A Caribbean Legacy

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A Caribbean Legacy

The notions of slavery, colonialism, and race are indelible aspects of Caribbean history. In order to fathom the current political, social, economic, and cultural climate of the Caribbean one must engage in a critical study and understanding of the impact slavery has had in modern day Caribbean societies. The modes and intricacies of modern day Caribbean societies are intimately related to the plantation systems of the colonial period, which welcomed the arrival of the largest migration in history.

Author Michelle Cliff, in her essay "If I Could Write This With Fire," attempts to make sense of the current deplorable social conditions of racial inequality in her native land of Jamaica. It is within this context of understanding the current social and racial strife in Jamaica that Michelle Cliff presents the intimate relationship between past and present. Michelle Cliff, in an ontological manner attempts to unmask the current phenomena of racial strife in Jamaica by considering and examining the disdainful legacies of slavery brought upon by ruthless European colonialism in the Americas. Cliff, like many of the historians, sociologists, and economists which we have encountered in our study of Caribbean history, is partaking in an unmasking process of the Jamaican society in her literature in order to reconcile a ravaged Jamaican and Caribbean identity. Ultimately, Michelle Cliff’s desire to make sense of the Caribbean’s intricate social and cultural mosaic prompted her to "look back," and, as she states in her essay:

To try and locate the vanishing point: where the lines of perspective converge and disappear. Lines of color and class. Line of history and social context. Lines of denial and rejection. Wh...

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...nges imposed by the plantation system created a hierarchy of color (similar to the one discussed by Michelle Cliff in Abeng, wherein the color of one's skin designated one's occupation and social position).

Whiteness indicated economic and political superiority as well as leisure while blackness represented low social status and arduous labor. Consequently, it is quite evident that Knight offers significant evidence affirming the notion that slavery, or in this particular case, the social caste system imposed by the plantations has indeed had a grave influence in the evolution of Caribbean societies.


1.) Excerpt taken from: Michelle Cliff’s essay, "If I Could Write This With Fire."

2.) ibid (1)

3.) Quote taken from page 124 of: Knight, Franklin. The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism. Oxford University Press: New York, 1990.
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