Public Secrets: race and colour in colonial and independent Jamaica

Research output: Book/ReportBook


1. this book examines discriminatory and race-neutral practices that placed dark-skinned people firmly at the bottom of the social ladder and white and light-skinned people on top in Jamaica from the end of WWI until the demise of democratic socialism in 1980. Focussing on the racial domains of the labour market, education, and the criminal justice system, it not only demonstrates that Jamaica in the decades before and after independence was an extremely colour-conscious society – race and colour shaped social relations – but also that it was not deemed appropriate to talk about race and colour. The book argues that race and colour constituted a public secret – something that is commonly known but which for one reason or another cannot be articulated. Informed by Critical Race Theory and based on a wide range of primary sources, including newspapers, memoirs, fiction and sociological studies, it particularly focusses on the various strategies used to talk about race and colour practices, ranging from denial and minimisation to the invocation of the myth of racial harmony, and on the effects of this silencing of race and colour on both the individual and society. But the book not only explores the workings of the ‘absent presence’ of race and colour in the decades preceding and following independence. Based on the idea that silence on race leaves room for prejudice but if it is discussed openly there is possibility for change, the final chapter examines the role of race and colour in contemporary Jamaican society and offer suggestions how race and colour can be discussed openly to facilitate equality of opportunity for all regardless of skin colour.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherLiverpool University Press
Number of pages280
ISBN (Print)9781789620009
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2019

Publication series

Namepost-colonial studies


  • race
  • discrimination
  • caribbean
  • critical race theory
  • post-colonial studies
  • Jamaica
  • employment
  • education
  • criminal justice

Cite this