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ALICIA WALLACE: Anti-Haitian sentiment rooted in white supremacy

CAPTURED immigrants awaiting a Bahamas Air flight in Inagua to transport them back to their home
country in 2019.

CAPTURED immigrants awaiting a Bahamas Air flight in Inagua to transport them back to their home country in 2019.

photo

Alicia Wallace

LAST week, in response to questions about shantytowns in Abaco, Member of Parliament for Central and South Abaco John Pinder said: “We’re gonna lose our father’s place. Our ancestors settled there[…]”

This is very odd phrasing for anyone, but especially bothersome coming from a white man, talking about an island in a majority black country with a history of slavery.

Which “fathers” was he talking about? Which ancestors actually made the decision to “settle” in The Bahamas? Who actually did the growing? Was he speaking out of ignorance, or was he sending a message to people, encouraging them to do something before “the boiling point” is reached?

The immigration issue never seems to be out of the news. There is always a story about immigration, and too many of them dehumanise the people involved, specifically because they are – or are assumed to be – Haitian people.

People complain about irregular immigration with sweeping generalisations. They are loud and consistent in their vague, poorly articulated arguments.

From there being too many to there being too many gaining entry at a time. From migrant people taking all of the jobs to their supposed contributions to rises in crime. From alleged disinterest in assimilating here to being too much competition, especially with an additional language.

Haitian migrants are an easy target, always there for the convenience of a mediocre person who needs to assign blame for their latest failure.

The question, especially for those who quickly jump onto bandwagons like the anti-Haitian one, is who will be the new scapegoat when Haitian migrants are no longer available for the role and the problems are not solved? Who will the angry mob turn to next? Will they double down on women? Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people? People with disabilities? Children? Who will they decide has taken too much and contributed too little?

This kind of hunt, this kind of hatred, this kind of exclusion never ends with one group of people. There will always be another group to turn on.

In many cases, when one set of people rages about immigration issues, speaking only of Haitian migrants, another set calls it “xenophobia”. This is a term for the hatred of people from other countries or of anything foreign.

This is not the best way to describe the specific hostility toward Haitian people. A more precise term is “anti-Haitian.”

The Bahamian people who complain about the immigration of Haitian people do not generally dislike people who are not Bahamian. They are fine with European immigrants. They are fine with American immigrants. They are fine with Canadian immigrants. Those people are called “expats”.

Haitians? They are referred to as “immigrants”. They are called “illegals”, completely stripping them of their humanity by making them synonymous with the way they may have entered the country.

Haitian people, in particular, are treated with this disdain. No one else.

This is beyond xenophobia. This is anti-Haitian. It is hostility toward this group of people because of their place of origin. This is inextricably linked to race and class.

Take any argument that is used against Haitian migrants, and explore the way it is discussed or ignored in relation to other migrants.

A popular complaint is that Haitian people will take all of the jobs. Can this be true? What kind of work do the Haitian migrants who enter the country through irregular channels do? Do they become executives at large resorts? Do they become managing directors of utility companies? Do they get jobs that Bahamians are interested and qualified to do? The white migrants from North America certainly do.

When they run out of economic nonsense, the handwringing about loss of culture begins. How would immigrants rob The Bahamas of its culture? How could they take Bahamian people’s culture. We have done very little to rid ourselves and this place of bad culture that was forced upon us, and that many of us now actively and willing participate in every day.

Look at the political culture. Look at corporate culture. Look at the fundamentalist culture of many Christians and their churches. Look at the culture of every institution in this country, from schools and banks to media. Where did the rules and regulations originate? Who makes the decisions? Who does the work, and who gets the credit?

What if we expanded our thinking about culture? What if we were less of afraid of losing it, and more committed to preserving it, not by putting expressions of it in glass cases in museums, but participating in it every day, and being open to the ways it could grow, transform, replicate itself, and fuse with others?

Anti-Haitian ideology and behaviors are functions of white supremacy which is the belief that white people are superior and should dominate all other people. It is entirely possible to be Black and an active participant in white supremacy.

Racism is so poisonous that it encourages us – the people it oppress – to accept stereotypes about each other.

A consequence of not talking about racism or admitting that it exists everywhere, including this majority black country, is that we fail to recognise the ways we internalise the idea that we are subordinate in the system that racism produces.

In order to gain favor or access opportunities, we learn to differentiate ourselves from one another. Lighter skin, straightened hair or looser curls, “proper” English, crossing the line from politeness to deference, and anything else that would suggest or allow proximity to whiteness. Respectability politics becomes a practice that is second nature as black people attempt to be – or at least appear – less black.

This – respectability and aspiring to whiteness – is one of the ways many Bahamians have made a distinction between themselves and Haitian people. How many have been scolded, as children, told to stay out of the sun, lest they get “too black?” How many are punished for speaking Bahamian Creole, the first language for most of us?

photo

FARM shanty town near Treasure Cay, Abaco, in 2021.

Internalised racism is a disaster. It is the continuation of violence endured by our ancestors – who did not “settle” here so much as they were kidnapped and nearly killed in the transatlantic trip after which they were forced to work – that we have the power to end.

We, frankly, cannot afford to wield it as a weapon against the people whose ancestors led the revolution that brought our ancestors freedom. What are we doing with our freedom now?

It is foolish to resent the will to survive. That is all most Haitian migrants bring with them to The Bahamas. Not plans to outnumber Bahamians, not a manifesto to take all of the jobs, and not a blueprint to erasing Bahamian culture.

We do not need protection from people who are seeking safety and security. The threat against us is not people who need our help. It is scarcity thinking.

The threat is the idea that we must hoard our resources. It is the encouragement from absolute idiots with large followings to refuse to protect and stand in solidarity with the people who still believe in freedom and are unafraid to seek the tools to create it.

What if France were held responsible for its tyranny, and paid reparations to Haiti? What if Britain finally paid reparations as set out in the CARICOM ten-point plan? Would we still be scrapping for resources? What if we turned our rage toward colonisers and people upholding racist systems? What if we worked together, across the region, to demand and to succeed in getting reparations? What if we created a culture of solidarity and resource-sharing? What if we could see ourselves in one another?

When we separate ourselves from Haitian people, regarding ourselves as deserving of everything and referring to them as subhuman and worthless, we embolden people like the MP for Central and South Abaco to talk about “[their] fathers place” as though black Bahamians do not exist.

Do not miss the way people speak past us. Do not ignore the order of events. It matters who speaks first, who shows up later, and how they make their comments. Always place yourself in the trajectory of events. Again, the group people target today will expand or change entirely, and it could include you. This is a terrible reason to care, but it is a reason, nonetheless.

We are not so different from Haitian migrants. Black, robbed, lied to, regarded as means of production, scapegoated when it is convenient. We would benefit greatly from the recognition that we are black. That our shared history is relevant. That our collective voice is powerful. That we do not need to attack each other. That we have been duped into thinking we have to be in a competition with another. That we cannot divide and conquer each other to win.

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Comments

empathy 1 year, 4 months ago

Let’s not complicate the issue of economic (poverty) migration even more than it is.

Bahamians ‘like’ rich migrants from any nation, regardless of ethnicity.

Bahamian laws, especially our constitution is vague and inadequate to address regular migration. In fact we have no current program to deal with regular migration from Haiti, ie folks wanting to work: employers ready to hire located in that country. As a result these folks oftentimes have to sail here along with the other “illegals”. We, the so called ’black’ Bahamians have enough of the blame and so much to fix before we look under the microscope to find more issues…Haitians have been and will continue to be a vibrant part of this nation.

Let’s stick together and fix these issues and stay focused on the major ones at hand.

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GodSpeed 1 year, 4 months ago

"who will be the new scapegoat when Haitian migrants are no longer available for the role and the problems are not solved?"

Oh really? Are you asserting that there will be a time when Haitians are not around? And when is that going to be? Never is when. John Pinder may be White but he is a Bahamian so he is right to speak of "ancestors". Black and White Bahamians share a recent common history and culture. Haitians on the other hand are not Bahamian, they don't speak English, they are different from White AND Black Bahamians culturally. Nationality should come before race, often doesn't but it should. Well I'd rather share an island with White Bahamians who I can understand and gel with culturally vs Haitians who I don't understand and practice witchcraft.

"From there being too many to there being too many gaining entry at a time."

We can see that the common factor is that there are too many, yes? Maybe if there were less of them then people wouldn't complain so much. I'd rather have a diverse group of immigrants from all over the world settle here versus just a legion of Haitians invading the country and turning it into Haiti #2. They are flooding this country, and that is a problem because the Bahamas can't absorb them. Immigration should always be a controlled process, unchecked immigration is pure insanity, would you open the door to your home and let any stranger off the street come and live with you? Of course not, then why do you think a country is any different?

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bahamianson 1 year, 4 months ago

Ms. Wallace, I wonder what American news station you listen to, with white supremacy. Girl, get a life and move to a democratic state. How about black bahamian supremacy? Black Bahamians have been talking badly about Haitians for decades . How do you bypass that and go straight to white supremacy just to go with your CNN agenda?

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AnObserver 1 year, 3 months ago

It must be very tiring working so hard to find things to get offended by.

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Flyingfish 1 year, 3 months ago

Yeah, this article is built on a lot of loose interpretation. It seems like Mrs. Wallace, you start of asserting that being against Haitian illegal migration is white person thing, when both black and white Bahamians have issues with it. Furthermore, you seem to be taking Mr. Pinder's word and erasing the context because hard to tell what he was saying due to the half statement quotation.

You also fail to understand the reason why Bahamians in general oppose a lot of Haitian migration opposed to other sources. Reasons being it has often came via illegal means, it is historically consistent, Haitians come in large numbers compared to others, Haitians are culturally different than English-speaking-Caribbeans, and lastly this country's services/economy are under stress which mass immigration only makes worse.

Hence why Bahamians are very unhappy with Haitian migration especially compared to Americans. In fact to provide more weight to my theory, If you were to reserve the reception of a Black American immigrant compared to a Haitian it would provably be different. Therefore, it is unlikely that race plays into this idea.

Lastly, Mrs. Wallace I hate to crush your bubble but being black doesn't make you the same as others of your colour. We black peoples have cultures that maybe similar but are not the same to be considered one. It is white people, as well as some black people, in the past and unfortunately today holding onto the idea that all lack peoples are the same and came be addressed as such.

"African Americans", Afro-Bahamians, Afro-Haitians, Afro-Jamaicans, and South Africans are not the same people, don't have the same culture, have different accents, and have different national histories. It is peculiar and strange to believe that these groups are more similar than the white people who live right next to them.

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bahamianson 1 year, 3 months ago

Also, when the typical American comes to the Bahamas, they contribute to our country. Haitians typically drain us. And taxes have to be increased to help support them in schools for uniforms, breakfast and lunch, plus Healthcare. Do you know whom pays those taxes? You and I pay those increased taxes for their 20 children

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stillwaters 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes, one group is called illegal migrants and another expats. That is because those we call expats usually come into the country legally, and not in leaky, decrepit boatloads. Get a grip, girlie!!!! You are trying to be too 'woke'

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Sickened 1 year, 3 months ago

Only White people bring the illegals in and now only white people complaining about it? I'm pretty sure Alicia is missing a big part of the story. And trust me... if we had 150k illegal Chinese or Filipino or Canadians we ALL would be complaining about them as well - even if they didn't live in our bushes.

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longgone 1 year, 3 months ago

This Lady is, for sure, letting her racist attitude hangout. It figures!

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M0J0 1 year, 3 months ago

The main issue is, we do not have the resources nor space for any extras. It is what it is, the United States themselves dont take them in, they drop them off here. Yet no one makes noise about that. Send them home just as fast as they come.

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avidreader 1 year, 3 months ago

Typical champagne socialist. Let them all in but don't put them in my neighbourhood. She has very little understanding of the real world.

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avidreader 1 year, 3 months ago

It should be interesting to read her reaction to a request for asylum from half a million Ukrainians.

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LastManStanding 1 year, 3 months ago

You are free to come on over to Abaco and pick them up out of the shanty towns if you love them so much. Plenty on Great Abaco Highway and the Farm for you to come and house. You can pay all of the NIB contributions that they don't as well.

They don't pay NIB, don't buy land, don't get proper permits to build (or even reside in most cases), don't have businesses licenses, drive without insurance or driving licenses (no kidding I've seen them on the road at night driving vehicles with no lights), murder people every where they go, burn our forests for coal, poison our water table shitting in the ground, throw garbage in the blue holes, and the list goes on and on. I shit you not the Mudd and Peas had their own power grid prior to Dorian...the situation is out of control and anyone defending this foolishness and believing that they are some kind of victims needs a psychiatric examination.

John Pinder has every much right to speak about his father's land as anyone else. Bahamian history did not just magically start in 1967, and you can leave if you don't like that.

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GodSpeed 1 year, 3 months ago

I don't understand how they were allowed to rebuild their hovels after Dorian, that was the perfect time to lay down the law using the defense force. Just shows how much these politicians don't care.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 3 months ago

Alicia Wallace is targetting Long Island people .......... because we don't tolerate Haitian illegal migrants.

Too bad ............. we do that to protect our land. We already see what has happened to most of the other major islands, because their citizens compromised their integrity for mammon.

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