Derek Maingot

 

White Creole Conversations Menu

We still remain mysteries to ourselves.” - Caroline Myss

APPETISERS

1. State your name, age and profession.

Derek Maingot, 52, Computer Specialist.

 

2. How do you define yourself in terms of race, class and nationality? Do you identify with the term ‘white Creole’? How far back can you trace your family on maternal/paternal lines?

Trini French Creole to people in the Caribbean. West Indian when talking to people outside of the Caribbean in my profession. I can trace my father’s side back to the first Maingot to arrived from France, and my mother’s maternal side back to the 1600s

 

3. Do you find yourself thinking about whiteness or race in general? Why/why not?

Generally no. This issue gets brought to my ‘doorstop’ by others in social media, but I usually don’t bring it up. I have a group of pretty racially diverse friends who will bring it up but usually in very funny joking ways.

 

4. Is there such a thing as local white/Creole culture? What does it mean to be white in your local context, in terms of family, wider social or professional circles?

There probably was at one point but I see this as getting diluted with each passing year. I also see that this changes from island to island. The smaller islands probably lost this a long time ago as well as the very diverse Trinidad. Growing up in Barbados, I was never a ‘Barbadian’ and that was always clear to me. Even though I was white/creole.

 

5. Can you talk about what it feels like to live as a white person in the Caribbean? Would you say that your local space operates as a racially ordered society, constituted by segments of society that have little or no organic inter-relation or is it an integrated space? Or, is it simultaneously both but in different areas of your life?

Sometimes it feels like you’re really a part of an interesting community of diverse people who seem to get along well and then something will happen to shockingly open my eyes up to the fact that it’s a very racially charged atmosphere. But that is really the same everywhere.

 

6. Did you grow up in a family that discussed race or did you inherit ideas about race or whiteness in your family and social circle? Were those inherited ideas implicitly conveyed or explicitly stated and have those ideas shifted generationally? If you have children, do you discuss race or whiteness – why and how?

My family did discuss race and it was probably not the best discussions that I’ve had. Their ideas were not inherited by me and have “shifted generationally”. I don’t have kids but I look at my nephews and nieces and am very happy to see their reaction to race.

 

7. What did your primary school experience look and feel like racially?
 

I went to school in Antigua which left no impression on me, so I guess it was fine. In Barbados, my primary school experience was at the nearly all girls Ursaline Convent so, I was a part of the minority male population there. Racially it was diverse but probably more white than the population averages.

 

8. What did your secondary and/or tertiary level experience look and feel like in racial terms? Do you remember anything about the way history was taught and how that teaching felt in relation to your whiteness?

Secondary School was at HC and that was much more racially charged. I was also a “Trini” in Barbados so I had additional issues to deal with being an “outsider”. It was not easy at HC. At age 12, I remember distinctly being told by someone (now very famous Bajan musician) in my class that he was going to kill me “before I turned 18”…”Because you’re white”… I remember thinking “that’s the reason you’re going to kill me?” Obviously this never happened and he was a stupid 13 year old kid as well, but these things stick in your mind.

 

Nothing, I think, is more interesting, more poignant, and more difficult to seize than the intersection of the self and history. Where does biography end and history begin? How does one’s own memories and experiences relate to what is written in the history books?” Linda Nochlin - The Power of Feminist Art

 

MAIN COURSES

 

9. Have you experienced internal conflict in your local society, as a result of race? Give example/s

Not that I can really remember internal conflict.

 

10. What makes you feel that you belong or are accepted as a white Caribbean person? Have you experienced deep connection to your local society? Give example/s. Can you speak to what you think binds your local society, together? Is there a national identity that supersedes a racial identity?

I don’t feel like I’ve ever been accepted as a Bajan. I do have amazing friends who do accept all of the weirdness that is “Derek” but they are among the most edudcated folks on the island. Doctors and Lawyers and Teachers and Artists.

 

11. What makes you feel that you don’t belong to local society? Can contradictory feelings of both belonging and not belonging be experienced at different times and in different places in your local environment?

I’ve always been a “Trini” in Barbados. Always. I am accepted but I don’t belong. I once realized that in the Caribbean it can POUR with rain while the sun is shining. That is how I feel… I am the rain that just does not match the surroundings.

 

12. Do you consciously maintain your identity as a white person? Do you hide the presence of another race in yourself? Do you ‘pass’ for white? If yes, why and how so? Are you read differently, racially, or in different contexts? Is whiteness variable?

I’ve had my ancestry done and I’m 2.7% Sub-Saharan African. But I honestly cannot pass for anything other than white. I don’t attempt to do that. I do often invoke my mother’s Spanish heritage and will sometimes fill in forms as a Latino… Just to stir it up.

 

13. Do you consciously try to distance yourself from being read as white or do you distance yourself from other white locals? If you are Creole or mixed, what is your relationship to the colour of your skin? How difficult/easy is it to be Creole/mixed? Does it matter?

I don’t consciously try to distance myself from being read as white.

 

14. Can we escape race in Barbados or in our local space? Are we a post-racial society? Is this something we should work towards? Is it achievable?

 

I think it’s possible but not with the influence that I see Bajans allowing outside cultures and media (esp American) to affect their lives. When I moved to Barbados in 1969 bajans were known as the friendliest people in the Caribbean, I don’t think that is still that case. There is a racial hardness (on both sides) that disturbs me about the island.

 

15. Have you ever felt that you are a prisoner of colonial history as a white person? Do you feel connected to England or the UK as an ancestral home?

I do not have these feelings. My Spanish/French background gives me some freedom here…though they were just as bad…but no, no real associations to the UK.

 

16. What is the most difficult conversation you have ever had around race? Do you feel shame as a white person because of Caribbean colonial history and the plight of the indentured or the traumatic legacy of enslaved peoples who came to work on plantations in the Caribbean? Do you feel responsible in any way?

I don’t feel responsible but the most difficult conversation came after the incident last year when a local white housewife disappeared for a while. I was SO proud of the way the entire (I thought) community banded together and instead of Bajan’s looking back on this and seeing what GOOD they did and how to make this a model of what to do, it turned into a nasty nasty racial discussion with “friends”.

 

17. Do you think you are colour blind? Is being colour blind useful or damaging?

I honestly think I am. My friends and my ex-partners say that, but just saying you’re “colour blind” now means that you are and lord help me if I say “some of my best friends are black”…they really are but I come across as a jackass.

 

“Kentridge argued that learning to embrace ambiguity and shades of gray provides a tool for coping with such a traumatic past because it forces people to keep confronting the moral challenges the events pose, rather than filing them neatly away as over and done with.” - Spencer Lenfield on William Kentridge for the Harvard Magazine

 

DESSERT

 

18. Have you ever crossed boundaries in race or class; have you or are you open to loving someone of another race or are you open to friends or family doing so?

I have. It’s wonderful.

 

19. Have you felt pain, humiliation, racism or prejudice because of your race? Can you talk about that?

Yes after the incident I talked about earlier and after the Trayvon Martin affair. That seems to have precipitated something in Barbados.

 

20. Do you experience privilege because of your whiteness or perceived whiteness? How so? Can you speak about the relationship between whiteness and economic, professional or social privilege? Or, can you speak about having been rejected, denied opportunity or ostracised because of your whiteness or perceived whiteness?

I am from a very working class white family and I know that my parents built everything that we have from nothing. I remember living in Antigua and not even having furniture In the house. But somehow I am very successful now, so is that because of privilege? Not from Barbados, but I think people think so. I was overlooked for a LOT of things at HC because of “perceived whiteness” on my end. Never a prefect, never invited to several events going on in school, never included in anything important. I went to college and just excelled.  At HC I was not given those opportunities.  This is all “perceived”.

 

21. Do you socialize along race or class lines or choose friends in terms of race or class? Is that conscious or sub-conscious? How do you see yourself in relation to the larger social/national/political landscape?

I don’t.  I really don’t.  This is not a conscious choice but I have some amazing friends in all racial and class strata.

 

22. Are there any humorous experiences you might share that relate to your being white or can you share any funny stories about whiteness?

I LOVE explaining to people where I was born and raised and everyone always cannot believe me… I usually say “I know that people make us stories about where they are from, but why would I make up such an absurd story? It always gets a giggle.

 

23. Are there stereotypes around whiteness? Have you been called names that are racially motivated? Have you experienced positive discrimination because of your whiteness / perceived whiteness?

I’m sure there are.  I’ve been called all kinds of things.  But not all racially based. 

 

24. What does an ideal Barbadian society, in racial terms, look like to you and what can you do, or are you doing, to make that ideal a reality? How do you envision the future, racially, as a white/Creole?

Wow… Utopia.  Good luck, I would LOVE to see a pragmatic approach to this issue but I simply see an eventual “browning” of all cultures globally as an eventual resting state.

 

 

Bio:

 

Derek Maingot was born in Port of Spain Trinidad in 1963. He lived as a young child in other Caribbean islands including a brief stint in Antigua, when his father was posted there and then migrated to Barbados when he was 7 years old. He grew up in Barbados and attended Harrison College through A-Levels after which he migrated to the USA for tertiary level education. He is currently based in Florida where he works as a Computer Specialist.

 

 

 

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