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THE BAHAMAS,  AND THE LEGACY OF SLAVERY

By Simon

Saturday, February 06, 2010.

After 43 years of majority rule and nearly 37 years of independence, the clutch of colonialism still controls much of our national psyche and imagination in the Bahamas. 

As a fairly young country, similar to other postcolonial states, some of this is to be expected. But much of it is disturbingly backward looking and insidious.  The current enforcers of retrograde colonial mindsets are not primarily the British.

Today, the apologists for colonialism are typically Bahamian born and bred, though varied in the nature of the apologetics they employ.  They are black, white and mixed-race. With stubborn outmoded colonialist notions lodged in their worldview, many are unaware of their roles as apologists, mindlessly repeating shop-worn shibboleths.

 

Then there are the full-blown apologists, with the mission of demonstrating that majority rule and independence were mistakes or even tragic errors.  Often, the language of the apologists is coded, but clear.  But some of it is blatant and demeaning.  And, all of it exposes deep-seated complexes about race and class.

Of course, none of this is new, though it is amazing how much of it is a throwback to the days prior to majority rule.  The UBP’s racist and in many ways effective slogan during the 1962 general election played on the fears of many blacks and whites about such majority rule:  “Vote PLP and Starve”.

DIABOLICAL

The colonial masters were always quite adept at and diabolical about pitting the various races, ethnic groups and classes against each other (Divide et impera!) from Rwanda to Singapore to the Caribbean. 

The colonized beneficiaries of these manufactured divisions internalized them, often becoming the local lackeys of the colonizers, perpetuating a colonial system whose passing they still mourn and which they attempt to recreate at every opportunity, with the echoes of Rule Britannia in their dreams and on their lips.

To wit, rather than debating the contours of Bahamianization today and its critical role in national development, some dismiss the idea outright as a fad or as a failed policy. Those who seek to assign Bahamianization to the rubbish heap, view it as a failure of black rule. 

The subtext is that this is not just a failure by black Bahamians, but that black people -- or in the minds of some, “coloured people” -- in general are inherently incapable of such leadership. While the symptoms of this mindset are numerous, there is a singular underlying disease: racism, some manifestations of it more contagious and deadly than others.

Some of this racism is self-loathing and racial insecurity by black people themselves, poisons digested by centuries of racial domination.  A great deal of it is the virulent attitude by numerous white foreigners and Bahamians that they are inherently morally and intellectually superior to black people.  Oh yes, there are some exceptional coloured people, goes the illogic, but they are rare birds indeed.

There are those with the full-blown disease who insist that all or most of the accomplishments of the Bahamas are because of the foreigners who now or once lived here.  This mindset breeds all sorts of logical stupidity such as: When the British ruled the Bahamas we had less crime.

When the British were here, the entire world had less crime, including Britain!  Now Britain is also in the spiral of increased crime, incivility and school violence. Perhaps they should bring in some Americans to run their police force, as some areas in the US have shown a decrease in various crimes.

AMNESIA

The world is not frozen in time.  Increased violent crime is a global phenomenon, and not simply a matter of black or white.  Of course, much of the aforementioned nostalgia is a form of historical amnesia and wilful ignorance of the nature of colonialism as well as the successes we have enjoyed post-independence, despite our growing pains. 

It is also a lack of imagination about the future and an unwillingness to forge a uniquely Bahamian Imagination.  Some prefer the paternalism of colonialism over the hard task of nation-building.  

While Rome and London were not built in a day -- indeed both often relied on hundreds of years of colonial conquest and slavery -- many expect our little jewel of a nation to be picture perfect just into our fourth decade of independence.

Still, despite our relative infancy and clear challenges as a sovereign nation we also have numerous accomplishments.  Bahamianization does not mean that we isolate ourselves from the world, refusing to utilize the talents of others.  It does mean that in utilizing those talents we have our own vision for what we want to accomplish. 

For some tasks, we will have to rely on foreign expertise.  This is the way of the world in a global era and a necessity for a small country.  Still because there is considerable talent here, rather than simply bringing in foreigners to fill certain contracts and run critical national institutions and various private enterprises, we should aggressively identify and nurture that local talent.

This is what Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s administration has done in the promotion of Messrs. Ellison Greenslade, Marvin Dames, Quinn McCartney and others into a new dynamic high command for the Police Force.  These are men with vast experience and considerable international training and exposure.

In short, Bahamians should lead the way, bringing in international expertise to augment, not displace, local talent.  In order to build up domestic talent in various areas of contracting, economic development and national life, Bahamians should serve as the lead agents with foreign consultants if required; not the other way around with foreigners dominant and Bahamians as consultants.

GATEKEEPERS

Bahamians must be the gatekeepers, not Americans nor Canadians nor British nor any other national group who may be prone to favour their own compatriots and perpetuate their own cliques and enclaves at the expense of Bahamians and our own personal growth and national development.

Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew, the father of that successful nation, had a firm reply to those who said that Singaporeans lacked the talent to develop their country: training, training and more training.  It is a moral copout, a lack of belief in one’s own people, and a sign of deep inferiority to endlessly believe that our most critical institutions can only be well run by foreigners.

Of course Mother England has much to teach us, as does Mother Africa and Uncle Sam.  But majority rule and independence signalled that it was time for their children to grow up and assume command of their own destiny, to weave what Dereck Walcott describes as these “fragments of epic memory” into a new identity. The growing pains are necessary and welcome.

There is no identity crisis in weaving together these living fragments in the pursuit of this post-colonial dream of a vibrant independent Bahamas in a global and interdependent world. This is the exciting work of nation-building and fostering a Bahamian Imagination within a Caribbean context, calling on all of our cosmopolitan connections in the process.

The identity crisis is remaining stuck in a single element of one’s national identity. While remembering our ancestors and historical roots, we can no more go “back to Africa” than climb back into the womb of Britain or outsource our identity and nationhood to our American neighbour.

With thanks to Bahamapundit

Simon is a young Bahamian with things on his mind who wishes to remain anonymous. His column 'Front Porch' is published every Tuesday in the Nassau Guardian. He can be reached at frontporchguardian@gmail.com

 

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