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Are There White Jamaicans?

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Are There White Jamaicans? | Jamaican FlagAre There White Jamaicans? | Jamaican Flag

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Jamaica, “out of many one people”. With a motto like this, Jamaica has much more ethnic diversity than is perceived by the rest of the world and “white Jamaicans (a term seldom used here), are often forced to defend their “Jamaicaness” to those living outside the country and the Caribbean.
From Asians to Caucasians and Blacks, Jamaica is made up of many people of different races, ethnic groups and cultures. It is a common misconception that all Jamaicans are black.


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Race, citizenship, and nationality are three distinct concepts that are frequently confused. Nationality refers to the country a person was born in and is, therefore, a "national" or a legal citizen of said country.

Race refers to shared physical attributes or social qualities of a people. Jamaica is one of many nations with a dominant race.

So you see, the race of an individual does not dictate their nationality and being Jamaican is a nationality, not a race.

It is quite obvious that the more prevalent race in Jamaica is black. But many Jamaicans are of lighter skin, an obvious sign of mixed ancestry. Such individuals were frequently identified as "white" throughout the colonial era, but since Independence, they are more likely to identify as "brown" or "mulatto."

In contemporary Jamaica, the term "white" is used. For instance, four of the initial leaders of Jamaica.

Despite their overwhelming European origin and pale skin, they were not seen as "white" in Jamaica. Writing for The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof noted that a "95 per cent black populace elected a white guy - Edward Seaga - as its prime minister."

This is an example of how foreign reporters identifying them as white using their own country's racial norms would occasionally do. Seaga was born to a mixed-race mother and a Lebanese father.

Being of mixed ancestral background is quite common in Jamaica and some of our National Heroes were.

History of the White Population in Jamaica

  • White Jamaicans are those whose ancestors originated on the European continent, particularly in Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, Germany, and Portugal. In 2018 a reported 12,382 individuals, or 0.4 per cent of the population, were identified as such. In the past, White Jamaicans made up a majority during most of the 17th century and represented a far higher percentage of the population.

  • Since Juan de Esquivel, Spanish colonist and first governor of Jamaica founded a permanent Spanish settlement in Jamaica in 1509, the percentage of white people in the country's population has changed significantly.

  • In 1662, when Jamaica was still an English colony, there were 552 black people and 3,653 white people, or 87 per cent of the population, and 13 per cent of the population.
  • By 1673, there were 9,504 (45%) Black people and 7,768 White people (55%). Only 7,000 people, or 15% of the total population of 47,000, were white by the turn of the century.

    The majority of white immigrants in Jamaica were British people who came to the island voluntarily from Europe and other North American colonies. Others arrived as refugees from British colonies overthrown by other European powers such as Montserrat and Suriname.

  • The percentage of white people in Jamaica's total population had fallen to less than 10% by 1734.

  • It was estimated in 1774, that the Scottish made up around a third of Jamaica's white population, with the majority living in Westmoreland Parish. By 1844, only 4% of the total population of 377,433 was made up of white people.

  • The 1871 census shows that at least 25% of people were people of colour, having mixed black and white ancestry.

  • The percentage of white people was 0.77 per cent in the 1960 census, but it fell to 0.66 in 1970, 0.18 in 2001, and 0.16 in 2011.

Here are some well-known white Jamaicans:

  • Adam Stewart - CEO of Sandals and Beaches Resort
  • Gordon “Bush” Stewart - founder of Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts
  • Edna Manley - sculptor and mother of Prime Minister Michael Manley
  • Henry Fowler - was the chairman of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation
  • William Knibb - first white man to receive the Jamaican Order of Merit
  • Sean Paul - international recording artist
  • Gerry Alexander- was a west indies cricket captain.

So, are there white Jamaicans?

Yes, of course, there are, they may not be predominant, but they definitely do exist. Places like Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth and Seaford Town (German Town) are town European settlements here.

In Jamaica, the colour of a person's skin, race or religion does not dictate whether they are Jamaicans or not and we are truly a people of different ethnicities living together as one.

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References & Sources For Are There White Jamaicans?

  • What we need to understand about whiteness in Jamaica, https://www.huckmag.com/perspectives/what-we-need-to-understand-about-whiteness-in-jamaica/
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