Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Is Peter Espeut light black or high-brown?

Published:Wednesday | September 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I almost died with laughter when I read Peter Espeut's description of the unfortunate child at the centre of the hair controversy as a "beautiful, high-brown little boy". The term 'high-brown' sounded so dated, as if it came from the Jamaica of the 1940s when a different mentality prevailed. The word 'high-brown' is not in my vocabulary, nor is it, I believe, present in the vocabulary of most modern-day Jamaicans.

The term is an ugly, atavistic and vulgar anachronism that emanates from a time when Jamaicans of mixed European and African heritage, reluctant to describe themselves as light-skinned Africans, settled on the term 'high-brown', while secretly thinking of themselves as dark-skinned whites.

As I discovered from working with a mixed-race female in an office in a professional setting, people of this racial mix in Jamaica regard themselves as a race unto themselves, superior to 'pure' Africans like myself.

These people, seeing themselves as dark-skinned whites, suffer enormously when they have to deal with 'pure' Europeans, whom they know regard them as non-white, as 'other'. Hence, they usually have a very difficult time in the US or in Europe where they are not regarded as white and are treated accordingly.

Mr Espeut, there is no campaign, and I feel a little ridiculous trying to persuade you of the obvious - I saw the child's hair in the photograph and his hair was kinky. It was not straight, it had kinks, it did not lie flat like European or Indian hair. If this was not kinky hair, Mr Espeut, what was it?

Mr Espeut does not regard this child as black. If this child was not black/African, what was the child? Mulatto? Or quadroon or whatever other racist term the English had for describing people based on the amount of European blood they appeared to have?

Mr Espeut, do you regard yourself as a light-skinned black, or do you really identify yourself as high-brown?