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Columns : Letters to The Editor Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM

In response to Anglican Archdeacon James Palacious comments at Majority Rule celebrations
By Donna Nicolls, Women’s Rights Advocate
Jan 18, 2017 - 8:59:30 PM

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There is NO "other"

It was painfully disheartening to read about Jimmy Palacious’ shameful pronouncement that black people “breed too much.”  It was all too reminiscent of Richard Lightbourne’s equally disrespectful and demeaning comments, demonstrating a total lack of empathy and understanding of a system of miseducation and oppression that continues to keep our communities disempowered.

Instead of disassociating ourselves from the social problems we see in society and casting blame on others, often times the most vulnerable, we need to examine the systems of which we are all apart of and advocate for fundamental change to these systems.

It must begin with empathy, and an understanding that “but for the Grace of God”. Empathy is “the experiencing of another person’s condition from their perspective. Placing yourself in their shoes and feeling what they feel.

When we experience ourselves as separate we suffer “a kind of optional delusion of consciousness.” It is a metaphorical prison that confines us “to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons” nearest to us. This is a lesson on the “universe” from Einstein.

“Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
It is easy to condemn, belittle or demean others, especially when you lack empathy or respect. It takes more courage and thoughtfulness to cast judgment on a system that robs our communities of structure and support; a system that offers only contempt in the form of negative messages; a system that breeds impoverishment, inequality and hopelessness.

When it comes specifically to women, it seems as though we can’t get a break in this country when our very humanity is constantly under attack. It is exhausting as a Bahamian woman keeping up with all of the narrow-mindedness, misogyny and self-loathing that is constantly on public display: questions about how we should act; who we should serve; who we should marry; what our citizenship means; how we should or should not “breed”; what the meaning of our womanhood is; how we should dress; how we should dance; what is proper; who we are. These questions always seem to challenge and undermine our sense of dignity, our personal autonomy and equal treatment.

The lack of empathy in our society for these injustices is a national disgrace; in this respect the struggle for gender equality, racial equality, social and economic justice should be equally understood.

When it comes to issues of sexual health, our hypocrisy is scandalous; and don’t think for a minute it is going unseen by our children. The only script we give them is “no sex until marriage.”  And yet, the message they actually receive could not be further removed. This is a failed campaign because adults, who are influencing the young people, are proving this script to be false. Added to this, we teach our girls and women the harmful script that women do not have ownership of or power over their own bodies.

As advocates we have been pushing to change this for years. One way is with comprehensive sexual health education that would teach children, age appropriately from primary to tertiary level, about healthy relationships and the full gamut of sexual and reproductive health. If Jimmy Palacious was serious he would have words for the Ministry of Education, for the Church and for other institutions of society (of which parenting is one) about their failure to provide proper support and guidance to our children, to empower them with knowledge and discernment.

In order to manifest change and to create wellness in our society, strong and relevant systems have to be a part of the new way forward. Education, positive reinforcement, comprehensive sexual health education, skills training, ethics training, self-confidence building, community development, self-love: All of these tools need to be imparted for the self-development process.

If only we could all set an intention to abandon judgment and to embrace empathy and love to move our country forward. Maybe we could get to real solutions instead of degrading grandstanding.

Donna Nicolls
Women’s Rights Advocate
Co-Founder/Bahamas Women’s Watch

Bahamas Women’s Watch (BWW) is a non –profit organization promoting women’s rights.

BWW intends to broaden the understanding of local and global women’s issues. We endeavour to enlighten and empower our communities in the Bahamas in order to strengthen the rights of women and to protect the interests and concerns of women and their families to achieve their highest living potential.

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