Is It Racist For a White Guy to Mimic Jamaican Patois?

In some white American circles, it is completely socially acceptable to “do a Jamaican accent.” Reggae and marijuana tend to bring this on; so does a trip to Montego Bay. And there aren’t other black accents that white Americans can fearlessly mimic. There are certainly far fewer socially acceptable circumstances under which they could put on a black American accent for comic effect.

Now, on the eve of the Super Bowl, there is criticism that a Volkswagen ad due to be broadcast during the big game is racist because it features a white guy speaking Jamaican patois. This appears to be a spoof of a spoof: the lilywhite Minnesota office setting (complete with token Asian man) appears to be playing off NBC’s The Office, which has had characters faking Jamaican accents.

But Jamaicans seem happy that the ad is giving their nation and culture some free publicity. And they also seem to understand that in the ad, the joke is on the deeply unhip white office guys.

Also in the podcast: will a 15-year-old Icelandic girl get to officially use the name her parents gave her? A court in Reykjavik has decided.



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