By Diane Phillips
THERE are moments you never forget. They are seared into your brain as hard-wired as the DNA you were born with. Like November 22, 1963, the day John F Kennedy was shot. I was a freshman at the University of Florida on my way to a chemistry class. A bell rang out, speakers blared, students were running in every direction. I made it into a classroom, don’t remember which, and in seconds everyone – strangers who had never met before – everyone was crying and huddled together in shock and disbelief.
It was a different kind of shock and disbelief on Wednesday, January 6, when tens of thousands of Americans descended on Capitol Hill, white supremacists, rednecks, Trumpsters and some who probably fell for the lies that the orange-topped president of the United States had been spewing for weeks that the election was stolen.
I am writing this the morning after while the memory of the siege of Capitol Hill is still fresh and hurtful. I write as a dual citizen Bahamian- American. I am an American who still stands at the start of a football game when the American National Anthem is played, though always thinking it’s not nearly as moving as the Bahamian National Anthem for which I stand even straighter and with greater pride at the start of any ceremony.
What happened on a night that should have been a routine part of a peaceful transition of power from one president to the next, the ho-hum reading of electoral votes leading to certification of the election, turned into a melee of the mad and crazies storming the supposedly sacrosanct and hallowed halls of the American capital demanding that a properly conducted election be overturned because THEY did not like the results.
As an American, I was ashamed. As a Bahamian, I was horrified. As both, I was embarrassed, humiliated and stunned for all the same reasons most Americans, including the majority of Republicans were ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated, horrified and angry.
How could a group of hoodlums who should have been arrested the minute they started up the steps been allowed to get as far as they did? How did they get past security, smash windows, invade offices, one resting his feet on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, another carting out a podium? And what really sickened me was what stared millions across the globe right in the face – they got away with it to start with because they were white.
Had a group of black Americans or Arab- or Asian-looking Americans stormed Capitol Hill, they would have been met with brute force, not officers posing for selfies while a likely deranged president’s words, “Watch, it will be wild,” rang in their ears.
On that night of January 6, when a piece of the transition of power was supposed to unfold, an evil that stretches as far back as the Civil War raged with new fury in the halls of the capital. It was a clear as black and white. It was there in the waving of the Confederate flag and in the eyes of the out of control mob who made Donald Trump’s promise that it would be wild come true. America the Beautiful was America the Divided.
I was prouder than ever to be Bahamian. And sadder than ever to be American.
There are times I am a victim of racial profiling here at home in Nassau. I don’t like it, but I get it and generally it passes quickly. While it is uncomfortable because of its injustice, it is not life-threatening as it is for blacks in America. I’ve never had to tell my child to kowtow to authorities or not wear a hoodie or dark jacket at night or, if stopped by police, to keep her hands where cops can see them at all times. I may live in fear of being misunderstood but not in fear that my life could be snuffed out by mistaken identity because of my colour.
If there is one thing that the attack on Washington, DC, showed us in The Bahamas and around the world, it is this – no one has a monopoly on ethnic unrest, but most of us who were appalled by what we saw are willing to stand up against it and fight for justice. We do it in small ways, a new friendship, an exchange of ideas, a respectful nod of the head.
So long as we are the majority, one day we will get there. As individual, that is the lesson we have to take away from the night and the images we will never forget. We can do better. We can be better and one day it will be better. That day will be seared into memory, overshadowing days like November 22, 1963 and January 6, 2021.
1ST BAHAMIAN CADDY ON LPGA TOUR FIGHTS MS, WINS BIG
TANEKA Sandiford wanted to play basketball. It just so happened that she was also very good at golf which turned out to be exactly the hole-in-one she needed to win big. Sandiford, a Bahamian, was coaching golf at a community college in Oklahoma in 2018 when she came home for the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic being played for the sixth time at the Ocean Club on Paradise Island.
That year, an up-and-coming American golfer from North Dakota named Amy Olson, taking her chances on the 6,644-yard course, picked Sandiford up as a caddy. The two connected and Olson invited Sandiford to caddy for her at the Australian Open a few months later. More tourneys followed and Sandiford, diagnosed the next year with multiple sclerosis, learned her dream of basketball would have ended but caddying she could and she did. Olson relied more and more on her friend and teammate.
Fast forward a little less than two years. In December, at a bitterly windy and freezing LPGA Women’s Open being played in Houston, Texas, Amy Olson was in the lead going into the final round. She had a chance at the title crown, the jewel of women’s golf, complete with a $1m purse and bragging rights you never have to forego.
That Saturday night with the final set for the next day, Amy and her husband got word his father died suddenly, a man Amy Olson adored.
Her husband flew home Sunday morning and Amy, grief-stricken, had to face a weather day and still consumed by grief, compete on Monday. On the course, players heard her singing the Josh Groban song, “You raise me up” over and over. With her faithful caddy and Bahamian friend by her side, Amy Olson in a second-place tie, just one point behind the winner.
Her take-home pay was $487,286. Rule of thumb is 10% for the caddy in a title match, that’s $48,000 for Taneka Sandiford, the first Bahamian caddy on the LPGA tour and a woman who just wanted to play basketball but found a calling that worked out even better.
Thanks to golfer and friend Mike Keating for a tip about this story.