In George Lamming’s debut novel – In the Castle of My Skin (1953), this famous Bajan son of the soil describe the psychic scars of racism in direct and powerful terms. In The Castle of My Skin he wrote, “No Black boy wanted to be white, but it was also true that no Black boy liked the idea of being Black. Brown skin was a satisfactory compromise, and Brown skin meant a mixture of white and Black… There was a famous family on the island which could boast of the prettiest daughters. Their father was an old Scottish planter who had lived from time to time with some of the labourers on the sugar estate. The daughters were ravishing, and one was known throughout the island as the crystal sugar cake.”
Grantley Adams, a British educated lawyer – who later rose to political prominence as the first Black Prime Minister of Barbados – had an English wife. ‘At that time’ Neville recalled, she was a member of the Aquatic Club in Bay Street and Grantley was not a member, he was a Black man, he wasn’t a member, but she… had that privilege as a white woman to be a member of the Aquatic. And Grantley would carry her to the Aquatic Club, drop her there and turnaround and come back down the road [laughs]. Tell me when you’re ready and I’ll come back and pick you up when you ready to go… He dropped her there. That is your thing. You belong to that club. I’ll put you there, you come back when you’re ready to come, call me and I’ll come back and pick you up.’
It is now 177 years since the Wilberforce Abolition Act of 1833; 147 years since the American Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the 44th years of Barbados’ Independence from British rule and sovereignty since 1966.
A whole new generation has grown up across the geographical, geopolitical divide where overt acts of racism are outlawed and where the geo-spatial markers of segregation are now less obviously recognizable.
In Rajen Persaud’s book, ‘Why Black Men Love White Women: Going Beyond Sexual Politics to the Heart of the Matter’ is a fascinatingly funny, yet illuminating discourse on this critical issue of interracial dating and the identity politics which challenges our notions of “RACE” and it effects on the Black psyche today. We are forced to look at ourselves and our cultural intonations pondering matters of how celebrities from Michael Jordan to Bryant Gumbel to Tiger Woods – high-profile interracial affairs and marriages with no shortage of theatre, intrigue and controversy has played upon us as men. We must ask: Are Black men choosing white women – or rejecting Black women because of SEX? Does the issue of “Race” affect how white male insecurity is the key and at the heart of our understanding of structural as well as institutional racism? Is it more than love that brings interracial couples together? How is fear used to gain power, from sexual politics to global war? And finally, how movies and television keep Black men running to white women through the cultural machinations of the media?
Susan Crain Bakos in a NYPress article – ‘A White Woman Explains Why She Prefers Black Men’… begs the question: “How many white men can treat a woman like a lady and ravish her” all at the same time? She forcefully opines, “Black skin is thick and lush, sensuous to the touch, like satin and velvet made flesh. There’s only one patch of skin on a white man’s body that remotely compares to nearly every inch of a Black man’s skin. The first time I caressed Black skin, it felt like a luxury I shouldn’t be able to afford. I craved it more strongly than Carrie Bradshaw craved Manolo Blahnik shoes. That phrase, “Once you go Black, you never go back” is all about the feeling of the skin.”
She further contends that “I want Black men. They want me. We look at one another and exchange a visible frisson of sexual energy in the lingering glances. And our attraction is based first on race… that deliberate seeking of the specific other makes some people, especially Black women, damned mad… We are what they denigrate and castigate: white women and Black men who choose one another because of our racial differences. They resent our taking their men. Black men are two and a half times more likely to marry a white woman than a Black woman is to marry a white man. Black women can point to that statistic in justifying their wrath. But in truth, Black sisters, we’re after the sex, not the ring and these guys aren’t the marrying kind anyway. Yes, the sex!” Continue reading
In a recent 5-to-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected race-based employment practices. In Ricci v. DeStefano, all Americans are put on equal footing regardless of race. But some don’t like this situation.
The Ricci case revolves around a 2003 exam that was given to firefighters seeking promotion in New Haven, Connecticut. After the tests were scored, only two Hispanics and no blacks scored high enough to qualify for promotion. After black and Hispanic activists pushed to have the test results thrown out, the city’s Civil Service Commission effectively did so by deadlocking 2-2 on the decision to certify the exam. As a result, no firefighter received a promotion.
Because the exam results were set aside by the city for no other reason but race, 20 New Haven firefighters, one Hispanic and 19 white, sued based on the claim of reverse discrimination. The city was granted summary judgment at the district court level, and a panel of judges that included current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, sided with the lower court. An eight-sentence opinion called the previous ruling allowing the city to throw out the test scores based on racial grounds “thorough, thoughtful and well-reasoned.”
After all of the significant strides that have been made for equal opportunity over the years, one would think that winners and losers today would no longer be decided based on skin color. For a good portion of the 20th century, blacks were denied equal rights when it came to housing, education, employment opportunities and access to business and school admissions. Government mandates were rightly implemented at the time to rectify these inequalities.
But America changed.
From the White House to the worlds of sports, entertainment and corporate America, most blacks have moved on and are taking advantage of opportunities and leading successful, productive lives. Times and attitudes are now different. The petty racism of the past truly is a thing of the past. Fortunately, the Court’s ruling on the Ricci case won’t allow the clock to continually be turned backward. But based on comments made by the nominee, Sonya Sotomayor could reinvigorate racial preferences. This disturbing possibility puts change at a crossroads.
In light of the Court’s ruling in the Ricci case, Sotomayor’s opinions should be closely scrutinized to determine her judicial philosophy. Sotomayor sided with preferential treatment instead of equal opportunity in the Ricci case, yet, decisions based on race and not the law have no place in today’s society.
Preferential treatment based on skin color, race, ethnicity, sex or national origin is immoral, and such characteristics should not claim superiority above the law. Special treatment for one group of individuals at the expense of another is discriminatory for all and further incites feelings of resentment and racism. To deny individuals an opportunity because of skin color, no matter how good the intentions are, is just plain wrong and is not a belief held by most Americans.
One can only hope the Court’s ruling in Ricci, against race-based employment practices, will play a significant role in changing the hearts and minds of those who still believe preferential treatment is necessary.
As for Sotomayor, it is the duty of senators to ensure this progress is not negated by a nominee out of the mainstream.