Racism is still a very real problem in The Bahamas

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Oswald Brown

Oswald Brown Writes

By OSWALD T. BROWN

An interesting discussion developed on Facebook today over whether racism is alive and kicking in The Bahamas.

In response to a posting on this issue, I noted that although I disagree with any effort aimed at perpetuating racial polarization, the sad reality is that racism is very much alive in this country. In support of this claim, I mentioned that I met a very good friend who happens to be a white Bahamian in Butler’s Food Centre the other day, and surprisingly he commended me on one of the articles I had written criticizing Hubert Ingraham and the FNM for neglecting Grand Bahama for the past four-plus years.

He confided in me that he had reached the conclusion that Ingraham does not particularly like white people. His reasoning was that there were several white Bahamians who were seriously interested in being candidates in Grand Bahama in the coming election, but Ingraham refused to consider any of them.

When I suggested that he should consider voting for the PLP candidate in his area, his answer was very blunt. “There’s no way, I could ever vote PLP,” he said.

When I asked why, he said, “I simply can’t bring myself to ever vote for the PLP.”

Now if this is not rank racism, I don’t know what is. Surely, the only conclusion to be drawn from his “never ever” decision to not vote for the PLP is because the PLP is considered to be a “black party” and he is inherently racist, although there is no other reason, based on his interaction with black people, to suggest that he is.

It is nonetheless true that the PLP has been saddled with the misconception that because of its history of fighting for full equality for black Bahamians, it is a “black party.”

By the very fact that the PLP was the party that waged an unrelenting war to rid this country of rank and open racism in the 1960s when as late as 1962 blacks were refused entry into the Savoy Theatre on Bay Street, it is not an unfair conclusion to suggest that it is a “black party.”

But when you consider the progress that has been made in closing the racial divide over the past years, it’s no longer an accurate statement to suggest that the PLP does not have an open-door policy for all white Bahamians who are interested in creating a more racially homogeneous society in The Bahamas.

In fact, this is clearly proven by the fact that one of the most articulate and dynamic young candidates running for the PLP in the upcoming general election is Ryan Pinder, who is a white Bahamian.

I’m always impressed at how well prepared Ryan Pinder, who is seeking re-election in the Elizabeth constituency, is for his contributions to debates in the House of Assembly. He speaks with the kind of passion of someone who truly believes in the cause that he is promoting.

I’ve never met Clay Sweeting, another young white Bahamian who is the PLP’s candidate for North Eleuthera, but he has also impressed me tremendously by his conduct on the campaign trail.

By contrast, the FNM had a golden opportunity to demonstrate that my white Bahamian friend was wrong when he said the Hubert Ingraham does not like white Bahamians.

I know at least six white Bahamians, two of them women, who are avid supporters of the FNM and are passionately involved in politics in Grand Bahama. Any one or two of them would have made excellent candidates for the FNM in Grand Bahama in the coming election, but Ingraham decided to recruit and hand-pick candidates that he can control and demand personal loyalty from.

He would not have been able to manipulate any of the six white Bahamians that I’m thinking of in this manner. But his reason for not affording an opportunity to any of them to run for the House of Assembly may very well be as simple as the conclusion reached by my friend while I was shopping at Butler’s Food Centre: He simply doesn’t like white people.

When you keep in mind that white Bahamians represent the strongest block of committed FNM voters in Grand Bahama, it makes absolutely no sense that Ingraham would not encourage them to keep supporting the FNM by selecting one of them to run for the House.

This is why I find it had to understand why my white Bahamian friend was so adamant that he could never vote PLP.

Certainly, we have come a long way since the oppressive days of the United Bahamian Party (UBP) when black Bahamians were second-class citizens in The Bahamas, but the attitude expressed by my white Bahamian friend unquestionably proves that we still have a very long way to go to reach the position where prejudice based on race is no longer a very real problem in The Bahamas.

–ends–