“They divided the offspring of white and black and intermediate shades into 128 divisions. The true Mulatto was the child of the pure black and the pure white. The child of the white and a Mulatto woman was a quarteron with 96 parts white and 32 parts black. But the quarteron could be produced by the white and the marabou in the proportion of 88 to 40, or by the white and the sacatra, in the proportion of 72 to 56, and so on all through the 128 varieties. But the sang-mele with 127 white parts and l black part was still a man of colour.”
– pg. 38, THE BLACK JACOBINS, by C. L. R. James, second edition, revised, copyright 1963 by Random House, Inc.
The British, always more diplomatic than the Americans, created a buffer class in the Caribbean between the slave owning whites and the enslaved blacks. (Such a class also existed in Haiti, as described above in THE BLACK JACOBINS, and the rest of the French Caribbean.) This buffer class was called the mulatto class, although, strictly speaking, “mulatto” refers to the child of a white man and a black woman. (During slavery, there was no such thing as the child of a black man and a white woman.) Over a period of time, “mulatto” began to refer to any type of mixed race person, no matter what the “fractions” and “percentages.”
The United States, however, enacted a law that declared any person who had African blood, even if the African percentage was as tiny as one/thirty second of the individual’s bloodstream, to be a “Negro.” This law effectively eliminated the buffer or mulatto class in the United States, although there are places in the South of the United States where you can find groups of “high yellows” who are not accepted as white, but essentially refuse to consider themselves as black.
We say that the British “created” the buffer class, but actually what we mean is that the British allowed such a class to emerge. The British did not, as the Americans did, enact legislation to force an individual to be just white or black, and as a result, a brown, buffer class of mixed ancestry emerged in British Honduras, which is now Belize.
The question of race identity is a delicate, complicated issue in a place like Belize, and there are many different perspectives on same. We can say that the British approach deceived and divided so-called people of color in Belize, whereas the American hard line tack forced blacks of all hues to see themselves as one in the face of Jim Crow practices, segregation and other racial injustices.
In British Honduras, there were many and substantial socio-economic incentives for browns to aspire to whiteness, in a psychological sense and otherwise, and to reject any hint or manifestation of African ancestry. Over generations, a pathology developed among Belizean people to the extent that even visibly black citizens vehemently denied that they were Africans or had any African antecedents or connections.
In British Honduras, as all over the Western Hemisphere, black people had been the victims of lies which had been prepared and proferred by the European colonial masters – white savages who invaded Africa and America five hundred yeas ago and used the name of Jesus Christ to rape, plunder and murder Africans and indigenous Americans.
Because of the massive power over Africans and indigenous Americans which the Europeans obtained by force of arms, they had absolute control over the so-called educational system and proceeded to teach succeeding generations of Africans and indigenous Americans that the process of genocide the Europeans began five centuries ago, was actually a benign, altruistic effort to civilize and Christianize Africans and indigenous Americans.
This was a lie, because thousands of years ago there were magnificent civilizations in Africa and America, whereas just a thousand years ago the British, French, Germans and the Iberians were all, by comparison, barbarians.
In British Honduras/Belize, the process of education administered by religious missionaries from Europe was really a process of brainwashing – the inculcation of lies. After five, ten, and more years of ingesting untruths in primary and high schools, adult Belizeans, when confronted with African and Mayan truths, considered the truths to be wild concoctions.
You can’t roll back five hundred years of lies in a day. This is for sure. The process of African and Mayan history to which the present PUP government committed in 1998 and insisted on in 2003, has never been publicly endorsed by the Opposition UDP. This is one of the few areas where there is a philosophical difference between the PUP and the UDP. They agree on just about everything else.
And yet, the UDP have projected themselves, especially in Belize City, as something of a “black” party. The reason the UDP have not found themselves able to endorse the African and Mayan history program, is that many of the Belizeans in the UDP who are supposed to be black, are actually buffer class browns. They aspire to be European. They absolutely reject the African and the Mayan. How sad. How truly sad.
All power to the people.