EDITOR, The Tribune
The Bahamian population is over 92 percent black. Within this massive racial demographic is a consciousness of our skin tone, due to what African Americans would call colorphobia, colorism and internalised white supremacy. Just like in the United States with light skinned African Americans, light skinned Bahamians are much better off than their dark skinned Bahamian counterparts. Most dark skinned Bahamians would prefer to marry someone who is mango skinned and has curly hair. Even on job interviews mango skinned Bahamians routinely fare better than their dark skinned Bahamian counterparts, despite the latter having better academic qualifications. How many times have we seen mango skinned Bahamians do the Bank Lane shuffle dance in handcuffs? What is the ratio of dark skinned Bahamians to light skinned Bahamians in Fox Hill Prison?
The New York Times African American columnist Kaitlyn Greenidge highlighted this sociological phenomenon in a recent write-up, when she wrote that African American civil rights activist and educator, Nannie Helen Burroughs, was discriminated against by light skinned African Americans because of her dark complexion. Conversely, the mango skinned poet and activist, Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, received red carpet treatment within the black community.
This inferiority complex was instilled in our African forebears who were enslaved by the British and Spaniards during the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the subsequent Jim Crow era. Interestingly, African mulattos were the products of interracial unions. In many instances, African women were raped by their white slaveholders. Greenidge observed in her editorial that light skinned black people’s heritage in the United States stems from sexual slavery, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation inherent in American slavery. The blame for much of the racism in the antebellum South United States and throughout Europe can be laid squarely on the doorsteps of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Josiah C Nott’s and George R Gliddon’s Types of Mankind, at least in terms of giving white Americans and white Europeans scientific justification for the maltreatment of Negroes, of which several intellects in a 2018 Huffington Post column labelled Darwinian scientific racism. Within the evolutionary scientific framework of paleoanthropology, black Africans are considered the offsprings of the Australopithecus afarensis primate. Consequently, black people are thought to be on the lowest rung on the Darwinian ladder of homo sapiens, with only a hairbreadth distance separating black people from simians. In Europe where evolution and biogensesis are the majority report regarding the genesis of human beings, black footballers in FIFA World Cup Soccer and in the Premier League routinely suffer the indignity of monkey chants from irate fans of opposing teams. Messrs Gliddon and Nott compared black people to chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas. This unfortunate, unproven scientific theory has led to the dehumanisation of black people. The Huffington Post write-up mentioned above calls this sociological phenomenon the simianisation of black people; and the fact that some white people had called former United States President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, apes.
This subtle form of racial discrimination was exhibited recently in The Bahamas when Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis was labelled a black African monkey by a purported member of the Free National Movement (FNM) and Water and Sewerage Corporation board, one Bennett Minnis. I have read that Bennett hails from Long Island and was related to the late Sir Henry Taylor, one of the founders of the PLP. Bennett’s vitriolic reaction to the PLP’s ceremony at Taylor’s grave underscores the fact that some family members of Taylor are still harbouring unforgiveness towards the PLP for the shoddy manner in which the late PLP founder was treated by the political organisation when Sir Lynden Pindling was at the helm. The term “monkey”, when applied to black people, is a racial epithet, as I have amply demonstrated above. Bennett’s racist insult obviously stems from black Bahamians’ prevailing attitudes toward people with a darker skin tone. Davis falls within that category. We won’t admit it, but Bahamians with lighter skin tones look down on people like the PLP leader. That can explain why we take no umbrage at being labelled the N-word.
Is it any wonder why skin enhancement products such as Ambi Skincare Fade Cream have sold well in The Bahamas? It’s because we, as black Bahamians, are deeply ashamed of our African heritage and colour. It is unfortunate that the PLP leader has been subjected to such vitriol from a high ranking official within the FNM administration. The threat by Bennett to block PLPs from entering Clarence Town, Long Island is nothing more than political rhetoric.
With the political acrimony between PLPs and FNMs, no apology is forthcoming. PLP National Chair Fred Mitchell should not waste his time in begging for one or for the resignation of Bennett; nor should he add fuel to the fire by going back to Long Island in open defiance to the FNM official. Interestingly, while Sir Lynden was of the same complexion as the current PLP leader, Perry Christie is of a light brown complexion. Sir Lynden’s dark skin tone was mentioned in Sir Randol Fawkes’ The Faith That Moved the Mountain, which is an indication that Bahamians in the 1950s were becoming increasingly conscious of their skin colour. Yet Pindling’s dark skin was an important political asset in that era when the majority of black Bahamians felt marginalised by the white oligarchy that ruled the colony. Consequently, like the Jamaican national hero, Marcus Garvey, who himself was jet black, Pindling was nicknamed the Black Moses. Bennett’s comments were inflammatory. We can use those unfortunate remarks to start a national discussion on internalised white supremacy. Davis shouldn’t be subjected to ostracism because of his skin colour. Like other politicians, he should be judged on the contents of his character and his political policies.
July 18, 2019