Belonging and Moving Back
I am on the plane returning home to Jamaica from a couple of days in the US, and I noticed something that I have not felt since my first days in that country in 1984.
When I walked in the streets of Chicago or in Miami I was observing people, either ignoring me or observing me. There is a subtle but very consistent difference in how I am perceived in both places.
I could encapsulate it by saying that in the US I am subtly distanced, whereas in Jamaica I am subtly drawn in.
In the US there is a kind of suspicion that takes me off people’s radar, whereas in Jamaica there is also a kind of suspicion… more of a feeling of: “I suspect that you may know me.”
I am not saying here that one feeling is better than the other, as I have enjoyed both kinds of social environments. In the US you can really crawl out of the door wearing anything you want and never feel that you are being judged one bit. That lends itself to a certain kind of freedom to do things your way, which translates to whichever way you want.
However, you could also drop down flat on the road and no-one would stop to even look at you twice.
In Jamaica, going out in public means having to deal with multiple fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters – many of whom are more than willing to put you in your place directly, or tell someone who knows you to put you in your place!
I also do not know how much of it has to do with being a Black man, as I know that this has an effect on people in the US, without me having to do much or say much.
Which one is preferable?
I cannot say, because they both have pros and cons. I do know that I prefer the world I am living in at the moment, living here in Jamaica and enjoying the warmth that comes from that feeling of belonging. As I get older, and now that I am 40, that is turning out to be more and more important.