Appendix III: The White People


“To begin with things that are never said and should be:

If the white people, and I mean particularly those who are still economic masters of the country, if they remain outside of the national stream of development, virtually excluded from the political life of the country, and holding tight to their positions of economic domination, the fault is not entirely theirs.

A truly exciting West Indian nation, a truly inspiring political party, which would draw them out of themselves, especially their young people, have not been built anywhere. Although they may not know it, that is the basic cause of their reserve as to what is going on (or their taking part in it with tongue in cheek, or to see what they can get out of it). To shake a ruling class from where they have been for centuries you have to offer them more than pioneer status or a post on a committee. After all, what they ruled was a society, with the enormous prestige of nineteenth century Britain behind it.

Furthermore, these whites are still made to feel that they are aristocrats whom misfortune has deprived of what by right should be theirs. Even those among the coloured middle classes with political power are still uncertain of themselves, and are even submissive where local whites of any status are concerned. Rudeness is only another form of the same sense of inferiority.

The ordinary black people are quite aware of this. But all parties can be grossly mistaken about what it signifies. It signifies first or all the hopeless economic position of the coloured middle class in the economic life of the country. Secondly, this psychological subservience must not be considered as inherent in people of colour. It is a continuation of past historical attitudes that have been noticed many times in history.”

“ …. Giving the impression (with whatever reservations) that they are either opponents or allies of the present political rulers is one of the worst things they can do. The coloured middle classes do not know where they are and under pressure are likely to split into all sorts of pieces. The white people have to reorient themselves and make a positive and independent contact with the masses of the people. It has been done before, many times. But you have to aim consciously at doing it.”

I make two suggestions.

The first is that the whites can make themselves the open sponsors of civil liberties and democratic rights in the West Indies. A great deal of submission to governmental impropriety of action and expression in the West Indies is due to fear, fear of getting into conflict with those who have power over so many jobs and connected opportunities. That kind of fear touches the whites least. They are independent, perhaps more than they knew. There are organizations abroad which could easily start them on this road and guide them. But it must be clearly understood that many of these organizations have no affiliations whatever to any political party. This does not mean that the whites all become street corner advocates of civil rights and democratic liberties. But they can easily support an organization which advocates these, and takes up all such cases. In time the population will learn to look to such an organization and run to it whenever it feels threatened. An able and devoted official of this organization can work his way into an independent position in politics. The field for this sort of activity is wide open and, if I am not mistaken, will become in no long time wider still. I have never known a population claiming to be democratic where so many people (both Negro and Indian) live in such fear of the whole apparatus of Government.

The second point calls for more concentrated activity. The whites confine themselves too much to undercover fighting against the West Indian political leaders or “alliances” with them. They therefore do not see doors wide open to them. Two of the greatest wounds through which the blood of Federation poured were the bankruptcy on economic development and total failure to make development in agriculture a part of the Federal development. Why the Chambers of Commerce sat tight and did nothing on the first issue has always been a mystery to me. They had the experience and could easily have made the necessary contacts abroad. Instead of boldly pointing out the deficiencies of the federalist programme and showing not only how these deficiencies could be corrected but how they were prepared to correct them, the Chambers of Commerce merely sat back and watched the governments. Even worse was the role played by the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture. The governments did not ask them. Of course, the governments did not ask them – they were not even asking themselves. But the ICTA had, as a result of many years of patient work, an accumulation of material on which a federal agricultural programme could have been based. They did nothing. In fact, I have been assured that many of their most gifted lecturers and professors – I have talked to a few – have got fed up and transferred themselves elsewhere. That was a mistake. Either by themselves or in association with the Chambers of Commerce they could have brought the white people back into local politics in a manner that would have made the whole population sit up and take notice.

Political leaders in the West Indies discuss everything except serious politics. The apparent rejection by voters of all white people (unless they identify themselves with the nationalist party) is only a stage of development due to familiar historical reasons. But I have looked carefully and have not seen that in the West Indies the black population has any ingrained hostility against whites. Unless I am very much mistaken the blacks want to see the whole nation, everybody, united together in some common national purpose. There are many ways of doing this, only some of which I have touched upon. I go so far as to say that none would have been more impressed and pleased than the black masses at a powerful, independent entry of the white people into the federation discussion. A politically sophisticated leadership, confident of itself and thinking of the nation, would have gone out of its way to encourage such a manifestation, however faintly it first appeared But as long as the whites continue chiefly to look on, and defend their own narrow interests; and the coloured middle class believes that by appointing whites to committees and attaching them to government organisations going abroad, they are building a set of new nations, the historical antagonism will continue to fester below the surface and may one day do a load of mischief which could easily have been avoided.

This, I hasten to say, is no analysis of the role of whites in the West Indies. That is a big subject, a very big one. This is merely an attempt to state what is a pressing national necessity, that they show themselves as entering independently into the national stream, and to indicate the type of approach by which this could be done.