The Experience Of White Tourist On Antigua Island In A Small Place By Jamaica Kincaid

August 9, 2021 by Essay Writer

When reading Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, the reader is placed within the shoes of a tourist visiting the island of Antigua. This tourist, in the eyes of Kincaid, is trying to escape their life for a moment from that of the Western world. In her mind, this tourist is a white, Western person who is unknowingly, or knowingly, condescending and patronizing. The tourist is someone who sees themselves as above the people who live in Antigua, making a clear and blunt division between the tourist and the Antiguan natives. I do not think she is specifically talking to me, however, I believe her writing is targeting and talking to white, affluent Western tourists who visit smaller countries for their own vacations. This lessens the blunt of the attack onto me but even while being the tourist, I felt uncomfortable and attacked by Kincaid. These islands are more than just vacation spots for the wealthy who only spend a mere few days on them; they host whole communities of people who have to experience every aspect of the island. The tourist only focuses on the highlights of their trip, glossing over the troubling issues within Antigua. These white tourists who think they are superior to the black Antiguans are only focusing on certain aspects of their trip, like the beautiful, clear skies but will ignore the rundown schools in the same area because that is not their problem. They will ignore the damaged libraries and hospitals, and will only be concerned about themselves, not for the people of Antigua who have lost these things. The purpose of the tourist’s trip is to enjoy themselves and escape their lives back in their home places.

I believe that Kincaid is demonstrating how tourism is the legacy and remains from colonialism. The tourist is a selfish person with selfish ancestors who imposed and suppressed the people of Antigua to follow their ideas and ways of life. One of the key lines within A Small Place that stood out to me was “Not very long after The Earthquake Antigua got its independence from Britain … Antiguans are so proud of this that each year, to mark the day, they go to church and thank God, a British God, for this” (Kincaid 9). The earthquake that caused the damages to colonial buildings on Antigua, like the library, years ago was also around the same time that the Antiguans got independence from Britain. But just because the British no longer own Antigua as a colony doesn’t mean their influence went away. British occupation and colonization have left a mark on Antigua, and have infused itself into the island. The “British God” is referring to Christianity and missionaries within the island trying to convert Antiguans. It is ironic to think that the God that the British worshipped would be the same God affording the Antiguans their freedom when the British took that away from Antiguans, as well as their own native religion and culture. This god that the missionaries sold to the natives was not the reason for Antiguans getting the island’s independence. The colonizers pushed, replaced, and stole many aspects of Antigua, and got rich by doing so. The tourist doesn’t acknowledge that the British got rich from these acquisitions, but that is incorrect; the British exploited Antigua, and many lands like it, for its own gain. They stole resources from the natives but it is much easier for the tourist to live in the illusion that the British, most likely the tourist’s own ancestors, weren’t exploitative, oppressive, or dominating people. It would ruin the tourist’s holiday if they did think about that. The tourists convince themselves that British colonization helped Antiguans, by giving them buildings, a government, and freedom. It is interesting to see this perspective because Westerners weren’t supposed to hold Antigua’s freedom or control them in the first place. It never belonged to the West and should have never even been “given.” Now, present-day places like Antigua will always have the depressing history of colonization looming over their existence. The quote from Kincaid, “it would amaze even you to know the number of black slaves this ocean has swallowed up,” encapsulates the situation between tourists and the native Antiguans (14). The tourist is an ugly human being who is only contributing to the problem and legacy of colonialism. They choose to ignore this past of how the British robbed Antigua of its people and its land. Colonization tied with slavery can easily be dismissed by the tourist but the Antiguans will not forget the injustices that they have faced because the repercussions of these events last for years afterward.

Kincaid’s anger and criticisms towards the tourist are clear and justified. Antigua is a place of entertainment and inspiration for the tourists, and to the colonizer, a financial asset. But the tourist fails to ever consider that they are never truly welcomed there. There are no hardships attached to being a tourist; they have the freedom to escape the “crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression” of life (Kincaid 18). It is obvious that everyone would like to go on vacations and experience moments of bliss for a while, but not everyone can afford this. Most natives in the world are too poor, leaving wealthy people to the majority of the tourist population, which in turn suggests that most tourists are wealthy, white Westerners from developed nations. Kincaid revealed to me how Antigua was just a microcosm of the larger global inequality, with many of the central issues stemming from colonialism. Colonization has caused the loss of many cultures and destroys any connections between natives to their native history and past. The colonizers don’t seem to care that the people under their control were wronged. Kincaid’s pointed anger and intensity of emotion illuminates how destructive the actions of the colonizers were to her and her Antigua. I appreciate how Kincaid points out how the English and their conquests tried to turn everything around them into extensions of England, turning lands and people “English.” It has made me reevaluate my own surroundings and forced me to realize how much the English have influenced, not just the United States, but the world. Western culture has almost infiltrated every nation on this globe. From buildings, to the structures of government, to the language in which I speak everyday, it can all be tied back to the time of colonization. Even if the colonizers are dead, the legacies that they’ve left behind still influence everyday life. I can relate to Kincaid’s frustration, especially with the line, “Do you ever try to understand why people like me cannot get over the past, cannot forgive and cannot forget?” (26). There should be some retribution for the actions of colonizers. The ancestors of those colonizers, in other words the tourists, still reap the benefits to this day, having certain advantages and powers. Another line that is imprinted in my head after reading Kincaid’s work is how “odd that the only language I have in which to speak of this crime is the language of the criminal who committed the crime… The language of the criminal can explain and express the deed only from the criminal’s point of view” (Kincaid 31-32). Kincaid clarifies how in every aspect, the criminals, or the English colonizers, are able to remove themselves from any blame for their deeds and don’t get to experience any punishment for their deadly, long-lasting actions. The criminal will never get to experience the loss, pain, and devastation that they inflicted onto the people they have oppressed. The criminal can’t understand the horror, injustice, and agony of their deed because in the criminal’s own language, they were able to justify to themselves that what they have done is not “wrong” or “bad.” Therefore, it would be impossible to explain to the criminal why Kincaid, and many more Antiguans, as well as other colonized people, how extremely detrimental their impact was onto them.

The seething rage Kincaid exhibits is justified in my eyes. I can understand and sympathize with Kincaid and how an apology, any sum of money, or even the death of the criminal couldn’t erase the rage of not only Kincaid but others who were oppressed. Additionally, the remarks Kincaid made about how all the people that have been colonized by the English have learned “how to imprison and murder each other, how to govern badly, and how to take the wealth of our country and place it in Swiss bank accounts” (Kincaid 34). I never identified the irony in the criticisms made by Western colonizers on less developed and colonized nations. It is hypocritical to criticize these people and label them as barbaric and “inferior” when the habits that they portray are those of which they learned from the colonizer themselves. The colonizers took things, claiming that they could make better use of it, while murdering, imprisoning, and robbing innocent people. The colonizers have stolen something so sacred and intangible that neither Kincaid, other Antiguans, nor other colonized groups can have back. Tourism is just another form of exploitation in disguise, being much more subtle. Tourism has replaced the sugar industry within Antigua, and many other colonized nations, and have disrupted the way of life for many people. There is no attack on the individual tourist but on tourism and what it represents. Tourists are enforcing the after effects of colonization and corruption of the island and are only small pawns in a larger, complex problem. The tourism industry has become a replacement for the plantations, and plays a significant role in maintaining corruption as well as an imbalanced wealth distribution. Antigua will now continue to live in a vicious cycle of continuing to appeal to the tourist since tourism generates profit, and will exist indirectly in the palms of the same people that are related to the colonizers who took Antigua in the first place.


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