In Haiti, under a regime of slavery there was an extreme disparity between ruler and ruled. Haiti goes down in history as the site of the only successful slave insurrection in the New World. This is no small fact. It was surely no small feat. It was effectively a plantation-sized Django Unchained, which became a municipal-sized Django Unchained, which metastasized into a bloodbath of accrued and requited grievances at a scale too big for any silver screen. The Haitian Revolution is one of the greatest, most undertold stories of the Modern Era.
In that crucible of Haiti, mixed people were known as Gens de couleur, (colored peoples) a third racial group that proved difficult to understand and categorize for the narrators of the Haitian Slave Rebellion[i].
As embodied by colored leaders like Vincent Ogé, as much as they protested against grievances they suffered under ruling whites, the Gens de couleur were slaveowners of blacks themselves. Vincent Ogé makes this clear: “When I solicited from the National Assembly a decree which I obtained in favour of the American colonists, formerly known under the injurious epithet of mulattos, I did not include in my claims the condition of the negroes who live in servitude. You and our adversaries have misrepresented my steps in order to bring me into discredit with honorable men. No, no, gentlemen! we have put forth a claim only on behalf of a class of freemen (italics added), who, for two centuries, have been under the yoke of oppression[ii].”
In the extreme case of Haiti, mixed people were hard up against black emancipation, ready to work with the colonial government to extend the fruits of the French Revolution to their “mezzanine” class. On the other hand, some of them were shoulder-to-shoulder with blacks, on the frontlines of the first-ever successful slave rebellion. Of the latter, there were characters like Candi, the “bloodthirsty mulatto,” who loved nothing more than to “pull out the eyes of the Whites with a corkscrew[iii].”
It was a more violent, more racial world back then. Nonetheless, the extreme case of the Gens de couleur, caught between two worlds with a vast amount of space between one and the other is instructive for any person today who is mixed. A Portuguese Eurasian never faced anything of the sort of violent pulling and counter-pulling between extremes—one pitching a slaveholding flag, the other a slave-revolting one.
The crucial question is whether the Gens de couleur exhibited switching or bothness?
[i] Popkin, Jeremy D. "Loc 460 Kindle Ebook." Facing Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2007. N. pag. Print.
[ii] Beard, J. R. (John Relly) (1863). Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography, Boston: James Redpath, Archived by Academic Affairs Library, University of North Carolina. 45-47.
[iii] Popkin, Jeremy D. "Loc 1349 Kindle Ebook." Facing Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2007. N. pag. Print.