Home African Caribbean Is Our Culture Under Threat From Political Correctness?

Is Our Culture Under Threat From Political Correctness?

by Tony Kelly

Tony Kelly resident Diabetes expert

Having first been introduced to the concept of labelling theory whilst studying psychology at Mico Teachers’ College in Jamaica in the 70s I am devoting this article to some views about it.

Labelling theory posits that self-identity and the behaviour of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. It is associated with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping.

What brought about the decision to address this issue was a recent development in Britain which would have major repercussions worldwide.

The late Roald Dahl a famous British writer of several children’s book such as Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and James and the Giant Peach to name a few has been making headline news.   Words such as fat, ugly, crazy, female, mothers and fathers, have been controversially scrubbed from all his books on the basis that children will find them offensive. It is understandably causing a furore since the 20th February announcement with many accusing the publisher, Puffin Books of censorship. Language evolves overtime but this is serious cause for concern as even though political correctness is important at times this knee jerk reaction is over the top.  Some of us in Britain will recall   the days of being referred to as West Indian, Coloured or Minority Ethnic   which have thankfully been thrown in the long grass and the annals of history.

‘Ganja psychosis’ was the label and diagnosis used by psychologists and psychiatrists in the mental health profession in Britain during the 70s – 80s to describe any Black person who smoked cannabis and as a consequence exhibited what they termed unnatural behaviour. Campaigners have made sure that is no longer in vogue as it was totally unacceptable.

Afro- Caribbean is still used by a lot of people in Britain in reference to Black people and one has to constantly put forward reminders that an Afro is either a comb or hairstyle and no one should be labelled in such a way.  It is much better to say African-Caribbean.  There are buildings around which have the name in their title such as the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre in Birmingham. It was in vogue at that time and as they form part of history my take is that they need to remain as such just like the Roald Dahl books should.  To make things worse I recently saw on a Facebook post that Jamaica is celebrating during the month of February Afro-Jamaican Black history month.  Who on earth came up with such an awful term as I have never heard it before?  Let me urge everyone to stop using it as I will not have anyone refer to me even with my Jamaican roots as an Afro-Jamaican. 

There is now in Britain a major campaign to compensate the mainly Black children of the 60s – 70s era who were labelled by the school system as educationally subnormal (ESN) with many placed in special schools because they were perceived to use a Caribbean term as being ‘dunce’. They had their early learning experiences and, in some cases, their adult life blighted by such a derogatory terminology which has left an indelible mark on their personality. I wholeheartedly endorse support for the campaign.

It is only this week that I read the remarkable story of the youngest Black professor Jason Arday aged 37 at Cambridge University who did not learn to read and write until aged 18 after being diagnosed at age 3 with ‘global development delay and autism spectrum disorder’ which is purposefully in quotes as I did not make up that diagnosis. What a mouthful!  One needs to read his story as his mother is mainly responsible for his achievements especially with music therapy.

Reference again my Mico College days where we were taught way back then how to recognize the signs of dyslexia known more commonly by the old-fashioned term word-blindness in the children we were going to teach in our chosen career. Somewhat surprisingly in Britain it is only in the last two decades that more attention is being given to this disability thus proving how advanced with limited resources a developing country like Jamaica was in the fight for a more literate society.  One can never forget the 1970’s Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL) programme established by the late Prime Minister Michael Manley to abolish adult literacy which has now been dissolved and replaced by the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL). To put things in context, in Britain, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that the average reading age of the British population is 11 years.

In conclusion the term that I despise/loathe/hate the most is ‘Hard to reach communities’. It is cringeworthy, insensitive, patronizing/condescending and offensive. You will find at least 20 pages with reference to this term on the internet if you search using those words. Doing a lot of voluntary work in the health arena around the issue of type 2 diabetes I hear the term often and interject to ask who is being referred to? The answer is always African, Caribbean, Asian and White working-class people in Britain. If these people are on a celestial planet, in the jungle/forest, on the Himalayas, in the ocean then they would be ‘hard to reach’ but of course they are not so please refrain from using it.  Marginalized, under-represented, under-served, historically neglected, historically ignored or historically excluded are more acceptable.

These are just the tip of the iceberg since space as usual does not allow for the many more that I could comment on.

Tony Kelly

Tony Kelly

London born Tony Kelly of Jamaican parents grew up in Jamaica and returned to live in Birmingham in 1979.
He is a graduate of Mico Teachers’ College and taught in Kingston high schools prior to working for 30+ years as a middle manager in central and local government with an emphasis on equity, equality, diversity and inclusion. He has a masters’ degree in socio-legal studies from the university of Birmingham.
For over a decade Tony has volunteered as a diabetes ambassador firstly for Diabetes UK and now for the National Health Service – Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group. A multi-award winner doing a yearly average of 150 health and well-being events, locally, nationally and internationally focusing on type 2 diabetes. He was diagnosed with this medical condition 18 years ago. However with a combination of physical activity and diet he has never taken medication thus proving with the right mindset and discipline it can be achieved.
As a diabetes advocate/activist Tony will continue delivering the message of healthy options to readers of CaribDirect.com .


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Dane February 27, 2023 - 8:09 am

Excellent article on the concept of political correctness that can lead to confusion as it blurs the lines of definition with gender neutrality, while still exacerbating the various differences of racial and cultural ethnicity. It exposes the hypocrisy of a system founded on racial division, that pretends to be more racially tolerant, yet keeps finding new ways to identify particular groups of people based on their skin tone and country of origin. A person of colour born in Europe or North America is not a European or an American, but must be African or Asian hyphen, but the same doesn’t hold true for those of European descent.
Racial bias is still alive and well, while a male can claim to be female, and vice versa and that is acceptable as normal. Should you question the veracity of such a claim, one is subject to prosecution and persecution. Go figure!

Yvonne February 27, 2023 - 12:42 am

What a hot topic this has been in the media during the past week! Although I can’t speak with any authority about Roald Dahl’s children’s books, having never read a single one, and only ever having come across his ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’ (adult series) on TV, I can however, engage with discussions about the use of language in society.

So, I agree with the substance of this article that words are a powerful factor in helping to shape someone’s behaviour and self identity. All the more reason then to get things right from an early age so that children grow up with a positive sense of self. As far as children’s fiction goes, this could best be achieved by having greater representation of our diverse communities in books; where characters look and sound like the boys and girls reading them. But we also need the writers from within our own communities to be authors of these books. We have the talent in abundance – at every stage of life – as writers such as Tony Kelly consistently demonstrates. So, the children’s writers in our communities, it is my hope that you are presented with opportunities to get your voices heard.

Shane Ward February 26, 2023 - 10:12 pm

Our Charity was called Afro- Caribbean Resource Centre but changed it to African to reflect the development in identity. Controversially I have issues with the “N word” being used as a substitute for the racist term because not every knows what it means and limits the real intended impact. I think changing an authors chosen words means it is no longer the authors words so I agree that Rohld Dharl’s words should remain as they were written. If they want to put a label on his books like the parental explicit advisory the so for music then so be it. Who are adults to decide what children will find offensive anyway. What I find more dangerous is the attempts to blur the gender lines replacing woman with person. She with they. Men encroaching on woman’s spaces . This is extremely dangerous as it is far more confusing for children but is being forced through the education system as I speak .

Eleanor Hoverd February 26, 2023 - 5:14 pm

I look forward to reading Tony’s articles as they give me great cause to reflect on the issues that he discusses. This particular article raises many critical points about the impact of labels and language – I learn something new from each article.

Janet McBean February 26, 2023 - 11:34 pm

Interesting discussion about labels and how it affects the human kind. Great information Tony. Enjoy the fortnightly anticipation and experience reading your articles.


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