Awesome Clip Courtesy of In Living Color “Hey Mon Airlines”

There’s an ongoing joke, especially among Black Americans, that Jamaicans tend to hold more than one job. So funny in fact, that when I speak on endeavors with some friends, there is almost an “of course you’re doing something else” attitude.  Now, I am the first to declare that a jack of all trades is often the master of none and I sincerely believe that a person can only be unequivocally excellent at one thing. That said, just because an individual is the best at something doesn’t mean they are lacking the capacity to be better than most at several other things. And that’s all it takes sometimes, not necessarily being the best, but simply being better than most.  And this often comes down to two things, an unparalleled work ethic and a willingness to continuously educate oneself.

Jamaican immigrants have an innate need to be the best at what they’re doing. It’s not to outshine anyone or to consciously be deemed better than their peers. It’s just how we were raised. From a young age we are taught that hard work yields results and recognition. It’s an almost naive philosophy but is simple and frequently true. We grow to believe that all we have to do is work hard and opportunities will be laid at our feet. That if you want good then your nose have to run (that is, you will  have to suffer through unbearable times in order to reap great rewards). It’s not easy to show up and show out at any one job, let alone two. To be employee of the month at your day time job and employee of the week at night. What intrigues me, and the reason I have written this post is to gain perspective on what aspect of the Jamaican woman or man holding several jobs is humorous. I am not posing the question from a background of offense but simply because the joke truly eludes me.


The Formula

There is a wayward kind of thinking applied to the Jamaican immigrants sense of ambition. This is the notion, that if one is working hard then they are simply not working smart. While this may be the case for several persons, contrary to popular belief it is not the only, nor is it the frequent truth. Perhaps the best assets of the immigrant is their mild ignorance to a racially oppressive system and the true belief in the American dream. It seems that those who buy least into the American dream are Americans themselves.  For any immigrant, coming to America is like visiting a rich and somewhat ungrateful Aunt. She is not altogether impressed with the opportunities laid at her feet and obsessively comments on those who do so little and are rewarded so much more. When you grow with far less opportunities you simply don’t get hung up on how little others are doing. You’re more concerned with the fact that there are opportunities and concede to having to clutch at them until you are in the position you wish to be.

There is also the notion that if a person holds more than one job, it’s because they haven’t invested enough time in getting to know and/or nurture their gift.  You see, wearing several hats is only a big joke when the life you are leading is not deemed enviable. When you are rapping, acting, purchasing buildings, partnering with alcohol companies, starting clothing lines, and vacationing in St. Tropez, then you’re making mogul moves. When you’re living in Lauderhill, taking care of two kids, holding several jobs and trying different things on the side, it’s the fulfillment of a funny Jamaican stereotype. When the Jamaican lay man fails, we warn that he or she had their hands in too many pots; they just don’t know what to do with themselves.  When a successful entrepreneur fails then we quote Warren Buffet, we say every truly successful person has experienced great failures. We encourage them and offer that the only true way to fail is to quit.

Here’s the thing about dreamers, they hardly ever have one dream. They hardly ever have one gift. There’s nothing funny about being willing to do everything that needs to be done to get to where you’d like to go. There’s nothing admirable about being content or comfortable either. Don’t be discouraged by the many ways in which you may choose to go about your goal. There is nothing funny about taking on more than one job to pay off your car or home in half the time or to avoid piling up debt. None of us can or should be pigeon held to one thing. A big part of success is continuously reinventing and challenging oneself. It often requires an individual to do things that others aren’t willing to do, like working two to three jobs.

The formula is simple.  Stereotypes are stereotypes because they are based on a level of consistent truth. That said, while it doesn’t make them any less offensive it is in our best interest to acknowledge that comments conceding to stereotypes are hardly ever meant to harm. Don’t listen to people who say you are extra, scatter brained, or doing the most. Do all that you HAVE TO do now so that you are in a position to do all that you WANT TO do later.

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What are your thoughts on this Jamaican stereotype?