Wednesday, April 24, 2024

WILD COOT: Confused?


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I was moved by a problem presented to one of the counsellors whose contributions mirror closely what is happening in Barbados today, namely Dear Christine and Dear John. I never miss a chance to peruse their involvement and to learn. I do not know Dear Christine, but I have a fair idea who Dear John is.

Friday, August 29, 2014, Dear John was brought abruptly to a stop with a problem that characterises a dilemma that faces Barbadians on a daily basis, and perhaps has stopped the island from moving forward as a unit, despite “the idea of Barbados”.

What is the station of a black, white or mixed racial person in the eyes of Barbadians? I agree with the advice given by Dear John. The father of the lady inquiring obviously has a deep-seated problem with his identity, a problem that particularly characterises many people of mixed race. There is a feeling that the fairer a person in complexion, the higher he/she is considered on the pedestal of social acceptance (obvious exceptions not considered).

This confusion is most likely a leftover from the days of slavery when the mixing of the races in Barbados began. First it was thought in some oblique way that the closer one was in colour to the ones who held the reins of power, the higher up the ladder one was in the pecking order.

This was so even though the whites were slaves as well as the blacks. That situation where whites and blacks were enslaved changed quickly for economic reasons and as manumission obfuscated one’s station.

However, it left those who were mixed and looking white with some serious problems, whether to side with the whites and vie for social acceptance or to side with the blacks and face suspicion for being part of the former oppressors. (Anyone reading C.L.R. James’ The Black Jacobins would appreciate.)

To be honest, the Wild Coot, a black man, harboured most of the black Bajan prejudices growing up. White boys were viewed with suspicion at school and one always tended to associate the very fair or mixed in complexion with the white boys whose behaviour they seemed to mimic.

However, after leaving Barbados and spending nearly a lifetime in various countries with peoples of different races and colours, I have been able to appreciate that the colour of one’s skin has nothing to do with the potential and character of the person.

The advice given by Dear John, though based on an obscure source, is sound. People should not be influenced today by prejudices that predate a modern, cohesive society – to which we aspire. I am afraid that the concept of being nearer to the white as superior still persists in Barbados and is constantly stoked by foreign invasions especially American.

Not only is it practised by all and sundry – blacks, whites and mixed – but it is even evident in our celebrations. It is evident in our politics, in our socialisation, in our workforce and in our economy. It is a cancer that is worse than the non-communicable diseases that stalk the island.

In the article by Dear John, it was a breath of fresh air to see someone willing to break the mould. Funny enough it was a female. That gender is often more open to change than the male gender when it comes to the acceptance of a person of different colour, race, social standing, religion, country or background.

Probably the male species is still pining over the loss of a rib. Perhaps a more enlightened view is that view closer to our origin; it may have been that the early hermaphrodites (snails) were basically female but capable of impregnating themselves and producing both male and female.

The term miscegenation is becoming obsolete in an increasing number of societies as people look beyond the mixing aspect. The outstanding performances of the various end products (children) exemplify what Shakespeare referred to as “what nature hath in him closed”. That is what one should be looking for and that in what the females among us are most adept at discerning.

Recently in West Midlands Safari Park a female anaconda gave virgin birth to three young females. This shows that the female of the human species may still have that latent capacity and opens the debate so significant in the good book – immaculate conception. It is something that my friend Ralph Boyce may wish to think about as an alternative to DNA.

Harry Russell is a banker. Email



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