Of “Negrocrats”, “Oreos”, “Iggas” and Other Racial Slurs in Barbados

Since we started mentioning racial issues at Barbados Free Press, we have received more than a few letters and comments from Bajans and others urging us to continue the dialogue – which (they say) is missing in the mainstream Barbados media.

In response to our “Blogs Discuss Barbados Holetown Festival, Racism and Cabinet Shuffles”, where we published a piece by Stella lamenting some racial difficulties, we received this post from a reader…

WELCOME TO THE DEEP SOUTH CIRCA 1950’s

One reader has been candid enough to acknowledge and speak of the racism in Barbados. This racism permeates every part of this society. We see it where politicians are afraid to be seen with too many whites or Indians. We see it where major politicians milk their color sensitivities on a daily basis calling each other such things as

“negrocrats”.

These are our leaders???— At the same time we see our leaders scrounging for perceived power and their turn at the trough while their actions are dividing our society and impoverishing Barbadians economically, spiritually and morally. Congratulations for revealing the ugly truth.

There can be no healing by hiding

Prime Minister Owen Arthur Uses The Word “Negrocrat” – And Disgraces Barbados on the World Stage.

On Sunday, February 26, 2006, the Prime Minister once again called someone a “Negrocrat” – this time when attacking Harold Hoyte, the editor of Nation News…

“Week by week, he would say the worst kinds of things about me and other persons,” Arthur said of the President and Editor-in-Chief of the Nation Publishing Company Ltd.

“He picks upon certain people in Barbados politics, because that is the nature of the negrocrat; there are some people who feel they’re better off than people like ourselves and a man like me, in their mind, has no legitimate right to lead this country because I ain’t come from nowhere.”

Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur

This from the Prime Minister of our nation!

But it is not just the PM and his political party who use racial terms to call others down. Opposition members have been guilty as well, and words such as “Oreos” (black on the outside – white on the inside) and “Iggas” have been heard to come from the mouths of our elected representatives.

Do these Bajans not realize how this looks to rest of the world? Do they not realize how hurtful and self-destructive this is for Barbados?

The Old Ways

My own grandfather was, in the vast majority of his ways, a good man – and I am sure that God loved him and loves him still in Heaven. But he was of the old ways, and he could not change. When I would walk a certain girl home from school, he would chide me that she was “too dark”.

For my grandfather, the ideal wife would always have lighter skin so the next generation could be lighter still.

I am sorry if the truth of my story of the old way hurts some people inside, but we must all simply be Bajans. It is time for us to lose the old ways, and it is shameful to hear our leaders throwing racial barbs at each other.

Is there not a Leader who will be colour blind and forever say, “We are all Bajan”?

29 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, Politics & Corruption

29 responses to “Of “Negrocrats”, “Oreos”, “Iggas” and Other Racial Slurs in Barbados

  1. John

    Remember when the PM called a journalist, Terry Ally, at the same Nation News an Indentured Servant in Parlaiment?

    The slur on Harold Hoyte is par for the course!!… Come to think of it, so are the abusive telephone calls to citizens.

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  3. ADRIAN

    Each time a word is used, its meaning is fixed in that instance, and it is the user who has fixed that meaning. The hearer is not free to put his own meaning on it. Rather, he must gather what the user meant by it.
    For example, when Jesus used the word ‘temple’ in one instance, people were wrong to put a meaning upon that word which Jesus had not intended. He meant the temple of his body, not the grand place of worship in Jerusalem (Jhn 2:19-22 Mtt 26:59-61 Mtt 27:39-40).
    When we interpret the Bible we must strive to gather what the user meant by what he said, and not put our own interpretation on the words thus to misunderstand and misrepresent them.

    ….The most recent BLP column gave us an idea of what Owen Arthur could have ment, but even this column does not statify the requirement set out above, and we must continue to call on the PM for his definition. An unconventional word such and this requires more than others that we seek the implied meaning from the person who uttered it.

    I Personaly do not have a problem with it’s use, or with the interpretation suggested by the BLP column. Certainly to my mind what i inferred by the PM use of it, in particular his use of it to define Harold Hoyte I think is justified. Negrocrats,Talented 10th,Black elites, Black leadership in the US, I see a correlation between some members these groups and the PM’s decription of the Harold Hoytes of Barbados.

  4. Island Girl

    To bring race into it at all lowers the bar of any argument. The whites of USA and UK hear the word “negro” as part of a slur, so that is what it is… blacks calling blacks by degrogatory terms.

    Remember this… it doesn’t matter at all what a person intends by their communication, the only thing that matters is what the listener THINKS it means.

    And all of those in USA and UK hear is blacks using racial slurs against each other.

    This must stop.

  5. ADRIAN

    [Remember this… it doesn’t matter at all what a person intends by their communication, the only thing that matters is what the listener THINKS it means.]

    Island girls, is this really true?

  6. Island Girl

    It is true that it doan matter what you mean if every body think it mean something different. we should not be calling each other race based names. never do we hear some white calling some white a “whitey” or race based name. Never. but blacks do it all the time. it lowers us all.

  7. Henderson Ward

    It is time to move on from this sterile argument. Harold Hoyte and the PM are good buddies and will continue to be so. The PM will at times give a dig to individuals whom he sees as opponents but this is harmless politicking and means very little. Harold Hoyte is supremely able to defend himself so let him do so.

  8. BFP

    Henderson Ward said, “Harold Hoyte is supremely able to defend himself so let him do so.”

    Thank you for dropping by, Mr. Ward. Our point is not to defend Mr. Hoyte as he is, as you so correctly mention, more than capable of defending himself.

    Our point is that the use of a derogatory racial term by the Prime Minister of Barbados is unsuitable on the world stage. Mr. Owen Arthur might as well have used the term “Jungle Monkey” or the “N” word as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

    If Mr. Arthur cannot see that, perhaps he should consider retiring to a country where he keeps his offshore bank accounts.

  9. Adrian

    ….Lets discuss this so called “Embarrassment on the World stage” Who sets the criteria for this definition? Is there a committee of sorts who controls some kind of embarrassment quotient? This seems to be the premise for your opposition to the use of the word. I can make the case that the activities of the Negrocrats in Barbados are not isolated or peculiar to our society, but that these activities can be found amongst many of the world’s socialist democrats. Indeed the activities of several so called prominent Black Americans in particular their Anti-Bush rhetoric makes the comments of PM Arthur look like and exchange of Victorian civil pleasantries, and they made these comments, on the world stage, and where carried in the international news media with a high level of glee and gloat. So I think this “International embarrassment” concern needs to be scrutinized.

  10. Adrian

    Island-girl. It does matter in interpretation of laws, contracts, the ways of society, etc that they be a common understanding of things. Your way will lead to anarchy, or in the least confusion, and stalemate on many simple endeavors. Case in point is any number of issues facing Barbadians, whether it is the Louis Lynch saga, the DLP leadership crisis, the continuing impasse between management and workers at the Airport. All of these situations have at there core, individual interpretations of policies, best practices, how to deal with problems, etc. Everybody has what to there mind is the best approach and as a result very little gets done. It cannot be fair, and certainly does not get us anywhere, if we continue to interpret things our way in spite of and indifference too the stated intent of the Author. It certainly doesn’t help anyone to ignore the accuracy of the statement or label to argue the point of what it symbolizes to us.

    On the point of Whites calling themselves derogatory names, it does happened, and I can cite several instances of such.

  11. Henderson Ward

    BFP is right and we should expect better of our enlightened leaders. Language does matter and the world is looking on and ready to pounce like a hungry shark on any perceived failures on our part.

    On the situation regarding Louis Lynch Secondary School it seems to me that cool heads are required in this difficult situation. It is my view that some right is on all sides and it is not a question of two sides, one right and the other wrong.

    The solution will come when people enter the forum with a genuine spirit of compromise and not seek to grind axes or make political capital. It would be interesting if the majority of those going sick was found to be living downwind of the chemical plant in Christ Church near Lowlands.

  12. Redcrat

    Owen Arthur is a very clever strategist. Every time he is on the run from the hot issues such as Greenland, the Cabinet reshuffle, Traffic Congestion, the economy, St. Joseph Hospital, Public Servants unrest, Schools and the like, he throws out a red herring that causes the hot issues to be dropped. Why are Bajans so easily led away from the real meaningful issues? Who cares what a negrocrat is? What we should be caring about are the real issues. Forget the trivial nonsence.

  13. Well Eric “Fly” Sealy pointed us to the first Barbadian Author of the word Negrocrat. According to him Sir Conrad Reeves was the first person to utter the word. He suggested that Sir Conrad uttered the words in a proud moment by linking or liken, Aristocrats of England to being a Negrocrat of Barbados. If this is true and is compared to online comments attributed to Sir Conrad and if these comments are also true then i am of the opinion that Owen Arthur’s use of the word is not lost.

    Sir Conrad’s manner, according to general report, was that of the typical British aristocrat of his times, that is, somewhat haughty. Once in an address at Harrison College, with the white governor of the island present, he said, “Here am I on Olympus looking down on you ordinary mortals.” This attitude was even more marked in dealing with people of his own color. It is said that he refused to let his daughter marry the leading physician on the island because the latter was too dark. This daughter was later married twice to white men.

    This exerpt was taken from a google cached copy of the Marcusgarvey.com title “Great people of colour”

    http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:GynbAaW6tTcJ:www.marcusgarvey.com/wmview.php%3FArtID%3D489+sir+conrad+reeves+&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1

  14. Adrian

    There you have it Owen Arthur has defined his use of the word Negrocrat.

    It is not the “Negrocrat” that was use in America to define Blacks (negros) who joined the Democrat party.

    It is not quite the “Negrocrat” that Sir Conrad Reeves ascribe too himself. Which was an Aristocrat who happened to be Black.

    It is defined by the BEHAVIOUR of Blacks who due to their percieved accention to some higher class, inspite of whatever method, who on reaching that virtual status makes known on a sustain basis that they are better than those who it is said to be a lower class.

    ….So that problem is not achieving a higher standard of living, that is welcomed and applauded, the problem is that attitude of some of our Black achievers towards those who have not yet acheived. It is this behaviour towards their fellow Black brothers and sisters that i continue to see correlation between the Black leader leadership, the so-called talented tenth of Black america to certain elements of the Barbadian middle class. Indeed the very same concerns that W.E. Dubois had concerning the talented tenth of black Americans is the concern that Dr. Hillary Beckles had of the Barbadian middle class, in his Documentary book,”A Mutual Affair” corporate power in Barbados.

  15. BFP

    Hello Adrian

    Good to see you visiting around here again, as, while we may disagree over issues, it is a pleasure to talk with someone who really believes that society can work at things and make them better. I have stopped by Rum ‘an Lime and see your writing there. I presume you are in Barbados and not St. Lucia?

    My opinion on the PM’s use of “negrocrat” still stands… the word is not fit no matter how he defines it because it remains a race-based political slur. The PM obviously meant it as a slur no matter how much reversing and dodging he is doing now.

    Language and public standards of usage are always changing. “The Gay Divorcee” is an old Fred Astaire movie that would mean something quite different now. Sir Guy Gibson of The Dambuster Squadron had a black labrador dog named “Nigger”, and that term actually made it into the dambusters movie in the 50’s. That wouldn’t happen now for obvious reasons.

    The PM’s justification for the use of a racial slur simply means that he is old school. Everything is filtered through his race-based processing. He doesn’t think “Bajan” he thinks “What colour is this Bajan?” and associates behaviours with skin colours.

    I say that is immoral, and to those who say that race-based slurs have no impact internationally – we will just have to disagree because it is so obvious as to not even be worth arguing about.

    I am one colour. My woman is another colour. The boy is yet another colour. Robert darkens in the sun, I do not. And Edna across the street is so dark that even in the bright sun, unless you turn on a little fill-flash on the camera, you can’t even see her face in the photo.

    But no matter… We are all BAJAN.

    That the PM cannot provide colour-blind leadership shows that he truly is yesterday’s man.

  16. Thanks BFP. I am actually living in Boston. My defence of the PM’s use of that word is on principle and not partisan. Your opinion seem heavily influence by the make up of your family and the possible sensitivity such would engender by a society who may not be comfortable with it. I fail to see the racist intent in the use of the word as done in america, as attributed to Sir Conrad Reeves, and as used and define by Owen Arthur. Indeed it is part reference to a race or ethnicity and in two case as been used as a sense of indentification that no one can claim is negative, so more than the simple use of the word is needed for it to be seriously considered as racist. To do so is to cheapen the offence. The other use is to call to attention the percieved attitudes and activity of a proud Negrocrat (Sir Conrad Reeves) that were not originally the focus of the label. It is like the artisans of yore taking the name of their trade to be their own. i.e. The carpenter became known as the Mr.Carpenter, the Blacksmith, Mr Smith, etc. so that the Negrocrat proudly so as a result of his astounishing achievements became known amonst the common man by his interactions with them. How do you then factor the believe among many that the term Negrocrat is not a bad one, but something to be proud off? It certainly cannot be racist if this is the case and also if many people have not heard of it before. I think it is clever use of the word, as it demonstrates the historical personal attitudes of a Barbadian (Sir Conrad Reeves) a 100 years ago that is still with us in the Harold Hoytes of today. We cannot address the issue of crypto racism that is alleged to be plaguing Barbados if we find racist intent in the use of a descriptive word that points to the very attitudes that leads to this crypto racism. If i didn’t know better i would think that you are somehow of the opinion that we can indeed make a colour blind society with discussing and understanding the behaviours that has devided us.

    As for international condemnation, I would think that those who would want to chastize and malinged the PM, should check in their own backyard, I honestly think that something is wrong that the US state department can issue letters of concern about our policing etc. and yet there is at least one report a month within US jurisdiction of the said thing that are concerned with in Barbados, This fake outcry from them concerning the word Negrocrat will be seen for what it is when held up against the recent comments of Robert Byrd, and many others, and the NYtimes well…….

    anyhow I hope that we can agree to disagree.

    Cheers

  17. Kim

    How unfortunate that some of you believe that to be called a negro is an injustice. I am a proud negro, I listen to negroe spirituals (or is that derogatory too) and I am not only a negro but I am bi-racial. So does this mean I am not an authentic negro. My thing is this – The quuestion is not one of complexion, nor politics, nor denigrating our black brothers and sisters. Amore heightened intellectual analysis of the PM’s explanation for his term must be done. My impression is that it is an unforunate by product of the plantation society. In other words as Bob Marley said, many have not emancipated themselves from mental slavery. Basically, the PM is suggesting that despite their origins which basically are like mine and yours, in other words we “don’t come from no where”. I left the Royal Borough of West Kensington, London and came to Barbados with my parents where having left a metropolitan city, I was introduced to country life, staking out sheep and handling livestock and living in my grandmother 2 X 3 beautiful house and those are my best memories. A negrocrat has forgotten his beginnings and prefers to behave and adopt the affectations of an “aristocrat”, having eluded pvety by a generation, a UWI degree and a decent slary, some influence and perhaps wealth. His basic problem (indeed hers as well) is that he or she does not wish anyone else to succeed. It is the typical crab in a barrel problem. As if you guys didn’t know. It existed in the white community everywhere and cpould possibly be called caucasiancrat. So the problem seems to be, that the word negro offends you. That being the case, I have to ask WHY? Are you not black and proud, rich or poor or will you throw out a red herring to take te attention of yourselves (those of you who QUALIFY as negrcrats) and your insecurity about your position and station in life by hoping that is in fact you do have any influence that you can use it to destroy people of your own race?

    So another good read in my view is in today’s paper. And it is not the BLP column because they likened PM Arthur with Errol Barrow, who for all his charisma is the son of a Bishop, formerly of the BLP, born on a plantation, a pilot in the RAF, a horserider with all the affectations of the aristocrats and Patrician society. So let’s all get out history straight and not be so thin-skinned.
    I love my caramel negro skin.
    Do you?

  18. BFP

    Hi Kim

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinions.

    While I am proud to be Bajan – I am neither proud nor ashamed to be of a certain colour or race. I am a person – me.

    The days of calling each other race-based names are gone, or should be. I don’t care if people describe me “negro” or “black” or “coloured” or “brown skinned”, but when the same terms are used in a derogatory fashion – as Owen Arthur used them – the line is crossed.

    The world at large equates that kind of name calling with banana republics and people of low character. That’s really all there is to my objection. I believe that we are better than that.

  19. John

    I agree with Redcrat. Before Mr. Arthur became PM here is how his utterences were treated by a senior writer at the Nation. Perhaps he is just bearing this paper and its Editor in mind.

    Slug Line [Pg 1]

    MANGROVE POND

    Date: Sun 03-Apr-1994
    Paper Page: 9A
    Publication: sun
    Creator: pam

    Headline:
    My Budget reply

    Afterthoughts

    by Pam Girton

    I’M CONFUSED.

    There were ’nuff people who wanted to take down the Government after the Prime
    Minister held that Press conference on the back porch of Ilaro Court.

    Sandi is the most syllabically correct man on the planet, yet to hear y’all
    tell it, his vocal cords are wrapped around his carotid artery and he’s sure
    to die.

    But you talk about a heart attack dying to happen?

    Did you listen to Owen Arthur during the Budget Reply? Why does nobody have a
    word to say about a man who mumbles as if the hounds of hell are loose atop
    his tongue?

    Then he pads it out with brain-numbing repetition.

    Stuff like this: The social and economic morass, Mr. Speaker, Sir, that the
    Government of Barbados, Sir, has plunged this country into, Mr. Speaker, Sir,
    is the kind of social and economic chaos, Sir, that the social and economic
    powers that be, Mr. Speaker, Sir, must know, Sir, that in these drastic social
    and economic times, Mr. Speaker, Sir, of strained social and economic
    resources, Sir, could be, Sir, socially and economically disastrous, Mr.
    Speaker, Sir.

    I’m no political scientist, but why does anyone have to talk for
    two-and-a-half hours just because they can? And that goes for Thompson, too.
    Both of these men are bright enough to be succint. It took 26 pages of
    straight type to reprint those speeches. Al Gilkes didn’t spill that much ink
    in a two-week-tour of South Africa.

    Isn’t there some middle-ground of talk versus time that would fall between a
    sound bite and a coma-inducing soliloquy?

    And how does the Budget translate for working stiffs like you and me when
    everybody knows the first rule of politics is to say as much as you can
    without saying anything.

    Bottom line is it matters not one whit what is in the Black Box because
    whatever is in the Black Box on Budget Day is what we’re going to get.

    That makes the Opposition reply hot wind of the worst kind, geared only to
    impress by putting forward ideas that none of them has the power to
    accomplish, in hopes they might find favour in the next election, whenever
    that is.

    But it gets worse.

    Now you have the Government replying to the Opposition’s reply. This is 10 or
    12 hours of self-back-slapping and cheap shot-taking.

    And did you notice how most of the ministers spent most of their time talking
    about the portfolios they no longer hold? Witness Warwick Franklin, for
    example, on the mud and goats of St. Andrew. Isn’t he the Minister of Trade?

    Now here is my Budget Reply:

    I would get up, peer long and hard over the top of my glasses at the mountain
    of papers in Thompson’s hand, sigh audibly and tell him he wasted trees.

    I would look meaningfully at the TV camera.

    I would then introduce five of my constituents who haven’t had water in their
    homes for a month and let them explain how sickening it is to take a bath with
    a pet bottle off a truck.

    I would next introduce five people who live near MANGROVE POND Landfill and

    let them tell how they can’t develop an appetite for the wife’s cooking for
    the scent coming off that heap.

    Next would come five fully qualified, degree-holding young people who have
    done nothing in the past year but fill out applications and fret the future.

    They could be followed by over-worked, under-paid teachers, nurses and
    labourers, who could be followed by businessmen telling how tough it is to
    create jobs when bound and gagged by red tape and taxes.

    And I would only have to look at Government and say:

    “Reply to that.”

    Girton is Senior Writer of the Nation newspapers.

    +

  20. Adrian

    There is a level of dishonesty amonst some of those who would have us believe that they are truly hurt and dismayed by the use of this word. Today on Brass Tacks Sunday Ikeil Tafari joined his voice to those who are against the use of this word, but in his excitement to demonstrate agreement with a caller seek to label those Barbadians who favour English institutions and culture over that of Africa as “Uncle Toms” and no one seem to cared.

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  22. Bree B.

    All this hullabulou about a word? I am sure the term..negrocrat..was not meant to be so offensive.*Negro* in Spanish means *black* and the P.M only meant to refer to Mr Hoyte as a *black* aristocrat…or something of the kind. Anyhow, I dont think that with all the issues facing the World and the Caribbean, that we should spend so much time on this.

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  26. Rumplestilskin

    Bree B says”P.M only meant to refer to Mr Hoyte as a *black* aristocrat…or something of the kind. Anyhow, I dont think that with all the issues facing the World and the Caribbean, that we should spend so much time on this.”

    Oh YES we should. When a number of Government Ministers made disparaging racial remarks, as recently as one making slurring reference to the DLP Christ Church candidate choice then we MUST stand against racism, which is what is it.

    Or as you say, just a word? So, you have no problem with the German soldiers being told by their superiors to ‘think blacks and shoot’ (Google it) and the LA Clippers owner ‘Sterling had told members of his staff that he did not like to rent to Latinos or African Americans because “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” and “black tenants smell and attract vermin’

    Oh, those are just words to you, no?

    Just words?

    This issue cannot be ignored. Racist remarks and action from anglo saxon, african, east indian, chinese, japanese, whatever cannot and never should be accepted.

    Too many people have suffered as a result.

    It also does not excuse that various racial groups who have suffered in the distant past to take that out on others now in their own form of racist behaviour, what’s done is over, propagating racism bears no good fruit.

  27. Rumplestilskin

    Finally, I believe that BFP has correctly made the point that the intent was exhibited by the particular context in each case in which these words have been used.

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