“Before, being a Bajan was never having to defend or convince anyone that you are Bajan. It was just saying, ‘I iz ah Bajan.'”

The past week on Barbadian social media has been … eye-opening, revealing, unnerving and embarrassing, leaving us asking ourselves, “Is there racism in the Caribbean?”

To sum it up: a white Bajan won Miss Universe Barbados over the weekend, and some people collectively lost their minds.

Miss Universe Barbados - Shannon Harris. Photo by NWP Caribbean

Miss Universe Barbados – Shannon Harris. Photo by NWP Caribbean

Barbados Today posted a video and some of the comments were, simply put, eye-opening, revealing, unnerving and embarrassing…

“White man complex all over this here! There is so many, and ill say it again SO MANY black beautiful women that easily could represent Barbados in its pride, color and culture a lot better Than this pale european woman.

People wake up ?”


“Race and nationality may be the same, but there are certain white countries that would NEVER use a black woman to represent them , ever. But we have to accept the alternative.

She is beautiful and I wish her well, but let the record show that 2% of the population can’t honestly reflect the majority of Bajan women who look nothing like her.”

(No name, no blame, no lock up, no shame – you can read the rest of the comments under the video itself.)


It seems then, that we’re in the middle of this weird vortex where everything we have been seeing in US and international media has been flipped on its head… where white people, or any non-Blacks, are being discriminated against based on the colour of their skin and are being told “You don’t belong here.”

We say that black people can’t be racist – but whatever this is, it’s all shades of fucked up. We can talk about race and racism until the cows come home, but I’m taking a break from that conversation to ask another question:

“What is a Bajan?”

I want to know who makes up this group. What’s the eligibility criteria to call yourself Bajan, and be accepted as such? Who determines this criteria? And ultimately, who the rasshole gave you the right to determine if someone is Bajan?


No seriously, I want answers.

Here are a few I received, but give us your definition in the comments below.




Being Bajan is like being anything, it’s about perspective. Countries are diverse and we represent our cultures in a myriad of ways from religion to politics. Each individual, myself included, picks and chooses aspects of that culture and is then simultaneously influenced by exterior forces, media, family, friends etc. to create their own unique personality and reference points for the world around them.

I think that my acceptance as Barbadian by other Bajans is a question that can never be answered because, as age, socio-economic situations and race come into play, that answer will shift like the tides. Do I feel Barbadian? Yes, I do, and there has been genuine pride in my heart as I’ve represented my country on the regional and international stage since I was 13, long before I had a blue passport to state how Bajan I am on a literal level.

Americans love Crop Over (that doesn’t make them Bajan), British people fly down to enjoy Souse on a Saturday (that doesn’t make them Bajan). It’s not the things we do that make us a particular nationality, it’s the feeling in our hearts when we carry the flag with pride and tell the world, I’m here to compete and I’m here to win for MY country.

Oh, and it’s the feeling I always get when I see the ocean hitting the shore line from my plane seat on every returning flight back home.


Nigel W


To be Bajan? Quite simply to be born and raised here. To go to school, to lime on the beach, to be a part of our economy, pay taxes… if you put down roots in Barbados you are Bajan.

I could go far more in to it, but that’s the basic definition for me.

My definition differs in that a lot of people (more than I thought) seem to think that being Bajan is a skin colour or a race. My heart was broken reading comments yesterday that implied that although I contribute to this society, and I identify as Bajan, my peers see me as something unworthy of that title.


Fiona B


I think being Bajan simply means being born here, though I do agree if you were born overseas to Bajan parents, you’re Bajan as well. Cultures are so diverse and have had so many outside influences that it’s so difficult to define what’s “indigenous”, for lack of a better word.

I think my opinion differs because though I’m Bajan by birth, my parents are Trini and English… so I think my view might be slightly unique due to my upbringing where I have to appreciate being influenced by several cultures.

Josh R


Tough question. I consider myself a Bajan mainly because I was born and raised in Barbados, spent the majority of my life in Barbados, and know more about Barbados than any other country. 

I know that there are a lot of people in Barbados that believe that if you are not Black, then you cannot be considered a Bajan. I don’t know if the majority thinks that, but I know that a lot of people certainly think so (the abundance of negative comments on social media regarding the skin colour of the new Miss Barbados winner has shown as much). In my opinion, there are really two factors that determine whether or not you are a Bajan. The first is legal… being born (and possibly raised) in Barbados. The second is that you identify with Barbados more so than other countries. The way each person “identifies” with Barbados can be different. Some people may identify with Barbados because they have been here so many times that they know more about Barbados than another country. Others may identify with Barbados because of the culture (food, music, dance, etc). This part is a little harder to discuss because it can change for each person. 

I do also believe that there are a lot of people in other parts of the world that I would consider “honorary Bajans”. There’s so many people that visit Barbados over and over again. Eventually they end up knowing so much about Barbados, so many places in Barbados, etc. 

These are some hard questions. It’s more about what people feel I guess. I mean there are legal things such as being born in Barbados and having citizenship etc, but then there’s so many people that were born and raised in Barbados, went away to university and never came back. I think for them it’s because they started to identify more with another country than they did with Barbados. 


Jeena C


It’s more than just being born in Barbados…

It’s being anywhere in the world and recognising an accent…

Being proud to say you are a Bajan…

Being brought up on sucka bubbies, and ackees, and potholes, and rally.


Stephanie D




Oh, by the way, I should mention none of the above people are black.

Does that make a difference?




(Submissions have been edited for clarity.)