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Title: Béké  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Martinique, Îles des Saintes
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


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


The origin of the term is not clear and several explanations have been proposed. It could be a word from the Igbo 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.[1]

In Guadeloupe one theory speaks also of the "Blanc Créole" or "Blanc Kréyol", abbreviated to BK, ergo Béké.[2]

Class problems

The békés represent a small minority in the French Antilles; however, they control much of the local industry.[3] The 2009 French Caribbean general strikes were to some degree aimed against the class difference that exists between the békés and the predominantly Black majority population.[3]

Racist statements in TV documentary

At the beginning of 2009, Canal+ aired a 50-minute documentary called "Les derniers maîtres de Martinique" ("Martinique's Last Masters"),[4] in which a prominent member of the Béké community and one the island's economically most powerful figures, Alain Huyghues Despointes (Chairman of Groupe Alain Huyghues Despointes), is filmed (openly, no hidden camera) making the following 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 intended to preserve the race." The voice-over adds that members of the Béké community who marry Black people are excommunicated.


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