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Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Dual standards. Why do black people seem to get worse treatment?

We've noticed, meaning that it has happened several times since arriving in Barbados, that in many establishments black Barbadian service workers have two standards. One, with politeness and general good courtesy, is displayed for white customers. The other, often sour-faced and indifferent at best, and downright rude at worst, seems to displayed to black customers. This treatment of black customers seems to be worse when they speak with a non-Bajan accent. This is really puzzling, especially if you hail from another English-speaking Caribbean country. I've never seen or experienced the same thing in Jamaica or Guyana; and I cannot speak for other islands.

Does this behaviour reflect a lack of training? Is there some "natural" deferrence, which is shown to white customers, in the belief that they have some special place? Or could it be associated with some assumptions about power, or wealth and ability to spend? I wish I knew. What I do know is that it's not going to pass without comment.

All of the discussion about white people's racism towards blacks often skates over or ignores totally the fact that black people get treated very badly by other black people! Some have tried to trace this back to colonialism and the different roles assigned to "house" and "field" slaves, and how that set black workers against each other under the plantation system. Discussions about reparation need to take account of how to make some serious repairs in how relations between black peoples develop.

4 comments:

Trinifem said...

Funny,
I started reading this post shaking my head in agreegment. I have been to Barbados several times in the last few years, and while I am a born Trinidadian, I grew up in the US, and speak with a very clear American accent.I am black.
While the service workers were never rude to my face they clearly what I call "suck up to the white people" way more. I am usually extremely polite and try not to let this affect me, but on my last trip with my husband I had to tell off a security guard who behaved like I was a thief while lying at the pool reading on an off day.
Let me tell you, I was outraged, to see this happeing, he apologized when I told him I could have him fired, once I get back to Washington DC.
We now live in JA and it's not so bad here, as once they know you are "farrin" as they call outsiders you get farrin treatment. Which is great for whites and good for others, but many then treat non- light skins blacks horribly."res ahh them service is what my husband and I call it"
All, I have concluded is our black folks have been terribly brian washed to think, white is best and this hurts me terrbily and is a shocker indeed. Life was not like this for me in Washingston DC, or NY so I am amazed.
I am way curious to know what Greneda and Guayna is like.Keep writing.

Cheers
Dale

ColetteC said...

Sad but true. Other 'low islanders' are seen as inferior and treated accordingly. Black Americans-well, you're still black, right? I don't have to be polite to you!!
It does I think go back to the whole slave/slaveowner dynamic which has been transplanted to the present as we have massive amounts of white tourists and Bajans.

Anonymous said...

Thought you would find this post from Mad Bull's Blog interesting. In light of her experience, looks like you're not doing too badly. Wadda ya think?
http://www.madbull4.net/wordpress/index.php/2007/05/23/a-terrible-story/#comments

Trinichica said...

Don't despair. I am a white trinidadian, with a very trinidadian accent. My experience is the same as yours. The brits get all the good service, maybe if my mouth stayed shut so would I!