Study Guide

A Small Place Race

By Jamaica Kincaid

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Since you are a tourist, a North American or European—to be frank, white—and not an Antiguan black returning to Antigua, […] you move through customs with ease. (1.2)

Although Antiguans run the country, they're still faced with more discrimination than the oodles of foreigners who enter their country each day. Try to tell us how that makes sense.

And then there was another place, called the Mill Reef Club. It was built by some people who wanted to live in Antigua […] but who seemed not to like Antiguans (black people) at all. (2.3)

That just adds insult to injury. Not only are these wealthy Americans taking control of Antigua, but they're doing so while despising the black people who make up most of its population.

There they were, strangers in someone else's home, and then they refused to talk to their hosts or have anything human, anything intimate, to do with them. (2.3)

It's not hard to not be racist. Here, let's give you a refresher—treat everybody, of every race, as a human being. Rinse and repeat. Now, was that so hard?

He came to Antigua as a refugee (running away from Hitler) from Czechoslovakia. This man hated us so much that he would send his wife to inspect us before we were admitted into his presence. (2.3)

You'd think that a World War II refugee would've figured out that discrimination is a bad thing, but this anecdote sadly proves us wrong. But that's the thing about racism: It never makes logical sense.

There was a […] school which only in my lifetime began to accept girls who were born outside a marriage in Antigua […] it had never dawned on anyone that this was a way of keeping black children out of this school. (2.3)

Institutional racism is rarely direct, instead limiting the rights of people of color through backhanded means. For real, though—Why in the world would a kid born out of wedlock not deserve an education?

We thought they were un-Christian-like; we thought they were small-minded; we thought they were like animals, a bit below human standards as we understood those standards to be. (2.3)

Here, Kincaid beautifully flips a typically racist argument to illustrate how hypocritical the colonialists were. The Antiguans took the British code of morality quite literally, even if the Brits didn't feel beholden to it themselves.

Our perception of this Antigua—the perception we had of this place ruled by these bad-minded people—was not a political perception. The English were ill-mannered, not racists. (2.5)

Despite all of this, most Antiguans did not see the English as racists, but as jerks. This is a testament to the way that systematic racism can burrow into a culture without anyone realizing it.

She told me that she always encouraged her girls and her girls' children to use the library, and by her girls she means grownup Antiguan women. (3.1)

This is a classic dehumanization tactic. By equating adult women with children, this rich lady (a member of the Mill Reef Club, it must be mentioned) is showing how little respect she has for the people who work for her day in and day out.

I could see the pleasure she took in pointing out to me the gutter into which self-governing—black—Antigua had placed itself. (3.1)

Although the woman from the Mill Reef Club pretends to love Antigua, she's enjoying some serious schadenfreude at the state of the country—it validates her racist beliefs.

The government of Antigua allowed some special ammunition to be tested in Antigua—ammunition that the government knew very well was to be shipped to the government of South Africa. (3.6)

This is pretty disturbing: The government of Antigua is helping South Africa enforce Apartheid. You don't get much more terrible than that. This is an example of how racism can be perpetuated, even by its victims.

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