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Insight: The Hate-Driven Society

By FREDERICK SMITH, QC

My more than 41 years of human rights work has led me to the conclusion there is a single underlying force which disproportionately influences the various attitudes, opinions and presumptions which make up the modern Bahamian psyche. Though in outward appearance its manifestations are diverse, this undercurrent can be encapsulated in a single word: hatred.

This may seem hugely ironic for a country celebrated as a welcoming paradise for more than five million visitors a year. But while Bahamians can certainly be extremely friendly and engaging on the surface, there is always an underlying sentiment of mistrust, hostility and ill-will towards others who are considered in some way different or alien, often manifesting itself far away from the tourism limelight as a visceral drive towards discrimination and a frightening tendency to ignore or excuse human rights abuses.

The even greater irony is in this predominantly black nation, the most racist, oppressive and abusive forms of discrimination are reserved for other blacks, in particular those from Haiti – which, instead of being celebrated for first raising the torch of freedom and human dignity in the Americas, is looked down upon, shunned and rejected.

Indeed, Bahamians refuse to even acknowledge that most of the black population of this country originally came from Haiti. Like the immigrant populations of the late 19th and early 20th century in North America, the first waves of migrants effaced their ethnic or national origins in an effort to integrate and be accepted, to our great collective cultural loss.

The roots of hatred

Discrimination has been an ubiquitous construct of the Bahamian psyche for a very long time. Historically used as a tool of control by colonial masters, it was adopted by the succeeding power structure to pit voting landowners against the unpropertied and disenfranchised for hundreds of years; the white oligarchy against blacks until the 50s; men against women, who could not vote until the 60s and are still constitutionally second class citizens; the ‘Bahamianisation’ movement against whites and foreigners in the 70s (epitomised by the “bend or break” destruction of Freeport); ‘real’ Bahamians against Haitians or other “paper” Bahamians; ; and everyone, especially the religious lobby against LGBTQ community.

Throughout the 80s, discrimination was also practiced according to financial power – those who have against those who have not. The poor were punished for their existence through unfair treatment by banks, mortgage lenders, insurance companies and the judicial system. Even politics in The Bahamas is a tribal, discriminatory and often violent affair, with job opportunities, access to capital and benefits granted or withheld according to political allegiance.

Our current political class, to suit their own purposes and without heed to the future, have continued to whip up discriminatory and racist sentiment, stoke anti-foreign feeling and foster a distrust of difference. The exceptions can be counted on one hand: Sir Etienne Dupuch, Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.

The scourge of Immigration

For the last 65 years, hateful, abusive, arbitrary immigration policies that seem almost designed to encourage corruption and exploitation have continued to be used as a tool of oppression and control.

Jamaicans, Cubans and Haitians have been harassed, intimidated, beaten, brutalised, shot in the streets and subjected to a host of human rights violations. They have suffered illegal detentions, sweeps, raids, roadblocks and checks. Their homes have been bulldozed or burnt to the ground and all their possessions destroyed. Their children have been banned from schools. They cannot open bank accounts, qualify for insurance or even apply for a marriage certificate, driver’s licence or birth certificate. They cannot benefit from scholarships or represent their country internationally at sporting or cultural events.

As a result, uncertainty, anxiety and fear have spread throughout the expat community and now affect even the more “acceptable” foreign investors and work permit holders. This, in turn, has promoted a mercenary attitude based on transience and opportunism. Instead of encouraging foreigners to view themselves as economic assets and contributing members of the community and put down roots with a stake in making The Bahamas a success, we have caused them to seek to grab as much as they can for themselves for as long as they are allowed to stay. Ironically we encourage millions to come to The Bahamas to visit and invest, but we resist emigration to our shores.

The sin of being different

Anyone perceived as falling short of the mythological standard of the “normal Bahamian” is routinely harassed, intimidated and stigmatised. This includes those who identify as LGBTQ, those who suffer from drug addictions or alcoholism, those born with physical and mental disabilities; those who have contracted contagious diseases like HIV.

Likewise, “born” Bahamians look down upon “paper” Bahamians who applied for and were granted citizenship after birth. Black and white Bahamians discriminate against each other and both look down upon “red” people. Nassuvians look upon those from Freeport and the Family Islands with distain; FNMs hate PLPs and vice versa; and those who achieve any measure of economic success are punished mercilessly – Bahamians even have a name for this: “the Black Crab Syndrome”.

The PLP and the ideology of hate

While hatred as a principle had long existed in this society, it was really systematised into a strategy and set of specific tactics by the Pindling revolution. The ordeal suffered by Darcy Ryan, for example, was the test case for thousands of ‘Belongers” under the Constitution after independence, and for the continuing oppressive behaviour of the Department of Immigration. Ryan refused to fall in line with the new regime and so hatred was ‘weaponised’ and deployed to justify his expulsion from the country.

Thereafter, Pindling and his cohorts, particularly his racist neophyte acolyte, Fred Mitchell in The Herald, never missed an opportunity to stoke the fires of racial antagonism and encouraged political tribalism and hatred of the “enemy” – whoever that might be – at every turn.

In more recent incarnations, the PLP have remained faithful to, and in some cases upgraded and intensified the ideology of hate. Fred Mitchell’s last stint as Minister of Immigration will long be remembered as a dark and ominous time characterised by heightened xenophobia, institutional racism and ethnic cleansing.

Mitchell’s wrath knew no bounds and he was not selective in his targets – the children of Haitian migrants, second home owners like Canadian Bruno Rufa and American Louis Bacon, foreign investors like Sarkis Izmirlian, even Bahamians such as myself, Joseph Darville and Rev. CB Moss. A confirmed enemy of freedom of speech, he relentlessly hurled hateful and savage vitriol at journalists who did not agree with him such as Nassau Guardian managing editor Candia Dames and Tribune publisher Eileen Carron.

The PLP stood by in silence as thousands of aggressive men, at the bidding of Peter Nygard, wearing Klu Klux Klan hoods and brandishing burning crosses took over our streets and public squares to hurl abuse, bile and xenophobic venom at innocent people who could not defend themselves. Meanwhile, former Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald sought to stir up nationalistic hatred against Save The Bays, a small group of environmental activists who dared to challenge a foreign investor, Nygard, with close ties to the PLP.

Hatred is embedded in the genetic make-up of the PLP. The path that our first political party has propelled the Bahamas down is dark and divisive, punctuated by ethnic strife, intimidation and victimisation.

“The people’s time”

While in opposition, the FNM stood idly by as Mitchell and Fitzgerald sought to sacrifice their enemies on the altar of hate. The party of “the people” even aided and abetted in the PLP’s crimes, not a single one of them voting against draconian amendments to the Immigration Act in 2015.

Now in office, the FNM has continued many of the predatory, hate-filled polities of their predecessors. Indeed, when it comes to immigration, they may have made things even worse. The announcement of Prime Minister Minnis’ purge of Haitian people was an enormous victory for purveyors of ethnic strife such as Fred Mitchell.

Despite their claims of being better, the FNM too has pandered to the lynch mob, played the race card, the discrimination card, the elitist card to gain and maintain their grip on power.

Deconstructing the myth

The impulse to exclude or remove those who are considered outsiders or aliens so as to “purify” your own community is as old as history. It is usually based on a fantasy of return to some previous ethnically or culturally “pure” state that never really existed in the first place. All modern forms of racism have their root in this myth – Nazi atrocities and other shocking events are only extreme examples of a very widespread human tendency.

Historically, The Bahamas has been a melting pot of races, cultures and nationalities merging over hundreds of years. None of us are the original inhabitants of these islands and any claim by one group to be more authentically Bahamian than anyone else is demonstrably false.

Our current mythology of hate was born out of the nationalistic fervour surrounding independence. In the space of only four decades, Bahamians succumbed to a collective amnesia that was encouraged by the PLP’s ‘divide and conquer’ approach to gaining political power. Politicians erased the past and all memory of what was – for all its many profound faults – the far more pluralistic and open society that came before.

Now, the political class has lost control of the monster it created and leaders are learning to their dismay they can’t simply flip a switch and diffuse the darkness. Because of gender-based discrimination, both major parties have lost referenda in recent years – as well as the national election that followed.

A different way

We cannot expect positive, constructive energy to flow from a populace steeped in negative, abusive, xenophobic and myopic political propaganda. Simply put, negative energy breeds negative results.

I therefore urge us to become more positive as a nation. To be culturally curious and socially open and accepting. Bahamians must find a way let go of the fundamental insecurity that is at the root of all forms of hatred and division, and accept we are now part of a Global Village of ideas and economic activity. Both parties give up this political obsession to control of every minutiae of our lives. Adopt a far more liberal immigration and investment model.

We should welcome and create opportunities for new blood and new arrivals, encouraging the kind of cultural effervescence and economic resilience that can be found in places like Canada or the Scandinavian nations today.

We could thereby increase the tax base and revenues for the government while promoting diversity and revolutionising local entertainment, culture, arts. If we welcomed rather than stigmatised wealthy investors and second homeowners, they would want to contribute to the Bahamian project. They might donate, for instance, to a medical ward, create vocational training branches at the University of The Bahamas, donate libraries, establish foundations, promote local culture and arts to the world.

Likewise, if we embrace the uniqueness of each and every Bahamian, view differences between us as invaluable assets instead of liabilities, we could build a far more resourceful, dynamic society; one that is far better equipped to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities that the 21st century is bound to throw up.

The Bahamas could effervesce in the resultant bounty. Opportunities for citizens would be legion and we would be able to approach the future with the confidence and maturity of a society that has freed itself from the shackles of mistrust and superstition. All we have to do is let go of the hate.

Comments

heybulla 4 years ago

Thank you Mr. Smith for laying bare the root causes (Hatred) of why the Bahamas will be mired in the past until Bahamians "let go" of these feelings towards "outsiders". Ever think of being a PM?

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Voltaire 4 years ago

Neither major party will give him a shot at running because they are too scared he will topple the status quo and empower regular people. He has been refused by the FNM repeatedly, even though he has massive support in Grand Bahama.

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DDK 4 years ago

Thoughtful and thought provoking insight. The 'fact' that most Bahamians originally came from Haiti is a new one to me.

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DDK 4 years ago

most black Bahamians

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joeblow 4 years ago

In truth there is nobody nicer than a Bahamian. but over the years that niceness has been abused and exploited. What he calls hatred is simply frustration. Bahamians are watching the country they call home slip away. They watch traitorous politicians given concessions to the very wealthy for personal benefit while large numbers of illegal immigrants abuse the various systems and multiply in number. We are being squeezed from the top and bottom as the middle class is eroded. Actual regular Bahamians are feeling powerless in their country. I Haiti they have violent murderous protests, here we suffer in silence!

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Aegeaon 4 years ago

Again you are blind, everybody on the planet is nicer than a Bahamian to begin with. Actual Bahamians were powerless to begin with after making deals with drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico. You've allowed sicarios to make a lot of money and made the Bahamas and Bahamians spoiled and diseased to the core. Bahamians are the only ones who allowed three thousand of their own people to die at the hands of pathetic gangsters. While we call on race cards, blaming poor immigrants and honest businessmen from the US, Canada and the UK (Well, excluding the people from Oban).

Purification for this country requires burning the corruption of drug money, outside of the shell of our malfeasance, and inside of our very souls. The time of blaming others is over.

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joeblow 4 years ago

I am reasonably certain that your condition can be treated and possibly cured if you seek help form a mental health profession ASAP!

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Aegeaon 4 years ago

Nah. It's every Bahamian who needs mental help because of their fault deflection. You really think foreigners are ruining your country? Bahamians had full 100% rule of the Bahamas for over 40 years, nothing happened to have greatly changed the country in a positive way, and we completely disregarded honorable standards and Christianity for dealing with a drug cartel and ruining our country for years on end.

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stillwaters 4 years ago

Haitians have overpopulated their half of an island with over 10 million people, and are NOT STOPPING!!!!! We don't want that happening here, Fred, can you understand that????????? Nassau is only 7 miles by 21 miles........

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Porcupine 4 years ago

Stillwater,

Did you actually read Fred Smiths article? Do you honestly not have the intellect to see that he is not advocating unlimited immigration? Your thinking is a big part of the problem in this country. You don't have to go anywhere. Your mind is already in hell.

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CatIslandBoy 4 years ago

Thank you, Mr Smith. You have laid out a very thought-provoking argument that must cause each of us to do some serious soul searching. While we cannot afford to open up the borders and allow all Haitian sloops to just sail on in, we do need to check our attitudes as to how we treat all people in general. How hypocritical to smile for the tourists' dollars yet thumb our noses athe Haitian community who do our menial tasks?

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John 4 years ago

Is this article about The Bahamas or the KKK?

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sheeprunner12 4 years ago

Contrary to Creole Fred's diatribe against The Bahamas ......... the real Bahamas exists in the Out Islands ........ Nassau and Freeport are corrupted and potcaked, so this perception of how The Bahamas has evolved is from an urban perspective ......... Creole Fred is excused.

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Porcupine 4 years ago

Fred Smith. Thank you. You do love your country and are willing to be crucified for speaking the truth. And, it is the truth Fred Smith is speaking.

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joeblow 4 years ago

The more I read and re-read Mr Smiths article the more I see its written through the eyes of a person who likes what the Bahamas has to offer, but wants to shape it in his image while giving the benefits to those he thinks are deserving (his Haitian brothers). His complaints are extremely deceptive but he ignores that they are universal in nature. Every culture that finds itself under assault from external forces responds to that stimulus without exception. Haiti itself is a prime example. The Haitian revolution was a violent reaction to the presence of foreign interests exploiting the country and its people for the benefit France. The violence and hatred that is inbred in Haitians is still present to this day as they hack political opponents to death with machetes. When has this ever happened in the Bahamas and he wants to call us hateful? What Mr Smith is advocating is attrition by tolerance. He does not believe we should resist the gradual takeover of our way of life by outside forces. We should yield to the gradual infiltration of migrants who by their sheer numbers will reduce us to beggars in our own country!

Those who cannot see behind his serpentine words are deceived!

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sheeprunner12 4 years ago

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS ...... JUST LOOK AT THE HATE FIST.

AND THEN LOOK AT OUR COUNTRY ........ THE WHITE FIST OF HATE IS STILL AT WORK WHETHER IN THE FOREFRONT OR IN THE BACKGROUND ...... THE BAHAMIAN 1% AND THE FOREIGNER WHO CONTROLS THIS ECONOMY STILL CREATES A SOCIETY FULL OF HATE AGAINST THEIR BLACK OR WHITE OVERLORDS WHO ARE MANIPULATED BY THAT FIST.

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