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Béké or beke is a Creole term to describe a descendant of the early European, usually French, settlers in the French Antilles.

Origin

The origin of the term is not clear and several explanations have been proposed. It could be a word from the Ibo language where it describes a European. A local tradition holds that it is derived from the question« eh bé qué ? » (« eh bien quoi ? », similar to "What's up"), an expression picked up from the French settlers. Another explanation is that its origin lies in the term « blanc des quais » ("a White from the quay") as the White colonists and merchants controlled the ports. In contrast, the "Blanc Péyi" is used for White people born in the Antilles and adapted to the creole life who are not descendants of the first White settlers.. .

In Guadeloupemarker one speaks also of the "Blanc Créole" or "Blanc Kréyol", abbreviated to BK, ergo Béké..

Class problems

The bekes represent a small minority in the French Antilles, however, control much of the local industry. The 2009 French Caribbean general strikes are to some degree aimed against the class difference that exists between the bekes and the predominantly Black majority population.

Racist statements in TV Documentary

At the beginning of 2009, Canal+ aired a 50 minutes documentary called "Les derniers maîtres de Martinique" ("Martinique's last lords"), in which a prominent member of the Béké community and one the island's economic most powerful figures, Alain Huyues Despointes (Chairman of Groupe Alain Huyues Despointes), is filmed (openly, no hidden camera) making the following arguably racist statement; "When I see families of mixed couples (black and white), their children have different colors. There's no harmony. Some have the same kind of hair as mine [points to his straight hair], others have tightly coiled hair. All in the same family, with different skin colors. I don't think that's right. We have intented to preserve the race.". The voice-over adds that members of the Béké community that marry colored people, are excommunicated.

References

  1. Du Neg nwe au Beke Goyave, le langage de la couleur de la peau en Martinique, Isabelle Michelot« Il est composé du complément du nom -péyi (signifiant local) en construction directe sans connotation économique, par opposition au Béké (où le sème de "riche" est dominant) et au petit blanc (où le sème "pauvre" est dominant), appellation méprisante du blanc qui n’a pas réussi économiquement »
  2. La Rue Case-Nègres de Joseph Zobel
  3. Les derniers maîtres de Martinique

Sources

The beginning of this article is based on the corresponding Wikipedia article in French from February 18, 2009


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