Saturday, March 31, 2012

Race and Barbados and Japan

I posted about race in Barbados last year, but since it's relevant, I thought I would do a quick post on race in the 2 countries I've lived most of my life.

From some of the comments early in the week, and from the comments of Americans on the racially-related articles that triggered my posts, many people forget or don't know that there are places outside Africa where blacks are not a minority.


From 2000 census

black 93%
white 3.2%
mixed 2.6%
East Indian 1%
other 0.2%

I hear horror stories of being black in the US and other countries and I consider myself lucky. I've never had a white Prime Minister. Or a white Member of Parliament. I didn't have a white teacher until university. I had one white friend in school. In my entire life, I've probably had 5 white Barbadian friends. And, as far as I know, Rihanna is the richest Barbadian. And she's black.

Barbados is not perfect, and it's not free from discrimination. But I can't say I've ever experienced any racial discrimination. I never had to worry I didn't get a job because I was black. My teachers couldn't dislike me because I was black. I've never had anyone cross the street because I was black. Or clutch their purse. Or automatically assign any set of traits to me. Not even during my 2 years in the US, since I spent all my time in a US Coast Guard uniform, and that tends to overshadow all other considerations.


Being black here is completely different from being black anywhere else. Once again, I face no discrimination on account of being black. There are a million and one ways that Japan discriminates against foreigners in general. Living in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere though, I sometimes have to deal with Japan's silly discriminatory laws, but I never have to deal with personal discrimination.

Being black makes you the "cool" foreigner. My predecessor was a black guy, but in my town and the surrounding area, I'm often the first black female people have ever met. Everybody wants to talk to me (albeit for one line of conversation before they run away, too shy to continue). Everybody wants to touch my hair. Everybody wants to know where I come from, and if I know Bolt (Usain). I pretty much got adopted into the reggae crew I roll with, just because I'm black.


So, while this week's posts have been in response to stories of racism or racial stereotyping in the US, I write from a very different place than I imagine most American bloggers would write from. I'm proud of being black, and the vast and wonderful heritage that includes. Not to mention the wealth of hairstyling options. lol. But my black experience has been very different.

A part of me identifies with the downtrodden black person. I'm black, and I can imagine how it must feel for that to mean inferiority - in the way people treat you, in the services you have access to, in the life you're allowed to lead. And even though I'm in an insanely small majority in Japan, it's a (mostly) beloved majority. In Barbados, I'm a majority. So while I'm not white (well, 1/16, but who's counting?),  I also write from the same position as a white person writing on race. I write from the position of priviledge.

1 comment:

Megan said...

This...I've always wondered what this would be mother has said many times that since she grew up in a city where she didn't have to deal with Whites as much (in the US), she didn't pick up on a lot of the anger that's common here. (Somewhat off topci, but I actually just read about a study that says Black children are more racially open than Whites until age 13, when racial exposure and experiences thenbegin to jade them.)

I've been reading so much about the racial issues here in the US, and Brazil, that I almost forgot that countries like Barbados exist. I'm thankful though, to have been to the Bahamas a few times in my life and seen at least a glimpse of life in places where Blacks are in the majority.

Stories like yours should be told more.