Anti-Blackness is Alive and Well in Barbados
The Case of Clifford Corbin
Recently a video circulated on social media showing a white Barbadian (or Bajan - pronounced “bay-jun”) inveighing against Black Barbadians. The man was identified as Clifford Corbin, and this is what he was reported as saying:
“Tricks and lies and bull**** every week, wanna f****** n******. Everybody acting the same way, dishonest. This is some way to live in a country…Y’all don’t know how to act and don’t know how to behave. F*** people bring y’all from Africa to do, to act the way y’all acting.”
I’ve said many times before - and I’m not the only one - that Barbadians haven’t even begun to reckon with the history of enslavement and colonialism. In that, they are not unlike certain groups of people we’ve seen in the US, though I don’t think we’re likely to see white Bajans staging any kind of Capitol Coup any time soon. After all, many of them are hardly disenfranchised.
However, despite the fact that a great deal of financial power and social influence still rest in the hands of the white descendants of the colonizers, for many there’s still a deep vein of resentment towards the descendants of the people they enslaved. (For some Black Bajans the feeling is mutual, and arguably more justified, but that’s another story.)
This rant by Clifford Corbin is the latest example of that resentment. (#TidalTammie, we haven’t forgotten about you.)
Business as Usual: Disavowals and Apologists
Predictably there was a flurry of disavowals of his sentiments by the owners of a number of businesses with Corbin in the name (as I’ve said, the descendants of the colonizers own a lot of stuff) and even from a few I didn’t know were related.
There were those who labeled him a “distant cousin” and there were also a few apologists who talked about “stress” causing this “unusual” behavior. My view is that your true feelings can come out under stress, even if the rest of the time you have the sense to keep those feelings quiet.
Only a few white Bajans were honest enough to admit that there are many among them who feel this way, and that this kind of conversation often happens out of the earshot of Black Bajans. Unsurprisingly, those few were also the only white Bajans to say that we need to bring anti-Black racism into the open and deal with it.
Black Bajans, of course, were not surprised at all. We know this attitude exists. The only question is whether it’s open or hidden. For us, the period of enslavement ended in 1838 (yes, I’m including the period of “apprenticeship”). The period of colonization ended (ostensibly) with Independence in 1966. We’re a young country, and we’ve never properly addressed these entrenched, racist, anti-Black attitudes.
Wherever you’re located, this ingrained anti-Blackness is the direct result of white supremacist and colonialist narratives. It may look slightly different in each country, but it’s basically the same thing. That’s why we have to fight it, but to do that, we first have to admit that there’s a problem. That’s where many of us are still falling down.
That includes Black people because, also predictably, there were a few Black people who came forward to attest that Clifford Corbin was basically a good person. They added their voices to the chorus of Bajan whites trying to minimize the incident.
The DARVO “Nopology”
Then Clifford Corbin himself joined in, with a rebuttal piece (a friend accurately called it a “nopology”) published on social media and in the local paper, following the well worn DARVO (deny, attack, reverse victim and offender - or gaslighting) approach. You can read the whole thing here but here’s a summary from another Facebook friend:
“I am not a racist”
“I have Black friends”
“I was angry”
“Y’all started it and deserved it.”
“Remember I’m the one with the money and can cause you and your family to starve.”
Note that there was no actual apology, because HE IS NOT SORRY. I’m willing to bet, based on the way these incidents have played out before, that his “distant” cousins put pressure on him to explain before the financial backlash affected all Corbin-labeled businesses in what’s already a tough financial climate.
Here’s my response to his “nopology” (sorry, calling it an apology won’t wash if there’s no actual apology, no matter how many of your white friends and white-supremacy supporting Black friends agree with you):
“I am not a racist” - err, yes you are
“I have Black friends” - having Black friends doesn’t make you not a racist, just like having friends who are alive doesn’t make you not a serial killer (not my analogy, but it works)
“I was angry” - not an excuse for racism
“Y’all started it and deserved it.” - started what, because I didn’t see my ancestors enslaving yours
“Remember I’m the one with the money and can cause you and your family to starve.” - now the threats come out, along with the entitlement, making the case that he actually IS a racist.
(And as I was writing this, it appeared that yet another video showing his racism was surfacing, further supporting the view that this was not a one-off, but how he really feels.)
Where Do We Go From Here?
So, what next? Really, the only solution is to bring anti-Black racism out into the open and deal with it honestly. Maybe, as some have suggested, we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Like their counterparts in the former US Confederacy, many of the white Barbadian elite don’t want to examine their ancestors’ role in the period of enslavement too closely. And they don’t want to recognize the damaging attitudes and actions that still affect our society. They especially don’t want to make restitution.
But all of these things need to happen, and the Black people supporting white supremacy also need to unlearn that BS. Black lives need to truly matter, in Barbados and everywhere, and it has to start with facing the ugly past. Who’s in?
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.