“Don’t fret meh Breddah, sticky bun, come soon!”
“Wicked coffee, Mr. Jim!” (Holding the cup, “I Love Good Vibes”)
“You want to come with I?”
Volkswagen tells the story of a white corporate office worker from Minnesota who inspires his co-workers with his intoxicating Jamaican accent and the happy spirit and good vibes of his VW Beetle.
Unfortunately, America has spun itself into a “cloud on a sunny day” and stirred a cup of blinded controversy of racial identity versus satirical inferences. Since its debut online this week, Volkswagen’s #Get Happy Superbowl ad, featuring the background track of Jamaican iconic reggae singer Jimmy Cliff catapulted to over two million views on Youtube and grabbed the headlines of local talk and variety shows. In reality, there should be zero controversy.
Absolutely none, Bossman.
Simply, in order to appreciate the brilliance in this ad, you must have some insightful, connective, or birthright familiarity of Jamaican culture and language. As one of the world’s happiest nations on Earth, Jamaica is renowned for its positive vibes and effervescent spirit in its music and the personality of its people. As a result of this reputation, Volkswagen tapped a Jamaican music icon to adopt these same values for the spirit of their VW Beetle. Unfortunately, the beauty of the ad’s homage to Jamaican language and identity is manufactured in controversy only because the main actor is white. The ad would have faded into the “black” if it was the opposite.
Tell deh truth, Bossman.
The truth is that the race of a person is not conclusively reflective of how they speak. This is where we get ourselves into a muck. Unfortunately, the force of nature of race in media creates certain images for our manipulating ears and eyes. In Jamaica and in other places in the Caribbean, even though the majority of the populations is black, there are sizable minority populations of other races and ethnicities who speak with the same accent. It is not unusual to see or hear a white, East Indian, or Chinese person to speak with a Jamaican patois accent. Accents are part of a culture, not a part of a race. This is no different from the varied accents that we hear across regions in America.
“You know what dis room needs…. a smile.”
There have been millions of visitors to Jamaica who returned to their homelands with pieces of the culture fixed to their souls and physical appearance. As a result, it would be unsurprising to any Jamaican that a white guy from Minnesota, “The Land of Ah Ten Thowsand Lakes and the Gofah State,” is now enveloped with the Jamaican vibe back at the office. Jamaica has this type of mystical spirit in its culture. You have to go…to know. But, who am I to judge, our Minnesota friend could very well be a white Jamaican guy who moved to the Midwest. Thankfully, this is just a commercial made for Superbowl entertainment. So, “chill, Winston.” There is no racial controversy here, just an extraordinary moment in recognizing the power of the human spirit and personality that holds no boundaries in culture. Go Coach Harbaugh! It’s time to #GetHappy.
Marlon A. Hill, is an attorney with the Miami law firm of delancyhill, P.A. and civic commentator on WZAB 880AM, Caribbean Riddims, D’ Peoples Politics, Saturdays, 4pm