White Lies: Race and Sexuality in Occupied Trinidad

TitleWhite Lies: Race and Sexuality in Occupied Trinidad
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsNeptune, Harvey
JournalJournal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Date Published2001

Discusses how white American soldiers occupying Trinidad during World War II undermined older British colonial codes of racial intermingling by engaging in sexual relationships with black women. Men of European descent were not prohibited from taking liberties with black and mixed-race women, but such relationships were denied legitimacy through public acknowledgment and especially marriage. The soldiers' "color blindness" posed a problem for white local elites and senior American officials, as it challenged implicitly the legitimacy of a social order in which whites' subordination of black, Indian, and mixed-race people was a fundamental organizing principle. Soldiers who transgressed could not simply be repressed or deported because troop morale was vital. Social events in which soldiers could meet white partners did not always operate within the rules of propriety demanded by their officers, and soldiers often resorted to relationships with women of color, especially those of lighter skin. As the poem "White Lies" suggests, "for the sake of female companionship, white American men were willing to pretend that these colored women were white." Military authorities were cautious in policing casual relationships; however, they sought to discourage interracial marriages. Refusal to spell out the racial logic underpinning this policy led to misunderstandings as to what the policy actually was.

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