The video of George Floyd being lynched by police in the US was viewed by the world, and gave new life and international support to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The world has since witnessed widespread peaceful protests demanding change – ultimately, the elimination of racism.
Since the era of the anti-slavery movement, descendants of Africans have been fighting for the God-given freedoms owed to any human being. Without a doubt, there have been many non-black allies who see colour, but appreciate it as another feature of nature – the same differences that make a garden all the more beautiful.
Unfortunately, many of these people, for different reasons, have been made to question their intentions and their place. Not very often do they get an opportunity to share their experiences with racism/colourism, especially in the Caribbean.
Newsday is holding a series of conversations with people on what it has been like for them, being in the middle.
The aim is to give insight into what it is like for people who have found themselves in conflicting situations with family, friends and the public over race relations and racism.
Full-time yoga instructor Leiana Wilhite was born in Mayaro, where she lived until age 11. She said while she has experienced the privileges of being light-skinned in TT, she has also experienced the other side of “othering”, being treated differently merely based on physical appearance.
Othering is defined as viewing or treating a person or group of people as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself. Othering is generally based on race, class, gender, age, religious beliefs and sexual orientation – to name a few criteria.
Wilhite said she began questioning racism at a very young age while growing up in Mayaro. “I was amongst the very few light-skinned people in my community. At one point, all my friends were of a darker skin tone than me.” This she said made her stick out like a sore thumb.
Wilhite is of mixed heritage, her mother being a brown-skinned woman of East Indian ancestry from Tunapuna. “My mother’s grandparents, both maternal and paternal, came from India. My father is Caucasian from California and is also mixed race. His heritage is made up of Irish, German, Scottish and his grandmother was Native American from the Cree tribe.”
Given the Caribbean context where the idea of white privilege is extended to people based on how closely an individual is to “whiteness” Wilhite was asked about instances where she noticed she may have been granted privileges based on her appearance.
She acknowledged the unreasonable psychology, where she admittedly said she has been treated better than others because of the colour of her skin.
“I can think of when I was in my early 20s, going out to socialise. There were instances where I could tell I was let into some venues easier because of…