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ID #5537

Skin Color

The Bahamas has six blacks for every white, a ratio nearly opposite that of the United States. Although race relations are clearly different in each country, it could not be claimed that race has never been an issue in the Bahamas. Bahamians have a much more elaborate vocabulary for discussing skin color than do most Americans, suggesting that the finer gradations have—or at least had at an earlier period—social correlates making the terms useful. We collected over 20 terms for skin color and asked 40 Bahamians to rank them from darkest to lightest. There seemed to be considerable disagreement, but semanticist and creolist Edward Bendix in a personal communication noted that "Lack of consensus is inherent in such racial terminologies since the field of reference is more than skin color among the salient physical traits and more than physical traits among the important (and not so important) social and personal characteristics. A given token use of a term may range over any aspect of the field, including use as a metaphor for ethnicity, social class, character and general demeanor." That said, there seemed to be a more general consensus as to which terms fell into the broader categories of black, COLOURED, and white, although opinions on this were by no means unanimous. Black complexion terms include SAMBO, SHINE, NAVY-BLUE BLACK, SCRUBBY BLACK, SMOOTH BLACK, and OFF-BLACK. Coloured ranges from DINGY, SMOICEY, DUSTY, MUDDY-BROWN, CHOCO LATE BROWN, COCOA BROWN, MIX-UP (or MIXTURED among whites), to BROWN-SKIN. White is a broader category than in the United States, including RED or HARD RED, BRIGHT, FAIR-SKIN, LIGHT-SKIN, YALLER (or HIGH YELLOW), PINKY, CRACKER, CONCHY JOE and WHITEY. It was felt that women were better than men at accurately using these terms to de-scribe particular individuals.

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Last update: 2011-09-26 18:04
Author: Holm and Shilling, DBE, 1982
Revision: 1.0

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