"Racism in a Melting Pot...?" Trinidadian mid-life transnational migrants' views on race and colour-class on return to their homes of descent
Potter, R. B., Conway, D. and St Bernard, G. (2010) "Racism in a Melting Pot...?" Trinidadian mid-life transnational migrants' views on race and colour-class on return to their homes of descent. Geoforum, 41 (5). pp. 805-813. ISSN 0016-7185
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2010.05.002
This paper deals with second-generation, one-and-a-half generation and ‘‘prolonged sojourner” Trinidadian transnational migrants, who have decided to ‘return’ to the birthplace of their parents. Based on 40 in-depth interviews, the paper considers both the positive and critical things that these youthful transnational migrants report about returning to, and living in, this multi-ethnic plural society and the salience of racial and colour-class stratification as part of their return migration experiences. Our qualitative analysis is based on the narratives provided by these youthful returnees, as relayed ‘‘in their own words”, presenting critical reflections on racism, racial identities and experiences as transnational Trinidadians. It is clear that it is contexts such as contemporary working environments, family and community that act as the reference points for the adaptation ‘‘back home” of this strongly middle-class cohort. We accordingly encounter a diverse, sometimes contesting set of racial issues that emerge as salient concerns for these returnees. The consensus is that matters racial remain as formidable legacies in the hierarchical stratification of Trinidadian society for a sizeable number. Many of our respondents reported the positive aspects of racial affirmation on return. But for another sub-set, the fact that multi-ethnic and multi-cultural mixing are proudly embraced in Trinidad meant that it was felt that return experiences were not overly hindered, or blighted by obstacles of race and colour-class. For these returnees, Trinidad and Tobago is seen as representing a 21st century ‘‘Melting Pot”. But for others the continued existence of racial divisions within society – between ethnic groups and among those of different skin shades – was lamented. In the views of these respondents, too much racial power is still ascribed to ‘near-whiteness’. But for the most part, the returnees felt that where race played a part in their new lives, this generally served to advantage them. However, although the situation in Trinidad appears to have been moderated by assumptions that it remains a racial ‘Melting Pot’, the analysis strongly suggests that the colour-class system of stratification is still playing an essential role, along with racial stereotyping in society at large.