The effects of slavery

I am sitting here reading Inside Babylon by Winston James and Clive Harris as extra information on black peoples lives and experiences in Britain. The particular section that I’m reading from is the chapter Migration, racism and identity formation: The Caribbean experience in Britain. This section is about the West Indian migration to Britain and what their lives and experience were like.

The author started off first by talking about slavery, as the effects from slavery (within black identity) is one of the things that still evident in black people today.
Some points that I found interesting which doesn’t necessarily have to do with my art work but is still important is the effects of colonisation.
A short passage which was originally quoted by Walter Rodney in 1968 stated:

West Indians of every colour still aspire to European standards of dress and beauty. The language which is used by black people in describing ourselves shows how we despise our African appearance. ‘Good hair’ means European hair, ‘good nose’ means a straight nose, ‘good complexion’ means a light complexion. Everybody recognizes how incongruous and ridiculous such terms are, but we continue to use them and express our support of the assumption that white Europeans have a monopoly of beauty, and that black is the incarnation of ugliness. This is why Black Power advocates find it necessary to assert that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL.


This extract spoken in 1968 still reflects the Caribbean mentally today. I remember at school the non-white girls who had the long hair and the lighter skin, were told they were beautiful, by the black girls who wished that they too could resemble them. These girls were also put on a higher pedestal to any of the black girls.
This particular mentality stems from slavery where the white slave owner would treat each slave differently due to the shade of the skin. As Winston James said; 

“…a complex hierarchy of human shades, what one prominent Caribbeanist has aptly called a ‘multilayered pigmentocracy’,…evolved wherein those who approximated most closely to the European type (in terms of hair texture, skin colour, facial characteristics, etc.) were accorded high status…and those deemed to have been without, or with few such characteristics, were likewise relegated to the bottom of the social hierarchy. Thus the ‘coloureds’ (the so-called ‘mulattoes’) -offspring of the union of Europeans (almost invariably men) and African (almost invariably women) – were regarded as congenitally superior to ‘pure Africans’ and moreover, were treated as such.”


It is sad to say that it is clear that the effects of slavery are still with us today.
I can’t wait to read on further to find out and understand more on this situation.

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