Take your knee off my neck — a Bahamian perspective

Dear Editor,

The writer of Psalm 12:5 says, “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise says the Lord. I will protect them from those who harm them.”

The ignominious murder of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, by white police officers has reignited the lasting and contentious issue of white and black interactions and policing issues in the United States and worldwide.

Floyd’s death was on the side of the street in a fashion a civilized, well-balanced person would not treat a dog. Yet, the death of that man may be the redemptive atonement necessary to save America’s soul from sinking deeper into the abyss of racial indifference and outright racism.

A premise I continue to employ in my discussion on race is that Floyd as well as the four police officers were all human beings, and that fact should be taken into account before you notice their race or uniforms.

We are all stamped with the signature of humanity, but often we sink below our calling to be humane.

I have preached on all the inhabited continents of the world and have learnt to see a person’s humanity before I become concerned about their race, color, gender or even sexual preference.

Floyd was a Black man. His killing drew the global ire and indignation not only of others also deemed “minorities” such as Latinos, Native Americans, the Aboriginals of Australia, the plebeians of Europe, but also white Americans and Europeans.

Floyd’s death touched something deep in the soul of all humanity. It unearthed the horrid memories of the merciless lynchings of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries in America.

Although there were a few well researched, learned editorial pieces published on the matter, I don’t think there was any sustained, public outrage that identified with this issue in our Bahamas.

Was that because we in The Bahamas just don’t give a “dime” about social and racial issues?

Was this merely seen as an “over there” issue or is it that Bahamians have so placated the deep wounds of racism that it is almost blasphemous to speak about race and racism in our land or anywhere else?

Organized, sustained public outrage – save for a few social media posts – against any matter of community or national importance in our Bahamas is at an all time minimum.

When someone uses his last breaths to repeatedly cry out “I can’t breathe”, regardless if that person is in Minnesota, in Abaco or Ragged Island, it is an affirmation that that person is a human being and is appealing to another human being to recognize our shared humanity.

Racism, whenever, wherever and by whomever, makes the erroneous proposition that God Himself made mistakes and injected the genes of some persons with superiority and others with inferiority.

Racist superiority is a theological and historical conundrum. There are no such things as multiple human races; scientifically and anthropologically. There is only one race – the human race.

Racial hate is a thorough denial of the sovereignty of God, as is atheism and apostasy.

We can thank God that rank and blatant racism do not openly exist in our Bahamas; but just as quickly we must not miss the truism that some of the historic vestiges of racism still exist in our Bahamas.

To hate anyone because of their race and manifest that hatred in social, economic and political life, makes you racist.

Equally so, to judge someone based solely on their race also makes you racist.

For thousands of Bahamians, outright and subtle racism is still “neck breakers”.

But The Bahamas is not a monolithic society; you must see all persons as bearing the image of God.

“Take Your Knee Off My Neck” economically, mayentail the impracticality of financial reparations, yet we should join other countries in beginning a national conversation on righting this historical evil.

Is there any validity to the notion that many white people in our Bahamas are the bourgeoisie of this society only because they are white? And secondly only because their forefathers have benefitted from decades of racist economic structures?

Racism is a learned behavior. It is conceived in the proverbial womb as an illicit intercourse between inexperience and fear.

Most racists’ greatest fear is that removing racist constructs would have an adverse economic impact on them and favor the person who is different from them.

Is it still so that a particular island in our Bahamas continues to cling to the racist concepts of the past that they intermarry to make sure nothing “colored” comes near them?

Nationally, 60 years after majority rule, the minority white still own the majority of domestic business and the wealth in the country. Is that incidental or systemically racist?

The late Sir Durwood Knowles, a white Bahamian, once openly apologized for the wrongs, evil and exploitation of his race over others.

In a personal conversation with him, he spoke to me about the unchristian rebuke he received from white Bahamian persons for this apology.

The history of oppression perpetuated by whites on Blacks retards the ongoing progress and development of our Bahamas. Until we can openly discuss race and find positive ways to reconcile the wounds which lay dormant beneath the superficial veneer of community progress, such oppression will remain.

It is racism of a subconscious kind to tell someone, anyone, to not think or talk about their racial past.

In fact, although racism is a part of Africans’ history, it is only one part. Some do not highlight the fact that people of African descent had a royal past before slavery.

How would the texture of our protest have been different if the four policemen in George Floyd’s death were Black?

We must not overlook Black on Black crime. Most believe that this social phenomenon has its roots in 300 years of systemic racism and dehumanization. Yet, I do think the chains are long enough for us to be much further in lowering the violence among ourselves.

I am hopeful that the marches in the streets of America have and continue to translate into corporate, academic, economic, judicial and institutional program and policy changes for and by more Black persons. Organized protests and marching are powerful but must lead to structural changes to be impactful.

 The Chinese are bound together by their sense of culture and pursuit of world dominance through commerce.

The Jews are held together by their religion and economic influence.

The Muslims, they are guided by Islam not only as a religion but as a complete way of life. They are also guided by geography; they look to the East.

The Europeans glory in their sense of exploiting the seas and benefitting from former colonized territories.

What has Africa offered? What have the African people contributed collectively to world progress?

Firstly, it is now an irrefutable fact that human civilization began on the African continent.

Secondly, medicine, mathematics, agricultural concepts, art and culture, and most scientific and social science breakthroughs, all have their genesis on the African continent.

Finally, I believe our greatest contribution to human progress and civilizations is that Africans have shown the world how to survive with excellence, style and merriment.

There is no logic to racism; it makes no sense.

God has blessed the Black race with just as many gifts and talents as He has blessed whites.

If you would take your knee off my neck, you would see God is just, merciful, and kind to us all.

Bishop Simeon B. Hall,

senior pastor emeritus

New Covenant Baptist Church

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