Veronique’s blog first caught my attention when she discussed her experiences as a half-Black/half-Indian West Indian woman. Finding out she was from a neighboring island, I had to get her take on feminism in the Caribbean and ask her more about her life. I found her perspective very interesting especially when juxtaposed to last week’s interview with Lana. Keep reading to find out more…
Veronique Bailey | 27 | St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Tell me a little more about yourself? What do you currently “do” in your spare time? What are your interests?
Programming, museum visiting, people watching, and cognitive psychology
I wanted to talk to you about your ethnic/racial identity growing up in the Caribbean. How would you describe your ethnic/racial background?
[Editor Note: For people who don’t understand, click this link to find out more about what this means [x]. Additionally note that dougla is not considered to be a slur in the Caribbean although it might be elsewhere.]
What’s one thing you wish people knew about your racial identity?
Within the Caribbean: I’m not from Trinidad. Outside of the Caribbean: It’s a racial identity, I don’t have to ‘choose a side’.
Are there any assumptions people make about you due to your race/ethnicity?
That I can cook the most bomb curry while whyning/ doing d tic toc.
Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself and your gender/sexuality in your family and/or your community?
To a certain extent, while I enjoy being female I don’t enjoy feeling like my body is up for consumption. Even though I’m straight, I don’t agree with the idea that being gay is a ‘white people thing’ or that it’s a sin. I definitely don’t agree with the idea that lesbian love is somehow less of a love than heterosexual love. Gender binaries are weird and in general binaries only make sense for computers.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why is your answer (yes or no) important to you?
Yes, but I consider myself an intersectional feminist. I’m still doing more research into womanist philosophy but until I feel completely comfortable within that theory, I feel most comfortable describing myself as intersectional. Identifying myself as an intersectional feminist is important to me as a UX designer/programmer as well as a member of society.
As a UX designer/programmer, one of things that studying design will teach you is that there is no such thing as one design that will fit for everyone; we should aim for inclusive design or design that takes into account the needs of various groups. If I as a designer am unaware of how my designs might contribute to the exclusion of a group of people, or if I am only designing with only one group in mind….am I truly a designer? Do I truly understand the needs of various user bases?
Are you fluent in creole?
hahahaha cho’, yo dunn ‘no! All ah we does talk in dialect (english creole)
Is being a feminist acceptable in your community?
Not particularly, it’s more often than not perceived as man hating. Feminism is also seen as only really being white feminism, where the feminist W.O.C. and their work is not given as much exposure.
What are the biggest priorities feminists in your country should have if they’re looking to change things?
Increase dialogue of west indian feminists, name the work already being done by women within the community as feminism.
What kind of misconceptions do people have about your racial/ethnic background?
I’m not sure. For the most part within the Caribbean it gets positive feedback, as in I have nice, mixed hair down to me back, and I’m a brownin’. The two things that people look for when racial miscegenation happens.
If you had to raise a child in the Caribbean, what would you keep from your own upbringing and what would you change?
Things I would change:
1. The idea that ‘nothing black nah good’
2. Getting darker is not a sin
3. Your hair doesn’t have to be straight. Let it take up it’s natural born space, feel free to cut it, dye it, and experiment with it. The length and texture of your hair are not all there is to your beauty.
4. Your ankle bracelets, toe rings and bracelets don’t make you a prostitute.
5. Indian food is not dirty, it’s ok to eat with your hands.
Things I would keep:
1. Anansi stories
2. The idea that knowing your community is part of knowing who you are
3. Always share
4. Nah bother watch people fu them things.
5. Take care of old people
6. Know all the old people sayings, because it connects you to something bigger than yourself.
7. Is there a word or phrase that can capture the smells, sights, and colours of the Caribbean?
I absolutely loved everything about this interview with Veronique, especially her final response which really resonated with me as a person who has often struggled to pinpoint the answer to the question, “What is culture?” Growing up as biracial or multiracial in the Caribbean, you can get a lot of different messages about where you fit within our culture. To me, Veronique isolated a lot of what’s important for everyone in the Caribbean to understand. If you’re interested in checking out another interview like this one, check back for my very first Caribbean Voices piece featuring Lana C. Marilyn.