I’m from and I say Jamaica,  the first thing he or she usually says is “No problem man!” or “Irie man!” — which is like the “Hakuna matata” of Jamaica.
We have been living with the stereotype that we are very laid-back and have no worries for a very long time, due partly to Bob Marley’s song “Three Little Birds”. In some cases, this generalization is true. When compared to some states in the U.S., our pace is very slow and relaxed, thus creating the cool and mellow image of Jamaica on the international stage. We have purported this image for years, to no objection from anyone else, and it is an image that will continue to be a part of Jamaica.
Personally, I am proud to be a part of a culture that exudes happiness. There are far more serious matters going on right under our noses, like midterms, which are a couple weeks away.
So, don’t worry about a thing and stop making mountains out of mole hills. Every likkle ting is gonna be alright!

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