Social stratification in the Caribbean has been influenced by slavery, colonialism, plantations and indentured servitude, according to Cape Sociology. The upper class consisted of white plantation owners, the middle class was educated brown-skinned mulattoes and had some entrepreneurial power, while the lower class was made of black slaves. The social stratification system broke down once Caribbean nations gained independence from their parent countries.
Sociologists contend the power in Caribbean countries continues to be descendants of white plantation owners, although many political leaders are now of mixed or African descent. One such country is Martinique where the Beke (Creole) still own much of the wealth on the island.
Caribbean E-Magazine states social stratification is a little different in contemporary society. Although there is no more slavery, social classes divide due to education, financial status, family background, religion, politics and even skin color.
A 1991 study concluded a majority of whites in three Caribbean countries held well-paying administrative and managerial jobs while blacks stayed at the bottom of the occupational ladder. Educational attainment is the main reason why whites outpace blacks in terms of money-making potential in St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent. The legacy of white plantation owners no longer holds as much sway in owning property in these countries. The original lines of stratification are still seen as white for rich and black for poor even though that isn't the case.
Caribbean stratification began in 1712 when plantation owner Willie Lynch made his speech on how to control slaves in the West Indies. He essentially turned light-brown slaves against dark-brown slaves in order to prevent any uprisings against white masters.