Sunday 31 May, 2020

Reflections on race from a 20-something Caymanian who is not "white"

The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous. This is the second of a series on race in Cayman.

The first time I ‘encountered’ race, I was seven years old.

An older gentleman whom I had frequent contact with showed a strong distaste towards dark-skinned people, but could offer no real explanation for it.

There was no traumatic event or back-story; there was no abusive flashback or clenched fist childhood memory.

But my mother taught me differently.

She told me of the days when she would travel overseas to the States… it was around the 70s. When heading over to her friend’s house, who was dark-skinned, she was told by the friend's husband not to enter the house because she was “white”.

My mother told me about travelling around the Caribbean where women of brown and dark brown shades would look at her and say she couldn’t be a “white” woman because she had a “big bottom”.

My mother was humbled by others’ struggles and empowered by others’ achievements - she taught me to treat everyone equally, and to expect the same.

But my mother is not “white”.  

And I, who am light-skinned, am not “white” either.

Growing up in Cayman, I had cousins and family members of every shade and of various nationalities. Going to high school, I met and became friends with people of all shades and of all nationalities too. I had teachers from as far as Canada and the United Kingdom, and as close as Jamaica and the United States.

When I attended tertiary education locally, I was met by a professor who took race very seriously. He would dress in African-styled clothing because he was proud of where his ancestors came from.

He asked our class about slavery in Cayman and if we thought Cayman used to be a “slave society” or “a society with slaves”.

Most of us chose the latter, but he pushed that the former was actually true. It was a little overwhelming, as I couldn’t fathom slavery existing in our beautiful country just a few generations prior.

What I can say about the Cayman I grew up in is that I learned to not judge someone by the colour of their skin.

Perhaps the Cayman that my parents and their parents would have grown up in would have been different.

Today, as I pursue my studies abroad, I look forward to working towards a future society where the basis of our judgment is founded upon a person’s character— and their character only.

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: