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Racism and prejudice in the Caribbean

Racism and prejudice in the Caribbean

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Racism is the belief that someone is inferior to you because of their race. The concept is very vague and has many nuances but there is still no excuse for participating in such behaviour in our modern society. I think one of the largest misconceptions West Indians, and by large Black people have is that because we belong to a minority group, we can’t possibly be racist or prejudiced.

The Caribbean is multi-racial and multi-cultural because of slavery and indentured servitude. East Indians, Blacks, Chinese, Kalinagos and Whites etc. did not choose to live together in the Caribbean because they felt like it, we were all tied together by the gruesome act of slavery. Unfortunately, being oppressed together doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to fight and belittle each other. For example, take the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, a country that is almost half Black and half East Indian. The existing prejudice and racism between both races are no secret, and yet there seems to be no desire to erase it. It seems silly doesn’t it? Fighting amongst each other to feel superior when the world views both races as inferior, is comical in a not-so-funny type of way. We complain so much about racism experienced from White people, yet we are wilfully blind to our own prejudiced behaviour amongst ourselves.

For a better example closer to home, I shall illustrate my own observation of racism in my home country. One day I was waiting in line at a Chinese restaurant when I witnessed several Black men mocking the cashier in fake Cantonese. It was such a big joke to them, mocking the workers’ language, yet not one customer batted an eyelash. I was so struck by the abhorrent behaviour, yet I said and did nothing; it will remain one of my regrets to this day. Vincentians do not comprehend that mocking and insulting someone’s language is racist and vile. There is always so much commentary about how “stupid Chinese sounds” and how “Syrians can’t speak”, as if English is so damn superior. I’m sorry to break it to you, but the only reason we speak English is because it was literally beaten into us. A large part of colonisation was erasing our heritage and enforcing European standards, a fact we love to overlook.

I know someone will write to me and say that the minorities in St Vincent aren’t friendly to the Blacks either, but quite frankly two wrongs don’t make a right. We are the majority and should be the bigger person and extend the olive branch. I’m not saying to become a door mat, but at the very least, call out racist behaviour. At the end of the day, we are all minorities and deserve to be treated fairly and respectfully, I’m only asking you to treat people the way you’d like to be treated.

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