On class, colorism and racism

Dear Editor,

I came across the article “Race, Power and Privilege” by Dr. Chris Curry the other day and I must say I was proud to see my former university professor writing on the current issues.

However, as I read through the article, I found myself in sharp disagreement with his discourse on class, colorism and “institutional inequalities” in The Bahamas.

On the issue of class and colorism in The Bahamas, Dr. Curry mentions that Bahamians have a preoccupation with “Eurocentric standards of beauty”, and he supported this argument based on the so-called practice of “bleaching” where individuals use different chemicals and cosmetics to achieve a lighter skin tone.

Although there is much anecdotal evidence regarding “bleaching”, there is no empirical evidence that shows how common such practice is in The Bahamas, nor has there been any research studies that surveyed Bahamians concerning their perceptions towards different skin tones.

Dr. Curry also furthers his argument based on the idea of Bahamians preferring smoother texture of hair. This too is anecdotal, for there is no research that tests this consensus.

Also on the issues of class and colorism, he mentions that “as a sign of wealth and status,” many young people are leaving urban or so-called “Over-the-Hill” communities to affluent communities. But isn’t this a good thing?

Shouldn’t Bahamians be proud to move into communities they never could move into because of a barrier of wealth? Shouldn’t they be able to live where they feel most comfortable?

Additionally, Dr. Curry asserts that racial profiling and white privilege as paramount issues in the Bahamian community.

To support this idea, he referenced an encounter his nephew had with a policeman in an affluent community.

I too have been “profiled” by policemen, but I have a starkly different view on police “profiling”.

In 2013, two friends and I were arrested on the suspicion of burglarizing a white man’s business. We spent 48 hours in custody at the Cable Beach Police Station while they investigated the incident.

Were the police officers wrong for arresting us? Maybe. But I would argue the police were simply doing their job which is to serve and protect.

They had probable cause to investigate us because we were in the vicinity visiting a friend a few days prior. And unfortunately, that night, it was alleged that three individuals burglarized the same business we had previously visited.

The police said we fit the description of the three men caught on camera breaking into the business.

Although we were all infuriated, we knew we were innocent and had nothing to do with the burglary. As a matter a fact, we had an entire community that could testify as it regards our character, and they knew we were not the type to burglarize or vandalize someone’s property.

I say all that to make the point that law enforcement officers in The Bahamas have to use their judgment and training to ensure our communities in The Bahamas are protected, and sometimes their judgment can be incorrect, and in other cases, they can be correct.

What if we were the guys who had burglarized that individual’s business?

Had they not investigated, they would have never known if we did or not.

Dr. Curry credits his education experience to his “white-Bahamian privilege”, but there are thousands of Bahamians who have the same educational experience but do not have so-called “white privilege.”

I remember a few years ago being accepted into a four-year university in the United States.

I proudly marched down to the scholarship office on Shirley Street in hopes to fund my dream of going off to school, only, however, to be turned away because of my Haitian citizenship (even though I was born and raised in The Bahamas by two legal parents).

I was not discouraged, nonetheless. I wrote a letter to my dad’s employer (a white Bahamian) seeking support for my education. He responded and said he would match any other funds I secured.

The only other funds I could secure were from my father (a butler), mother (a cook), and a few church members who were proud to see me wanting to break the chain of poverty by receiving an education.

I will never forget a church member who cut grass for a living, and my previous girlfriend’s mother (a Bahamian) who did domestic work, voluntarily giving me a sum of money because they saw the vision of wanting to receive an education in my eyes.

If institutional racism existed in The Bahamas, why was a rich white man willing to fund a poor black man’s education.

Further, why are millions of dollars given to black Bahamians in Lyford Cay scholarships by predominantly white men?

What is really hindering black economic progress in The Bahamas is the absence of fathers and low performing schools.

In 1963, 80 percent of Bahamians was said to live in a single parent household.

In 2013, 62 percent of live births were attributed to unwed mothers.

We know from research it is virtually impossible to enter the middle class if you are not married.

In addition to that, when you analyze the BGCSE results from our public schools, you continue to see below average performance.

Again, research would indicate that it is hard to break the chains of poverty if you do not receive some sort of post-secondary training or education.

I do agree that The Bahamas and the United States have had a dark history when it comes to race and wealth relations.

We must be willing to look at actual facts, so that we can come up with proper economic and social solutions to address those past nuances.

I also agree that we do need to have a more robust and honest national conversation about racial reconciliation, so that we can all say, forward, upward, onward, and together for all Bahamians — black or white. 


Patterson P. Hilaire

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