Politicole: The Problem With Majority Rule Day



IF “the white man” was the majority in The Bahamas in 1967, or any time between then and now, would we still be celebrating Majority Rule Day as a national holiday in The Bahamas?

Let’s call it what it is, for our country, anyway: “majority rule” equals “black rule”.

I’m sure the rationale for the celebration of this holiday sounds really pretty in theory, but it only translates into one thing in the average Bahamian brain: “the black man” took power from “the white man” and now “the black man” is in charge, not because “he” is in fact of equal or greater intelligence, wisdom or wealth, but just because we say he has the power and so he does.

Why do we go to extremes to define and redefine “black” and “white” in The Bahamas? Is this not causing more harm than good? Are we not creating segregation all over again in a new direction?

The greatest irony: you give them Majority Rule Day to remind them that they have the “power” and every other day of the year you teach them to be subservient? Your corruption and “gangsterism” strips away their right and access to economic wealth and power every day they breathe, but you still want to convince them that being a majority was enough to change their lives once and for all? Because, let’s be real, the power of economic wealth is the only material power that matters today.

If I didn’t live here, if I wasn’t born here, if I didn’t grow up here, I would challenge my own words. But I’ve lived it and I’ve seen it with my own eyes, felt it with my own heart: race is still a huge problem for the people of this country, and Majority Rule Day is both a reminder and reinforcer of why it remains a problem. Bahamians are still dealing with skin colour issues that can’t be fixed by national holidays commemorating racial dominance. And given the things we are hung up on, this division of power which rests on colour lines being one of them, then it’s no wonder we continue to struggle.

I went to NIB (the National Insurance Board) with my mother a short while back, and a brown-skinned fella gave me the eye. As is my usual protocol for men who try to come onto me from a distance, I smiled and politely acknowledged his greeting. My mum joined in the exchange and we all made small talk about the rain and the cold. And then I started to speak to her, “Mummy ...”

The man turned around in a jolt and said “Mummy?!” As in, “how dare you?”

So I looked at him, then said to him, knowing full well where his brain was parked, “Yeah, Mummy. Why? She look too young to be my mummy, or I look too old to be her daughter?”

He had no words, just a sheepish expression, and surprisingly (since Bahamians can be very mouthy and outspoken), he had nothing else to say.

And this is just one sample of the interactions that occur more often than you’d think in our little town that are based on people’s preoccupations with skin colour.

In my NIB friend’s mind: “What this brown-skinned woman doing with this ‘white’ child?” Or, vice versa? I can only imagine the comments and stares Mum got when I was in fact a child, though, I believe, people were a bit more polite and respectful back then. You would expect time and change to have increased every Bahamian’s exposure to racial diversity, but oddly it appears not to have.

For as seemingly racially integrated and diverse as we are, many Bahamians still have major hang-ups and challenges about skin colour. And who ain’ busy bleaching away their pigments, comin’ up with ideas like Majority Rule Day. I’m sorry, but I have to say it. And I know that it will probably irritate a lot of folks (over 50, 60, 70 years of age), who belabour the stories of how real the struggle was.

But I’m not denying that it was real in every way; my own grandmother told me stories of things that happened in George Town, Exuma, when she was a “black” girl growing up in the 1930s and 1940s “white man’s world”. In fact, I would hasten to say that our ancestors of that era developed a complex where what was “white” was better (an entire conversation can be had about it).

I’m not saying that anyone who is subject to racism – in any direction – should roll over and play like it doesn’t exist, but the sourness that lingers is a blockade to growth. Harbouring anxiety and reliving every day as if it were 1930-something, “lest we forget”, is almost as destructive as the racism itself. Can we learn to teach the past, teach our history, and be passionate about what matters most, without cutting off the trunk of the tree and still expecting it to grow?

My father, I guess some would have described him as ethnic European. His cappuccino skin and Mummy’s cocoa skin meant I came out looking like tea-stained Carnation evaporated milk.

When I went away to college and my father died – a man with whom I had no relationship to speak of at the time – I took his last name to pay homage to my paternity and paternal relatives. It was a beautiful thing. It put me in contact with relatives I never even knew I had.

And then I came home and people who did not know me or my Bahamian relatives saw my foreign name, and, in association with my skin colour, they assumed I was: 1) of foreign or “white” origin, 2) wealthy, 3) needed a work permit, 4) expected an outrageously high salary, or 5) wanted to take over a workplace. Or, some combination of these things.

The resistance was so extreme, I toyed with the idea that I would revert to my Bahamian name, which I eventually did. Life has been different; but the cost of that difference is rather unfortunate – deny one to be the other.

It’s amazing the irrational fears built into our everyday lives by ignorance and judgment about skin colour. But instead of finding ways to unite in celebration of our likeness, all things that make us one, we create a holiday that believes it celebrates what should have been a positive change, but instead celebrates the negativity of that change which is rooted in our differences. And it’s not just any difference, but rather the one specific thing that remains the greatest divider of (our) people.

As a racially mixed child (now adult), I lived the pressure to choose a side, a race, to be “more black” or to be “more white”, because that’s what humans are conditioned to see and find important; you must be one or the other. And it’s not necessarily pointed, verbalised pressure, but it’s more the suggestive things like how you should wear your hair, or what your friends should look like, or why you can’t be a part of a group because you don’t look “black enough” or “white enough” to identify. It’s the most unnecessary burden ever.

At the end of the day, who really gives a crack? Black people, white people, all people in between, they all do BS. Human beings’ relentless need to categorise, typecast, squeeze into a mould or box to make themselves feel more comfortable, is the reason for this never-ending racial division. And, whether we like it or not, racial division is the theme of Majority Rule Day.

What has majority rule gotten us? There is reality and the perception of reality. We think we are in charge but we are not. We’ve been well-educated, gone off to school, returned home to lead in the highest ranks of government, but if you want to draw this thing right down to what it is, “white Bahamians” and “foreign interests” still have “black Bahamians” by the economic balls. Some wealthy black Bahamians are amongst us, but they hoard, they squander and they segregate themselves. They are self-oriented – another side effect of racial division, now within one race itself.

How has “the black man” of The Bahamas used the power “he” found in majority rule to make a better world for us today?

I and many others are waiting now for “him” to use this power for good in “his” own country.

• Send comments via Tribune242.com or nicole@politiCole.com.


Honestman 5 years, 6 months ago

A mature Bahamian in a very immature and racist Bahamas. Well done. Good article.


birdiestrachan 5 years, 6 months ago

My understanding of Majority rule is one man one vote. In days gone by persons were able to vote where ever they had land. so one could vote in Nassau street and vote again in Fox Hill. There is a whole lot of work to be done. But God knows we as a people have to be more responsible for ourselves. and we must work harder. and not expect that any one on God's green earth will give as anything. We must earn it. That is my view , and I am sticking with it. I except some will cuss me. But it is all right.


duppyVAT 5 years, 6 months ago

Are you a Bahamian Burrows???????? Then you must have roots from Long Island ......... then this is an expected reaction............... I wonder what HM Taylor and Bill Cartwright would say about Majority Rule Day???????


proudloudandfnm 5 years, 6 months ago

I am white. My father and my grand father won the right to vote with Majority rule. So I see it as non-color holiday. Plenty white folks won the right to vote on majority rule day. Celebrate it for what it is. Equality for all. Not just blacks...


biminibhs 5 years, 6 months ago

duppyVAT your racism is shining thru. The woman who wrote this you expect must be from Long Island because why? And you expect her to write this because why? Yet, Taylor and Cartwright (using your own racist correlation to Long Island) would speak differently? Check yaseff.


duppyVAT 5 years, 6 months ago

I am racist FYI ........... if you understand the historical social psychology of Long Island Conchy Joes ("whites") and their pre-occupation with the UBP/FNM then you would understand my point .......... even the PLP split Long Island for 20 years between the black North and the white South. It took real enlightened Conchy Joes (like HM Taylor & Bill Cartwright) to see beyond colour to craft the PLP manifesto that the black PLPs are so proud of today ............... check ya history. It is not about colour ........ its about vision. There are too many visionless (dumb) black and white Bahamians .. thats the problem


TheMadHatter 5 years, 6 months ago

The yellow majority coming to rule soon. Perry gone to China last week talkin bout borrowing more money from some Chinese caribbean fund.



bahamalove 5 years, 6 months ago

A very good article with some valid points. I've always felt that this Public Holiday could have been incorporated into the National Heroes Day Public Holiday. The last thing the Bahamas need is another public holiday, especially one that occurs right after taking 1 - 2 weeks off for Christmas and New Years celebrations. Can't really be good for productivity for our lazy nation and just another added cost for many struggling businesses. With regards to the holiday itself, I like the esteemed authour, always thought that the term 'Majority Rule' does nothing to bring us together as one Nation. Leave it up to the PLP to institute this holiday. It is akin to playing 'Roots' on ZNS right before elections.


CatIslandBoy 5 years, 6 months ago

Just another wasted holiday to shift attention away from the gloomy, dismal record of this worthless government. So long as the people are drunk from partying and celebrating the achievement of nothing, they just might overlook the 10,000 jobs that never came, and the skyrocketing murder rate.


birdiestrachan 5 years, 5 months ago

Cat island boy I use to think may be you came from Cat island. But no way, Cat Island people are the some of the smarts. hard working , proud people in the world. They have no inferior complex. They believe they are the best God has to offer. But then again there is always the odd one out. that may be you.


tunup 5 years, 5 months ago

For Real proudandloudfnm! It SHOULD be about equality for all. The politicians made this a black thing from time and made most of the people from back then to now think its strictly a black thing and that's how they end up celebrating it. They get sidetrack into all kind of other color issues in life which this lady point to some of them. Its a slippery slope from the politicians influence to the people on the street and average Joe and Jane. Corrupt politicians lead to corrupt people lead to corrupt politicians and the cycle go on. Same cycle for racial issues in this country. Sad reality but very true.


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