The origin of the term is unclear. One suggested origin is from the name of Scottish explorer William Balfour Baikie. Using his last name to describe "white man" or other Igbo expressions like Ala Bekee, Ndi Bekee translates to "land of Baikie, white people". Other 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 Créole" (or "Blan Kréyol" in creole) is use for White people born in the Antilles and adapted to the creole life who are not descendants of the first White settlers. "Blanc Pays" (or "Blan Péyi" in creole) is used to talk about the Béké of Guadeloupe.
The békés represent a small minority in the French Antilles and control much of the local industry. 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.
- Du Neg nwe au Beke Goyave, le langage de la couleur de la peau en Martinique, Isabelle Michelot Archived 2011-10-06 at the Wayback Machine« Il est composé du complément du nom -péyi (signifiant local) en construction directe sans connotation économique, par opposition au Béké (où le sème de "riche" est dominant) et au petit blanc (où le sème "pauvre" est dominant), appellation méprisante du blanc qui n’a pas réussi économiquement »
- La Rue Case-Nègres de Joseph Zobel
- "Blacks slam white minority in Martinique strike". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2009-02-16. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)