The Haitian question

Dear Editor,

Somewhere in the Bible is a passage that says, “Treat strangers with respect since you too were once strangers in a foreign land (Egypt ).” That is Leviticus 19:34 and Exodus 22:21.

Since Dorian, things have certainly been difficult for individuals, families, communities and the nation. The hurricane laid bare our foibles and now seeks to create even more social disintegration.

We are torn between loyalty for parties and now ethnicity. We have never seen such devastation and we hope never to again. But, the reality is we can expect such calamities yearly, as the climate is changing. The likely fallout is socially displaced persons, devastation of businesses, loss of hundreds of lives, physical and mental injuries. Presently, we are on the brink of losing hope. Knives are drawn, teeth are bared, social media and its negative influence is rampant and for the wrong thing with possibly the worst (as a cohesive nation) outcome. A civil war!

What am I alluding to? The Haitian diaspora.

We are right to be proud as a Bahamian community, we may not be the best we can be, but we can rightly be proud of our governance.

Haiti, which for many of us, is only a boat stop away has not been so lucky, for many and varied reasons. But the reality is, are they not too our brothers?

For a myriad of reasons, I want to demonstrate why we should exercise tolerance and humanity, from both sides.

We could have been them, from the enslavement in Africa, to the boat ‘intervention’ in the middle passage.

Who else in this hemisphere had the gumption to take on and defeat a super power for a moral wrong and injustice against humanity, then extend goodwill to any person of color who found refuge in their country?

This in itself obligates all persons of color to rendezvous assistance when they require such.

Why, even our first person of color in the House of Assembly was of Haitian heritage, Dillet. Many of the names we now accept and celebrate in The Bahamas are of Haitian origin. The Symonettes, Pauls, Poitiers, Deveaux, Deleveaux, Duvalier, Bonamy, Fountains, etc.

Many have been among us for so long and contributed so much that we have forgotten that they are from St. Elsewhere.

In fact, many today are very willing to lend total support and allegiance to our cause because they know no other; indeed if they were ‘repatriated’, they would be lost. They don’t know anything about Haiti, many don’t speak the language and indeed even Haiti doesn’t want them. Thus, many have no status. They have no identity, unless they excel beyond the average, then we hastily give them a passport to represent our nation on the global stage. In the meantime, despite the numerous employed to build (literally and figuratively) our nation, we have to contend with those who are marginalized and lend to the social dishevelment. Those who are lawless, and criminals.

But we have laws in the country. We, all administrations, never truly enacted them. If so, how is it that we can have vendors without licenses selling products on the road side? How is it that without due process and vigilance, we have allowed them to give birth and not be registered at the Haitian embassy? How is it we can have them access to our immigration, constabulary and now our Parliament?

We are at fault for this debacle. We, as a community, as we buy the products of the road. We as a community, as we find the cheapest worker, rather than pay a legitimate Bahamian business owner what he/she is worth. We as a community, as we fraternize, even intimately to the ‘creolization’ of our country.

So we are where we are, since we did not do what we should have done and now want a ‘knee jerk’ response to correct years of ineptitude.

My suggestions are simple. Tolerance! And helping them to develop their own country, where we may also be beneficiaries.

Yes, follow the laws, close legal loopholes, strengthen border security, but embrace tolerance or we can have a civil war.

There are about 70,000 Haitians. Many we know, many we don’t know and many are prepared to lend their support to our culture and vision. Let us harness that energy to transform our country beyond our wildest imagination. Let us create a multilingual society. Let us blend our culture to create a more beautiful and exotic blend. But let it be one that is based on the best this country has to offer and yes, based on Christian ideals.

Those who have just arrived, arrange for repatriation, those who are settled and prepared to pledge to our ideals, vision and language, find a pathway for them quickly. Let us do away with the hateful rhetoric. That is unhelpful and divisive. Let truth prevail and leaders lead.

– Charles Clarke

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