Racism versus Bigotry
Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about the irony of racism existing within the Caribbean despite our multi-racial composition. I received some feedback on my writing, and one piece of constructive criticism stood out to me. A reader very poignantly highlighted that the act of racism requires power to oppress, therefore, West Indians are likely bigots, not racists. If you haven’t already read the column I’m referring to, it would be best to go back and read it, as I will be correcting some of the things I wrote in it.
Racism is broadly defined as prejudice, discrimination and antagonization against someone based on the belief that your race is superior. On the other hand, bigotry is intolerance towards a group (whether ethnic or racial) that holds a different opinion from oneself, leading to that group being treated with hatred and intolerance. I would not go so far as to describe West Indians as hateful, but we are definitely intolerant of different racial groups.
Bigotry is not something we often think about because we are already oppressed. Truthfully, most people can’t be bothered with the discomforts of others when theirs are already so consuming. For instance, so many Afro-West Indians are comfortable admitting that they do not like white people. As a white person reading this, that admission might seem terrible, but I implore you to view it from their perspective. All throughout primary and secondary school the only history we are taught revolves around colonization and slavery. This isn’t even an exaggeration, literally the only history we learn is about the monstrous behaviour of white people towards our ancestors. To add insult to injury, many white people still living in the Caribbean tend to be privileged, as they are still reaping the benefits of slavery. It’s not a small wonder there is resentment within the islands.
A perfect example is Barbados where almost three percent of the population is white. Would you believe I lived in Barbados for two years before even speaking to a White Barbadian? They are almost invisible. They have their own schools, their own social clubs and recreation spots. They have no need to ever interact with the rest of the island and most importantly, no desire. There are Arabic Muslims, Blacks, Chinese, Indians, etc. in Barbados, you see them almost every day, but not the Whites. They’re almost a secret society, living in expensive gated communities and sending their children to private schools. To label what I just described as racism would be careless and misleading. There is no real racism in the Caribbean, not the kind you see on TV anyway. However, there is real and tangible bigotry.
It seems as though everyone is content with the bigotry. The Indian Trinidadians don’t like the Black Trinidadians, and the feeling is mutual. The White Barbadians can date Black Barbadians, but don’t try to bring one home to your family, unless you want to be disinherited, of course. You wave hello and good-bye to your Muslim neighbours; neither of you plan on inviting the other over to talk. We pretend as though everything I just mentioned is acceptable, but it is not. bigotry is never acceptable. Once again I implore you, do better.