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A COMPARISON OF SOME CONDITIONS IN
JAMAICA WITH THOSE IN THE
UNITED STATES

By Charles K. Needham

The present writer, a native of Kentucky and born in 1848, can look back upon the conditions of slavery as they once existed. His business life as a civil engineer has been passed in his own state, in Tennessee, Georgia and all the Gulf States east of the Mississippi River; he is therefore somewhat familiar with the present social condition of the descendants of former slaves. During the past three winters he has spent a portion of his time in the West Indies and on the Isthmus of Panama; his second winter in Jamaica terminated in March, 1913.

*If any one interested in Jamaica will turn to an index of periodical literature he will find a variety of articles mentioned, some of which relate to its scenery and others to its social life. On reading farther under this latter class he will notice that nearly all the writers say directly or by implication that English methods of government, as applied in Jamaica, have been more successful in managing the colored people than American methods in the southern part of the United States. It is not the purpose of this article to deny such a statement, but rather to explain the difference as due to some other cause than hatred or opposition on the part of white men in the South. The goal toward which Jamaica seems to be tending is so different from that which lies before the southern part of the United Statesto say nothing of Jamaica's climatic and insular situationthat there is really little or nothing which could be copied by the people of the southern states to the practical advantage of the colored people around them. To make this more apparent than by a mere statement is the design of the present writer.

Let us first glance at social conditions in Jamaica as they are at present. The word "coloured" is used in Jamaica to denote the class which has a mingled racial ancestry. The pure blacks are described by that adjective, or by the words negro or dark, without connoting any idea of inferiority. Hence the word "colored" (American spelling) loses its significance when transferred to Jamaica. But in time some other word must be introduced, because the Chinese and the East India coolies have progeny in the British West Indies, and they can justly claim from etymology the word coloured as applicable to them.

Democracy has never found a lodgment in Jamaica, nor is there any probability that it will ever be acceptable. The inhabitants are divided into three classes which are comparable, except as to numbers, to the three classes existing in England. The pure whites correspond to the aristocracy; the "coloured" (the English spelling is used purposely) are in a social sense relatively like the English middle class; the darks or blacks-meaning those who have no evidence of white ancestry-are the laboring or peasant class. These three mingle freely in many of the affairs of life, but in certain other matters there is a distinction well recognized by an individual when coming in contact with one who is his social superior. Any American who has resided in England can hardly fail to observe the similarity if he goes about in Jamaica. And this result is natural when we consider the close ties with which Jamaica has been bound to the mother country. The white men have ever been loyal, even going so far as to spurn at times any commercial connection with the United States, and their children-whether the mothers have been of Saxon or African ancestry-have been taught to "honour the King" and to accept without question the teaching of the catechism "to order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters." As an evidence that much of this latter precept has found lodgment in their minds, the American tourist notices not only a difference of dialect among the "coloured" people when compared with American English, but also a respectful manner in language and in behavior which is free of

obsequiousness. At first intercourse, the Jamaican can not tell from the pronunciation of the tourist whether he is from Canada or the United States; when, later, the intelligent coloured persons learn that a tourist from former slave states can adapt himself to various Jamaicans and give no offense, they are led to raise doubts concerning many reports of bad feeling in the United States toward any one with African blood.

No American tourist can have much intercourse with the great majority of the blacks, because they speak a dialect wholly unintelligible. Of course there is no connection between the color of the skin and the sort of spoken language. The foundation of the difference between the coloured or middle class and the blacks below them is in the fact that the former have been helped by their fathers or grandfathers to get some degree of education, and that in their early home surroundings they have listened to better language than the full blacks. Furthermore, many of them have inherited property and show an ability to add to it. In every part of the world the rule holds good that for racial development a certain degree of financial sense is requisite. As early as in 1734 it was not uncommon for English planters to set free their own offspring, and a considerable amount of property was often left to them; and as this was kept ofttimes with all the tenacity which English people manifest for landed estates, it can be readily understood that many of their present-day descendants are at least in comfortable circumstances.

The similarity of the coloured people of Jamaica to the middle class of England is also noticed now and then in an individual case when a person falls below or rises above the class into which he is born. A man whose natural color is on the border line between the coloured and the dark may marry a full black woman, and find all his future intimate friends among those who are the equal of his wife; nearly all of his children will be darker in color than their father, and later descendants will probably intermarry in the lower class. On the other hand, an intelligent and well featured young woman, who would be classed in Louisiana

as an octoroon, may marry some unattached young Englishman who has come to Jamaica and finds the business prospects of the country satisfactory. If the young woman also has money by inheritance in cash, houses or lands, the young man's choice in selecting his bride is well understood by his associates, and his wife is received by white ladies according to the social qualities which she actually possesses, and not by the color of her skin. Yet it does not follow that the children of such a union will remain in the class to which their father belongs by birth. As every observer of racial mixture knows, there is a strong atavistic potency in the negro race which is extremely hard to eradicate. There are many comely young women with oneeighth or less of African blood who show nothing in hair or face of their tropical origin, but in their children—even with a white father-the nose, the lips or the hair may have the peculiar form that we associate with a native of Senegambia. When such a child appears in the Jamaican upper class-let the skin be ever so irreproachable in color -that individual is almost doomed to step down when he or she settles under a roof separate from the parents. Of course all such obstacles are sometimes counterbalanced when an abundant dowry is provided; but we are now considering only general rules.

The tendency of the coloured people to mingle with the class below is far more active than the opportunity to rise into the class above. On this point nothing is better than a quotation from de Lisser.1

There is a considerable element of the Jamaica population which is known as "sambo," an element with about one-fourth of white blood; this Caucasian or Semitic mixture shows itself plainly in their colour or their features, and they should, strictly speaking, be classed as "coloured." But very few members of this section of the people have so classified themselves in the census. I instituted an inquiry which embraced a very large number of persons, immediately after the census was published. I found that almost every person I could reach, who had at least one-fourth of white blood in his or her veins, had been set down in the census as

1 de Lisser, H. G., Twentieth Century Jamaica, page 44. The Jamaica Times, Ltd., Kingston, 1913.

black, the term coloured having by custom come to be applied to persons of a distinctly brown or clear complexion.

The fact is interesting. For it shows that the number of mixedblood people in the colony is larger than the census states, very much larger; it shows that race mixture has been going on more extensively than many students have believed.

The probabilities are that a large proportion of the people are still pure-blooded. But I should not hesitate to say that at least three hundred thousand, or over one-third, of the present population are of mixed blood, however slightly; and if any one should now assert that the proportion is greater, I should not be inclined to contradict him. The old theory was that the coloured section of the West Indies could not reproduce its kind except by mating with pure white or pure black. That theory (never accepted by any scientist of repute) has now gone by the board. But the coloured people of Jamaica have not only increased by intermarriage among themselves, but by intermarriage among the whites and the blacks, and also by the intermarriage of the whites and the blacks. The inevitable result has been their rapid multiplication; they are increasing faster than any other element of the population. Will they continue to do so? That the vast majority of the people will always be dark is indisputable; there are economic as well as other reasons for this. But that they will always be pure-blooded is an assertion open to some question. The time may come when, in the towns, there will be hardly one person of pure African descent.

To put the case somewhat mathematically, we may take figures from the census of April, 1911, when the total inhabitants were as follows:

X

White....

Coloured.

Black.

East Indians.

Chinese..

Not specified.

15,605

163,201

630,181

17,380

2,111

2,905

THE JOURNAL OF RACE DEVELOPMENT, VOL. 4, NO. 2, 1913

831,383

100.00

Accepting all that Mr. de Lisser says in respect to the blending of the coloured into the blacks, there is also reason to believe that the census enumerators put down as white quite a number who had a small proportion of African blood. This is unavoidable in a country where so many Europeans become "tanned" from exposure to the sun. A phrase is current in Jamaica, "white by law," which is the outgrowth of legislation some years ago, when the house of assembly

per cent 1.88 19.63

75.80

2.09

0.25

0.35

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