White Lies: Race and Sexuality in Occupied Trinidad

TitleWhite Lies: Race and Sexuality in Occupied Trinidad
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsNeptune, Harvey R.
JournalJournal of Colonialism and Colonial History

Just months after American servicemen had begun their wartime occupation of the British colony of Trinidad in May 1941, their locally published army newspaper, Trinidad News Tips, carried a poem entitled “White Lies.” Penned by a white American serviceman, it was a lyrical mockery of his peers’ indiscriminate dating habits. White visitors, the poem concluded, had become “color-blind” in their search for female companionship. Such a development, however, was no laughing matter, particularly for predominantly white local elites and the senior American officials they now had to accommodate. Both groups appreciated that “color blindness” among the white Americans who arrived to install and defend military bases in Trinidad posed a serious threat to the legitimacy of a social order in which whites’ subordination of black, Indian, and mixed people was a fundamental organizing principle. Paying attention to “foreign affairs” involving white American men and nonwhite British West Indian women helps to bare the tensions involved in race making in a society forced to accommodate a new imperial presence. In exploring these tensions, this article highlights the dissonance between British and American imperial imaginations and processes, for essentially what it captures is a U.S. intervention that turns a longstanding British colonial settlement into a kind of frontier zone, a space in which established identities and practices become unsettled.

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