Banal Racism in Antigua: An Examination of A Small Place and its Critics

Banal Racism in Antigua: An Examination of A Small Place and its Critics

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Jane King stated in her essay entitled “A Small Place Writes Back” that “A Small Place begins with Jamaica Kincaid placing herself in a unique position able to understand the tourist and the Antiguan and despise both while identifying with neither” (895). Another critic, Suzanne Gauch, adds to this claim by asserting that “A Small Place disappoints…readers when it undermines the authority of its own narrator by suggesting that she is hardly representative of average Antiguans” (912). In her narrative A Small Place, Kincaid often attacks and criticizes the average tourist with what appears to be evidence of racism towards white Europeans and Americans, but perhaps even more strongly she demeans her Antiguan homeland; however, contrary to what King states in her essay, Kincaid belittlement of the Antiguans is a satirical effort to expose the racism of the primarily white tourists.
According to King, Kincaid is uncertain in her place in Antigua. In her essay, she asks: “what is Kincaid’s point of view, Antiguan or tourist?” (894) She is neither an Antiguan, because she left at a young age and returned to find her home in shambles, nor a tourist because they are “incredibly unattractive, fat, pastrylike-fleshed” (Kincaid 13). Since she is neither, the question remains—how would Kincaid be treated in the airport? She states in her own narrative that “since you are a tourist, a North American or European-to be frank, white-and not an Antiguan black returning to Antigua from Europe or North America with cardboard boxes of much needed cheap clothes and food for relatives, you move through customs swiftly, you move through customs with ease. Your bags are not searched” (4-5). In this passage, Kincaid places the black Antiguans far ...


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... the plight of the Antiguan. At times she appears to revile Antigua, but she disproves any doubts about her true loyalty as she alludes to the hidden beauty of the country. At other times it seems as though Kincaid agrees with the treatment of the Antiguan natives, but she is doing so only in an attempt to point out the racism that is so embedded into Antiguan culture. So the answer to the question “is Kincaid an Antiguan or a tourist” is quite simply both.



Works Cited

Gauch, Suzanne. “A Small Place: Some Perspectives on the Ordinary”. Callaloo: A Journal of African-American and African Arts and Letters, (25:3), 2002 Summer, 910-19.
Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1988. Print.
King, Jane. “A Small Place Writes Back”. Callaloo: A Journal of African-American and African Arts and Letters, (25:3), 2002 Summer, 885-909.

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