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Op-ed: Discrimination, The Bahamian Political Crack
By Frederick R Smith QC
Feb 11, 2016 - 8:08:49 PM

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All that glitters is not gold. There is another, darker side to The Bahamas. As a people, Bahamians can be kind, appreciative, welcoming and gracious. But they can also be hateful, abusive and vicious. How is this schizophrenic national personality explained?

This paper is a commentary by Frederick Smith QC arising from Professor of Anthropology Dr Bertin M. Louis's perspicacious lecture on the Marginalization of Haitian Migrants in The Bahamas, and persons of Haitian Heritage.

The lecture by Professor Louis can be found on YouTube, and I urge watching it. I found it to be stimulating and thought provoking.

Although it focused on the plight of Haitian migrants in The Bahamas, Dr. Louis made the broader point, with which I wholeheartedly agree, that The Bahamas is a nation steeped in a culture of discrimination and human rights abuses.

He argued that the Bahamas is not a paradise and explored the “Invisible Architecture of Bahamian Society”, glued together by national ethic of discrimination and exclusion of foreigners, in particular Haitians. I share his views, and expand upon them in this paper.

All that glitters is not gold in The Bahamas. The reality is that this little Paradise, touted as being "Better In The Bahamas", is a public relations deception. The Bahamas is Wolf in Sheep’s clothing. It will seduce you, then devour you. A person has to be very strong to survive The Bahamas!

The Great Irony, is that The Bahamas welcomes over 5 million visitors to its shores each year! The people of The Bahamas are also genuinely friendly.

But there is a vein of visceral discrimination that runs so deep that makes The Bahamas politically, culturally and racially schizophrenic and psychotically hateful!

Historically, The Bahamas has been a melting pot of races, cultures and nationalities merging over hundreds of years.

Dr. Renee Lockhart in her piece published in October 2015, “Who is a Bahamian?” astutely urged that, “….we must learn to embrace many other cultures and peoples…realizing that none of us are the original inhabitants, just stewards of its beauty”.

The Greater Irony is that being a predominantly black nation, the most racist, oppressive, and abusive forms of discrimination in The Bahamas are visited upon fellow blacks, in particular from Haiti, which should instead be celebrated for having successfully rebelled and discarded the shackles of white slavery and held high the Torch of Freedom and Human Dignity.

Indeed, The Bahamas refuses to even acknowledge that most of its black population is originally from Haiti!

Like the immigrant populations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the USA and Canada, the first ethnic waves, in vain efforts to integrate and be accepted, effaced their ethnic or national origins, to the great varietal loss of culture and diversity.

Fast forward to modern times. Most nations appreciate that they are now part of a Global Village and Economy.

They welcome and create opportunities for new blood and new arrivals into their community; witness the cultural effervescence and resilient economies of England, Canada or the Scandinavian nations.

This should be obvious for many self-evident and beneficial reasons.

Briefly, it helps to develop an economy in many different ways; it increases the tax base and revenues for the government; it promotes diversity; it creates variety in entertainment, culture, arts. And, through integration rather than exclusion, fundamentally encourages ownership and commitment to a better community for all of those who are included, thus treating it as their own.

If I “Own My Home” I take better care of it than if “I rent Your Home”!

Just imagine, as happens in so many other parts of the world, when guests are welcomed into the community and celebrated for their different and potential contribution.

Imagine, with all of the affluent foreign visitors, second home owners and investors who arrive with great expectations (and for the most part with humility and respect) and who want to be included as part of Bahamian community; if they were embraced , if they were made to feel welcome, if their lives weren’t made so difficult?

If they were not made to beg to stay here? If it was not difficult, inconvenient and humiliating to get extensions to stay; if the thousands of second home owners were efficiently issued their Home Owner Resident cards? If The Bahamas insisted, for instance, that investors and their families become citizens or permanent residents so that they would have ownership and a stake in the future of The Bahamas.

As affluent new members of communities elsewhere, in order to make their mark, to vie amongst themselves, or to contribute, or to feel accepted, they might donate , for instance, a medical ward; or a heart wing at the PMH in Nassau or The Rand Hospital in Freeport; or create vocational training branches of our colleges; or donate libraries; or establish foundations for education, health , culture, the arts.

The Bahamas would effervesce in the bounty. Opportunities for citizens of The Bahamas would be legion in the graciousness of affluent foreign “Friends of The Bahamas”.

But NO!

As Dr Louis points out forcefully, The Bahamas continues to exclude, prevent easy participation; throw bureaucratic obstacles in the way; delay; frustrate, and eventually turn the love that exists in the hearts of most foreigners that come here into a bile form of disdain, disgust and exasperation with its schizophrenic love-hate relationship with foreigners; its corrupt practices, xenophobia, insecurity, racism, selfishness and discrimination!

And the Friends of The Bahamas just eventually leave. They go elsewhere where their generosity or their potential in human resource and skills transference is appreciated and welcomed.

Of course not every foreigner is perfect!! But neither is every Bahamian!!! The Bahamas must have faith in itself and with a sense of maturity and security take the good with the bad if it is to grow; prosper; develop; change! There is nothing more disempowering as stasis!

And for the last 65 years the hateful Immigration laws and policies of The Bahamas have remained unchanged and have been at the heart of the dark forces of discrimination.

They are exclusionary, abusive, arbitrary, amenable to corruption, and continue to be used as a tool of oppression and control (not only of foreigners, but also of Bahamian citizens who often need permits, or do business with foreigners). They undermine the Rule of Law and Human Rights in The Bahamas for all persons.

They have promoted transience, uncertainty, anxiety, fear and developed an unfortunate attitude by many foreign investors and work permit holders of "Let me grab as much as I can while I'm allowed to be here", instead of a policy that embeds them as long term contributing members of the community , with a stake in their mutual futures.

In the Bahamas, Bahamians even hate their fellow Bahamians! Bahamians even have a name for it ; “The Black Crab Syndrome”. Bahamians hate their fellow Bahamians for many reasons. For example because one was born in The Bahamas, but the other is a “Paper” Bahamian; because they were black; or now because they are white; or because they are Conchy Joe; or because they are “red”; or because they are gay, or lesbian, or because they are from Nassau, or because they're from Freeport or from Acklins.

Bahamians hate at every chance and for any reason! Bahamians love to hate! This is despite the clarion call in the recital to the Constitution “for an abiding respect for Christian values and The Rule of Law”. Hate is embedded in the Bahamian psyche.

This is because rarely has any political effort been made to stamp out "Discrimination” in all forms in The Bahamas; that which the United Nations has said is the most cancerous disease to Human Rights!

Historically, politicians in The Bahamas have used discrimination as a tool of control; race by whites against blacks; property qualification to control the vote; men against women to vote, own property and not be violated; Bahamianization against foreigners; economic slavery by Bahamians of Haitians.

The biggest challenge that has faced The Bahamas is the lack of political will to end discrimination.

The few political exceptions can be counted on one hand; Sir Etienne Dupuch’ s successful passage of legislation in the 1950’s to end racial segregation; women were finally granted the right to vote in the 1960’s ; Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield gave birth to the FNM as a political party in the 1970s to attack Discrimination; former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s prevention of political victimization of PLP’s by the first FNM administration in the 1990’s.

Instead, politicians in the UBP, PLP and FNM have pandered to the lynch mob and used the race card, the discrimination card to hoist and then maintain themselves in power. Unfortunately, in so doing, they have done a great disservice to The Bahamas; they have made discrimination the foundation of Bahamian society.

Discrimination is a ubiquitous construct of the Bahamian psyche; blacks discriminate against whites; men against women; Bahamians against foreigners; all against LGBI's; Haitians against Bahamians! As Dr. Louis describes it ; “The Invisible Architecture of Bahamian Society”.

Indeed politics in The Bahamas is even a tribal discriminatory and violent affair. One’s political identification often means the difference between a job or not, depending on if it’s the PLP or FNM that happens to be in power. Political victimization is healthy, vigorous, rife and endemic in The Bahamas!!

Discrimination is also practiced through financial power by those that have and those who have not.

Regrettably, discrimination as part of the Colonial Heritage of The Bahamas continues to be jealously embraced and practiced. Although The Bahamas broke free from the political chains of colonialism by virtue of independence, discrimination was embedded in its successive Constitutions.

And with the post-independence policy of “Bahamianization” institutionalized discrimination formed the basis of its cultural, economic, legal and political construct.

"Bahamians" (whether they have that little piece of paper or not) have been trained from the time they were toddlers to discriminate, and they and have experienced and have practiced discrimination in all forms. "Discrimination" is the “Cancer of The Bahamas”! It is the one big ailment that The Bahamas has historically suffered from.

In modern times it has been discrimination by the white oligarchy against the blacks until the 50s; the discrimination by men against women who didn't have the vote until the 60s; discrimination by the blacks against the whites when the PLP came to power in the late 60’s and early 70’s; discrimination by the black and white Bahamians in the 60s and 70s against foreigners; Pindling and Hanna’s ignorant attack on foreigners and the collapse of Freeport with their “Bend or Break” and Bahamianization policy in the late 60’s; discrimination against foreign owned businesses so that they could be taken over by the new Blacktocracy in the 70’s and the 80’s; continued discrimination against the poor by the rich through banks, mortgage lenders, insurance companies, and the judicial system; discrimination against Freeport by Nassau to rest economic and political control; the battle between the PLP and the FNM giving birth to the FNM to fight discrimination.

Discrimination remains a very unfortunate fact of life in the Bahamas.

The Bahamas is one of the most discriminatory nations in the region.
Politicians in The Bahamas foment discrimination; it is so easily encouraged ; so easily understood; so easily bought into by human beings everywhere; not just in The Bahamas. However, in the Bahamas it has been made into a cultural, legal, political and economic institution! The Bahamas has institutionalized it, upheld it in policy, legislated it and deified it!

Despite the great opportunity the PLP had at independence to end discrimination in all forms, they conceived and latched on to "Bahamianization" and took a short cut to continued power and control.

It will be said that “Bahamianization” is comparable to “Affirmative Action” in the USA; but Affirmative Action has its critics there to; and more to the point, the political system in the USA has many checks and balances, most importantly a judicial system (that is effective and respected) and a country that is not run by a Prime Ministerial Dictatorship like the Bahamas.

“Bahamianization”, “Bahamas For Bahamians”, “Hate The Haitian”, “A National Investment Policy to Protect Bahamians” are very attractive and seductive fruit for political picking and consumption; but they are akin to “Political Crack”!

Quick hits ending in self-defeating , devaluing, undignified collapse and the inevitable economic depression and self-destruction.

However, it is under its beguiling, seductive and attractive guise that this policy of institutionalized political discrimination that "Bahamians" have come to accept and promote hatred and discrimination in all forms in The Bahamas!

And so we turn to the issue of Haitian migrants or Bahamians of Haitian heritage in The Bahamas, or as they are derogatorily called, “Haitian Bahamians” .

The usual place where discrimination starts is with children. And there it has embedded itself as part of Bahamian Culture.

“Hating Haitians” has been a national obsession in the Bahamas for 65 years ; it wasn’t always so, but over the decades it has risen to ever increasing heights.

And, it shows no sign of abating. With the advent of the PLP’s new policies in the embodiment of its standard bearer, the Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchel, the culture of "Hating Haitians" has rocketed to places where no civilized society has gone before.

It is now so useful as a political, social, economic and cultural tool that it has been encouraged to grow to a feverish, violent, abusive, dehumanizing, degrading and unbelievably intense pitch.

Instead of embracing the Haitian Heritage that is nearly 30 to 40 % of the ethnic and cultural population of The Bahamas; instead of growing the economy by granting citizenship to all those who are entitled to it; instead of making it easy and workable for Haitian migrants that are so desperately needed to help develop the underpopulated archipelago; instead of making a virtue out of necessity, the PLP have chosen a darker path!

The PLP have chosen political expediency over national development.

The path they have propelled The Bahamas down is dark; it is the hateful path; the almost irreversible path of creating permanent and potentially explosive division and ethnic strife ; promoting discrimination; encouraging hatefulness; creating an "outlaw" class.

The Parliament of The Bahamas, with not one dissenting vote, has gone to the unprecedented extent of actually passing a law that creates an "illegal person". Dr Louis calls it a “ permanent underclass”.

How on earth can anyone be an “illegal” person? Given their visceral discriminatory mindsight, the Members of Parliament don’t even seem to understand what they have done.

The last time an illegal person or “outlaw” existed was in Sherwood Forest; and that resulted in Magna Carta! And thankfully Chapter III of the Constitution of The Bahamas underpinned by the presumption of innocence. No person can legally be an “illegal” person. This is pure political hatred and irresponsibility. It is promoting ethnic division and violence. I call it “State Sponsored Terrorism”.

It is the height of political irresponsibility and insanity to pass a law to discriminate and deprive thousands and thousands of persons of constitutional, political, civil, economic , social, educational rights.

To prevent participation in the economy.

To deprive people of their citizenship.

To deprive people of the right to vote.

To deprive people of their right to travel freely both in and out of The Bahamas.

To Creating corruption in the Immigration and Police Departments; promoting violence visited upon citizens by Immigration and Police roadblocks; making the Defense Force into a violent abuser; bulldozing down whole communities; promoting inhuman degrading detention centers or Concentration Camps and perpetrating indefinite and arbitrary detention, something that is not permitted hardly anywhere in the world other than dictatorships and the USA!

Bringing international odium, contempt, criticism and condemnation upon the Bahamas by the Organization of American States in Washington, by Amnesty International, by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

By scaring investors away when The Bahamas needs them so badly.

By destroying families; splitting children from their mothers; shooting people in the back of the head; killing people, beating them and raping them.

By depriving them of the opportunity to work; of the opportunity to have a bank account; depriving them of a national insurance card; of a marriage certificate; of a driver’s license; of a birth certificate; of the safety net of national insurance and social services ; of medical attention.

And worst of all depriving children, be they of illegal foreign parents and/or Bahamians of Haitian Heritage, of an education at the primary secondary or even tertiary level; depriving them of scholarships; depriving them of representing their country internationally at sporting or cultural events.

By creating a totally underprivileged, abused, dehumanized, and discriminated “illegal” class; forever enslaved to both political parties.

It must not be forgotten that the FNM, now Her Majesties’ Official Opposition, has stood quietly by, indeed complicit in this conspiracy of discrimination and human rights abuses, despite being called upon to be true to its origins and rebuke it! Every FNM Parliamentarian voted with every PLP Parliamentarian to pass the May 2015 Amendment to the Immigration Act to legislate into being an “illegal person”.

This support given by the FNM to the PLP to “Hate The Haitian!”, in these most dark days of Bahamian Human Rights, will not be forgotten in the annals of history! It is a calculated wholesale politically expedient abandonment by the FNM of its core value!

The Bahamas, instead of respecting its own Constitution and International Treaties, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; instead of respecting the humanity in one another; has recommitted itself instead to the base level of institutionalized, accepted and promoted hatred, discrimination and State Sponsored Institutionalized Terrorism and abuse against nearly 30 to 40% of the population of The Bahamas!

No wonder The Bahamas has one of the highest per capita murder counts in the world.

The State of The Bahamas promotes violence against civil rights!

And once violence and terrorism are promoted, in any form, there is no end to its permutations of lawlessness!

Why be exclusionary when one can be inclusionary and benefit from so much opportunity.

Discriminating, promoting differences, and excluding, only prevent positive, loving, peaceful, harmonious human relations and breaks down community instead of building it.

It is all so self-defeating; except that in its selfishness, it creates legions of opportunities for corruption and the promotion of self-serving personal and political interests.

It helps to keep those who are financially and politically more powerful, and racially in the majority, in control !

That's all that it is. Political and Economic Control!

Discrimination is a very useful and easily wielded tool of control used by the political demagogues to keep the population in check!

The problem is, that with The Bahamas embracing discrimination as part of its culture and political and economic construct, then discrimination in any form can and will be rationalized and used as an instrument of abuse and oppression.

Haitians aside, all we have to do is look at the issue of Women's Rights.

Forget the Haitians! After all, they only make up 30 to 40 % of the population of The Bahamas!

Turn to Women instead!

Why is it that over 60% of the population of The Bahamas is constitutionally, politically, financially, economically and culturally discriminated against in the 21st-century?

I rest my case.

The Bahamas is one of the most discriminatory nations in the world!

Discrimination in all of its forms is EVIL!

Once it is accepted for any reason, it actually exacerbates violence and will affect every level of society; hence the violence The Bahamas is experiencing now!

And for those interested only in money; it’s just plain bad for business all around!

It really is “NOT Better In The Bahamas”!

Frederick R Smith QC
February 7, 2016

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of TheBahamasWeekly.com

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