People often say to me ‘Where are you from? or even better ‘Where do you ‘Originate from?’I always remember a Trinidad Hairdresser who was once a friend, getting mightily shitty with me when I was asked that question in her garage come make-shift salon.
Her clients ranged from many nationalities and places in Africa, Papa New Guinea, Asian and many small Fijian type places I have never heard of or care to look up. I would be asked the question as my English diction is of course fluent. Born and Bred and all that. It threw them, as my black face didn’t correspond with their ignorant view that I should have spoken with a broad Jamaican Patwa. I sometimes try but seem to sound like a cross between Mrs Doyle from Father Ted and Olive off On The Buses. It not really worked for me!
My answer would always be the same ‘Manchester’ . Because that is where I was born so I figured that was the question. She would tell me how rude I was being because and I quote ‘You know exactly what they are asking you, be honest!’ I knew exactly what they expected me to say, yes this is true,they wanted me to say Jamaica but that is not true is it? I wasnt born there. I have never been there. Big fan of Marley but never felt a compelling urge to visit the place. One day maybe, but not a burning desire. So she felt it rude of me to hark to my place of birth rather than my place of birthright? So she would snap at me as if I had snubbed the asker…
What she meant was ‘So where are your Roots?’ What does that even mean? What am I a tree?:-) I get that our ‘Roots’ are supposed to describe where we originate from. But if born in the UK with Jamaican blood coursing through my veins aren’t my roots where I was raised and felt most grounded.
That’s my understanding of ‘Roots’. I was raised in various places around the UK and figure wherever my family were was where we grew . So Roots in that case are actually more about the people who make you whole rather than a place. It would be stupid to suggest I know it all BUT I do know this. To me Roots are embedded where-ever you are raised to feel safe, secure and whole.
A person is only able to feel safe if there is support and love. So Roots could develop for a person way after their birth.
For example, supposing you are an orphan. NO parents, no specific place to call your birthplace because you just dont know that information. As an adult you may marry, have kids and settle on the opposite side of the world to where you were actually born. You lay down Roots THERE and that’s where your Roots remain , surrounded by those you love and those you have known to become family. Would this person who asked me the question accept the answer ‘I have no Roots?’ I think not!
Isn’t it true that Roots are about people, places we feel are home, and not necessarily a town or country from which our DNA hails from?
Just thinking aloud really but very happy to open the debate…………
Thanks for reading