The Back Chat Blues

by Kenya Jacob, 13 yrs

Any Caribbean parent will tell you that "back chat" in a child indicates a character deficiency, which can apparently lead to the end of the world. Given the severity of the infraction, the common practice in my parents' generation would be to slap the living back chat out of the kid.

Back in the day, back chat could severely endanger one's physical well being. If a child with a mother of Caribbean heritage gave back chat, the aforementioned child could be regularly found picking their teeth up off the floor. Not only would this have provided an unsightly appearance in the child, it sometimes got the child's parents in serious trouble. Back chat is no laughing matter and I, for one, plan to follow my mother's advice and "leave dem thing whey yuh pick it up... real quick".

Today times are different, so when I did the unthinkable back chat crime by adding my own inappropriate statement to a instructive statement my mother made, I was hauled inside and forced to write this speculative essay reviewing the consequences of back chat.

Upon reflection I have found that back chat is the nonsensical response given after a statement is made, an order is given, or a question is asked by one's elder. It is a singular impediment of character that can hide a thousand great qualities.

When someone constantly back chats they are usually cast off as disagreeable, argumentative and uncooperative (unless they're studying political science). These are not very attractive qualities to possess; they have caused many people to lose opportunities, jobs, and friends. What you say, the manner in which you say it and the time you choose to voice your opinion causes others to make positive or negative judgments about you.

Rather than back chat, energy should be spent developing the key positive qualities of conscientiousness, respectfulness, cooperativeness, and agreeableness. These character traits induce good listening skills, create a healthier environment and provide opportunities.

The way one is viewed in society is essential to social development and advancement. This means that if you give back chat to someone today, you are that much closer to being written off as an ungrateful, uncooperative wretch tomorrow. Furthermore, bad karma travels around town. People love to discuss things - especially fellow people - so the best thing to do is to stay on everybody's good side by doing the right thing. This works well since as a child there are many people with higher authority than you.

If highly-positioned people in your community get wind of the idea that you are an uncooperative, ungrateful wretch, there can be serious fallout. Say you were a model student, getting straight “A's”, the head of the debate team and an all-around good person. You were on the upward arc of fame and fortune - then suddenly - the president of the Harvard Acceptance Committee calls to inform you that your acceptance has been revoked and your free Harvard sweatshirt must be mailed back 'instantaneously', because your reputation has pursued you.

To avoid scenarios like this, it is best to smile and nod along with what important people are saying. Do not misunderstand my previous statement though; it is good to stand up for what you believe in, however, if the only reason one is disagreeing is to be disagreeable, it is best not to disagree (still following me?).

In conclusion, it is not a good idea to get in the habit of "back chatting". Nip it in the bud so you will not have to be punished like I am being punished, spending my time writing this essay when there are so many other things that would be more enjoyable. The aftermath of back chat is always disastrous, especially in today's world of more sophisticated punishments.

So for all you back chatters out there: It is best to take heed of the speech of your elders, and allow them to become a beacon in the darkness that is youth. Opposition is futile, and will hinder you in your life's journey; not your parents. Take it from someone who is on the road to recovery.


About the author...

Kenya Jacob is the Canadian-born child of Trinidadian parents. An 8th grade “A” student, she has received many academic awards and is a member of the National Junior Honor Society in the United States. Kenya enjoys public speaking; one of her proudest accomplishments to date is standing before 2,000 people to give an address at an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration. Kenya loves school, especially her great friends. Her favorite school subjects are drama, chemistry, mathematics and dance. Kenya is a proud member of the Ifetayo Youth Ensemble where she plays the drums, sings and acts. Her parents are her greatest cheerleaders.

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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