The Caribbean School System
When the Caribbean was discovered by Columbus in 1492 the Europeans quickly invaded the area. With the invasion came their way of life. The Europeans eventually killed off the natives of the Caribbean and thus needed to import new labor. With that came the African American and the African American culture. The Europeans would have nothing to do with the Africans way of life and language. Europeans insisted that the language should be only that of European (Brathwaite 627). Even though the blacks were forbidden to speak and express their ways of life, the two cultures (African American and European) slowly began to merge. The African’s language was influencing the way in which the Europeans spoke their own language (Brathwaite 628). Edward Brathwaite addresses how the educational system in the Caribbean did not notice these various languages existed. Instead the educational system enforced the European language …and the contours of an English heritage (Brathwaite 628). Novelist Merle Hodge writes in her novel Crick Crack Monkey about a child in the Caribbean who enrolls into school. Hodge illustrates just what Brathwaite’s description of a typical Caribbean school is and how the Europeans enforced their language and heritage.
Crick Crack Monkey begins with Tantie, the narrator’s aunt, taking her niece to school. When they get to the school there are crowds of people protesting to let them in. The crowds where told by a man by the name of Mr. Thomas that the school was full. I presume that the school wasn’t full at all, but rather racist towards blacks and would not let them enroll. Tantie as well as the rest of the crowd moved on to the RC (Private Roman Catholic) school, but there too was a sign outside of the entrance gate that said the school was full. A nun stood behind the gate praying with a regretful smile on her face. The nun swayed on and smiled regretfully, as if she had been wound up and placed at the gate to do so (Hodge 631). Again racism is shown towards the blacks as they can’t admit their children to the private Roman Catholic school. Tantie’s last resort is to leave her niece with Mrs. Hinds. Tantie leaves her niece saying, …jus’ you remember you going there to learn book do’ let them put no blasted *censored* in yu head (Hodge 631). Tantie wants her niece to learn but not about all the bull the white man will try and feed her. With Tantie gone, her niece is left with a group of children who repeatedly say their multiplication tables over and over. Here we can we that there s really not much teaching going on or learning for that matter. While the children are in the mitts of their chaos, Mrs. Hinds sits in her chair with a piece of embroidery. This ritual continues for some time until it is recess time. The narrator of the story doesn’t want to go out and play but wants to learn. As she explains, Go out and play indeed, when I had come to this place to read and write and all the other mysteries one performed in school! Go out and play I would not (Hodge 632). The narrator’s expectations of school were not like this and she seems to be a little disappointed.
After recess the children are left with Mr. Hinds. In the classroom behind Mr. Hinds is a picture of Churchill. If the children would start to be loud and become disorderly, Mr. Hinds would try and make them feel guilty. He would bring up the picture of Churchill saying it was unworthy behavior in front of the greatest Englishman who ever lived (Hodge 632). This is a bit ridiculous because these children obviously have no idea who Churchill is. This is exactly what Brathwaite is talking about when he says the system would try and instill American heritage into these children. Later on in the story Mrs. Hines recites some British hymns with the children. Here the children are forced to stand still and repeat after Mrs. Hines, who instructs, Not an eyelid must bat not a finger must twitch when we honor the Mother Country (Hodge 633). The children are once again being forced into this. Repeating British hymns has nothing to do with these children. British hymns are irrelevant to their lives. Many of the Children would misinterpret these prayers and hymns. The narrator of the story explains, I gathered from my puzzlement I was being ‘dragged up’ and – how desirable a fate – that our Daddy was ‘Up- there and was surely going to send for me (Hodge 634). The narrator tries to figure out what the prayers mean and misinterprets that she is a sinner and will be dragged up and that it is a desirable fate that this must happen.
Hodge closes this part of her novel with hymn that is clearly racist towards the black children. The hymn says things like, My black sin washed from me…..stand beside Thee, White and shining… (Hodge 636). This is sort of brainwashing these children through the hymns that whites are superior and blacks are sinners. This is exactly the blasted *censored* Tantie doesn’t want her niece to learn. This is exactly what Brathwaite talking about when he talks about the enforcing of the European language and heritage. This is exactly what these children do not need. These children need to have a school that they can go to and learn about their own heritage, their own culture and their own language; not the white mans.