When I was a child there were two school mates of mine whose father was Bahamian and mother was Columbian. Having parents who are both Bahamian, I thought having a mother from Columbia was so special and rather exotic.
There were other children at my school whose parents were from Canada and the United States of America, but through the eyes of a six year old, if someone’s parent spoke another language, that was considered really cool.
Being so mesmerized by the different culture and language that existed in such a household, I found myself thinking that my heritage, culture and ethnicity were lacking something. I didn’t think of myself as special or my Long Island roots as something to brag about.
I have long since come to realize how special and privileged I am to have my family background. So, when I overheard two young black Bahamian men talking about how much of a misfortune it would be for a child to be born to two dark skinned people, I realized how deeply some people despise their ethnicity and heritage.
One man thought it was humourous that his grandmother did not look kindly on dark-skinned women being brought to the house. His friend then concluded that it was best to get a “red gal” because a dark skinned child would “have a hard time in life.”
In a few days we will be celebrating our 35th anniversary as a sovereign nation, but we have very far to go in our development. When I hear comments like the ones by the young men, it is then that I realize how much we are still slaves.
We are still in a psychological bondage that has stunted our emotional development and hindered our ability to think beyond skin colour. The field slave (dark-skinned) and house slave (light skinned) mentality is alive and kicking in this country and based on how we speak to and about each other, I don’t think it will change anytime soon.
To think that a dark-skinned child would have a harder time in life than anyone else simply because his skin is dark is so ignorant, and making such statements will only perpetuate this belief. Because the mulattos were allowed to work inside the main house on the plantation while the dark skinned Africans were made to work the fields, a divide developed among the slaves. This divide continues today.
The lighter the skin colour, the more privileges that particular slave received. And, this element of slavery still exists in many sectors in this country; because it is not unusual to hear persons complain that they were passed up on jobs because they were not the “right colour.”
While some Bahamians might dismiss this, or decide it is someone’s way of making excuses for his inadequacies or shortcomings, there is much truth to such a belief or thought. Therefore because this happens, dark skinned individuals figure they would not want to pass on such a fate to their child.
With such self-disdain that dark skinned blacks hold deep within, it is not surprising that this attitude is being handed on from generation to generation. The youth of this nation will not become any better at leadership or personal development than those in authority now because they are not being taught to think or act any differently.
It is highly unlikely that these psychological shackles will be broken anytime soon. The environments in which we live are breeding grounds for self-doubt, self-loathing, and low self-esteem. In order for self-actualization to take place much more soul searching needs to begin on an individual bases.
Young and old alike need to look deep within themselves and find the beauty that exists in all human beings. We cannot continue to see ourselves only as a colour or hue. When we do that, we remain trapped in the fields or the plantation house with no chance of slavery being abolished.
No white women of privilege backgrounds can set the wheels turning to free us from this mental slavery. They did their part when they got the physical chains removed. I’m sure the Portuguese never envisaged that the business of slavery they capitalized upon over four hundred years ago would still be alive and well.
About the author:
Joye Ritchie-Greene is an Educational Consultant, Writer and Martial Arts Instructor. She is the owner/operator of The Bahamas Martial Arts Academy; president of Time-Out Productions; and is also a columnist for the Freeport News. She has a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Human Resources, resides in Freeport, Grand Bahama with her husband and enjoys playing tennis. Joye can be reached at