WE suppose it was only a matter of time before the real ugly face of racism showed itself on our streets.
ON Saturday night as Hurricane Dorian evacuees settled in to another night at the crammed Kendal G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium, outside gathered a small group to voice their true feelings to the world.
Their message to the mostly Haitian-origin families inside was simple - go back to Haiti.
What a wonderful, brotherly Christian attitude to show to people who have lost literally everything.
“No more citizenship; no more work permit,” was one of their chants.
Hold on a minute. Are they demanding citizenship be granted where people are eligible, that they be rejected simply because they or their parents or grandparents came from Haiti?
Similarly, no more work permits? Why should a Haitian be cut off from following due process and securing permission to be employed here?
The argument that this new “advocacy group” - Operation Sovereign Alliance - is protesting simply to have a gymnasium returned to the general public simply doesn’t wash. They want these people gone. For ever. And the door shut as firmly as possible on any other Haitians reaching our shores.
This is the underlying mantra for many “true Bahamians”. Since the FNM was elected in 2017 the government has been stoking this fire.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis set the fuse burning with his “Get out by Christmas” declaration. Then came court battles for individuals and families, fights to stop shanty towns being demolished, planes being filled to take people “home”.
Then Dorian and the Haitian-Bahamians - legal or otherwise - were thrown at the government’s mercy.
There was a few weeks amnesty as thousands were moved to New Providence, Eleuthera and elsewhere – then slowly the expulsions began.
Not quick enough, it seems, for Adrian Francis and his OSB pals.
The real danger with nasty little protests like this is their contamination spreads.
Imagine in a few weeks or months time the 200 or so who are now in Kendal Isaacs are still there.
Doubtless some anti-Haitians are going to feel they are not being listened to, that the evacuees are exploiting our hospitality. Their frustration may turn to anger.
Then what does a Saturday-night protest become. A bit of chanting, a bit of drink thrown in and it’s not too hard to imagine impatience becomes violence.
Attorney General Carl Bethel on Sunday recognised that demonstrations like Saturday’s have no place here, saying it was not “advisable for people to demonstrate against common humanity”.
“People were are in distress because of a natural disaster are deserving of the attention of the state as they are in distress,” he said.
Welcome words which we wished could have played a bigger role in the post-Dorian world with regards to how we have been treating Haitian evacuees.
Acting Prime Minister Peter Turnquest also tried to calm tempers yesterday insisting those with a legitimate right to be here will be protected. Those who are here illegally should leave. We have no problem with this so long as due process is followed in all cases.
This was the danger from the minute Dorian moved away. Many of those who had documents will have lost them and will immediately have feared what was going to happen to them when they come up against the Immigration Department. Would they be believed or simply judged to have been living here illegally and sent for deportation.
There’s a dark, worrying flip side to all this.
Haiti is in a truly desperate position. No working government, no economy, rampant violence – a place none of us would dare to live.
If protests like OSB continue, possibly with violence; if deportations continue; with the PM declaring ‘no Haitians in my domes’; with a huge fence going up around the Mudd to stop rebuilding and to keep people out –- will our Haitian brothers simply sit there and do nothing?
The bishops were steaming under their collars recently at the idea of a gay pride march through the streets of Nassau. Imagine the response if the Haitian community stood up and said ‘What about us? This isn’t fair?
What do you think would happen then? Worry isn’t it - for everyone.
Daniella’s new chapter
Please take time to read today’s Face to Face with young mother Daniella Forbes.
For those who lived through Dorian in Abaco and Grand Bahama hers will be a familiar story. For hours she clung on to her children and her husband, neighbours next to them as the building they were in was literally torn apart.
All they could do was pray, harder than they prayed for anything in their lives.
When the storm passed they emerged to a scene of utter devastation, bodies all around, their lives seemingly changed for ever.
Today though Daniella and her family are writing a new chapter. They are heading back to Marsh Harbour to pick up their lives in the church.
In the midst of the tempest Daniella accepted she may die but swore to devote her life to God if she and her family made it through.
Today she’s keeping that promise and all of us here at The Tribune wish her and her family the very best for what hopefully is an untroubled future.