What Dorian has taught us about The Bahamas and the Caribbean

Dear Editor,

After hurricane Dorian landed on Abaco on September 1, 2019, and a day later on Grand Bahama as a category five hurricane with winds of up to 215 miles per hour, the damage amounted to about $3.4 billion, at least 70 deaths, and about 14,000 families displaced, according to experts.

With the tenacity of its people and with the help of other nations, The Bahamas is now rebuilding.

After a catastrophic event, there will be questions.

However, it leaves an opportunity to learn from mistakes encompassing poor planning to better management of the environment.

The hidden debris that washed up with Hurricane Dorian has brought a dark side to surface on this paradise and exposed unresolved issues in the Caribbean. The complexity of classism, racism and the social-stratification still roars.

Often, if migrants arrive from a homemade boat seeking a better life, they are less likely to be welcomed as others who arrive on a cruise ship.

Recently, a few of us with deep Caribbean roots were baffled from seeing the aftermath and have contributed through established organizations in support.

However, a conversation grew on what is the best way to help the already downtrodden. Simply put, after the cameras leave, and the photo-ops are no longer staged, the real work and the reality set in.

The issue of migrants, especially Haitians who live on Abaco, is an undercurrent seldom discussed. They make up about 20 percent of the population in some areas, according to reports.

After Dorian, some believed that they were treated less than humans, not worthy of being counted for aid or basic support like food, water or shelter. Numerous Haitians who came ashore in The Bahamas have had their share of catastrophes, from poor governance to crime and natural disasters.

Exodus for a better standard of living carried the risk on the ocean. Some often never make it to The Bahamas, and other Caribbean islands.

Stories like these seldom receive media attention. These stories are like migrants fleeing parts of North Africa to the coast of France, Italy and Germany,

Beneath the sunshine, broad smiles, and an inviting ocean, if you planned to stay beyond spending your tourist dollars, or not able to fill a financial void locally, it is time to go. In fact, most of these Caribbean islands’ immigration laws, even getting a work permit sometimes are more difficult than in many industrial countries.

Some migrants when they arrive in The Bahamas and other places in the Caribbean, face immediate exclusions that create tension and distrust.

Amalgamation can be slow where some find themselves in areas known today as the hood, but in the Caribbean, these areas are better known as the shantytowns. This hierarchy of class systems can be just as cruel as racial segregation seen elsewhere.

Indisputable though, the rule of law must be maintained as some argued that when they arrive, there is an uptick of crime. Sure, local leaders have the responsibility to protect their country from additional financial burden, and overcrowding.

The past colonial slave ships once docked on these waters where their ancestors were exploited, whether to produce sugar, coffee, spices, and other agricultural crops. Centuries later, that connection should have created more acceptance, but the struggle to see themselves as one lingers.

I am not a historian on The Bahamas’ open economy to business investments, robust tourism, strong financial management, politics, immigration policies, competitive ranking, foreign investments, travel, crime rate, corruption index, taxation, or status of women mobility, but these social nets must be addressed.

And today with over 80 percent of blacks who make up The Bahamas island population, there is still a wide gap in the lack of business ownership as if it is the old colonial period. This is not a history paper, and like many other wealthy countries, they have challenges in drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

These islands after a century of being told what to do, are still going through modernization to find a good balance to reduce the gap between the haves and the have nots.

Yes. I am aware. The Bahamas is still one of the safest places to live, invest and visit in the region, and its leaders are equipped to handle its affairs, but it can only get better when you move all its debris.

Sexism and classism is the elephant in the room when it comes to upward mobility for women in the Caribbean; because of centuries of these social issues, it is hard for people to even realize that it is happening.

During my travels further in the regions and elsewhere, I have seen marginalization against other groups, but sometimes disaster is an opportunity to change course.

What’s next: Haitians and other migrants will continue to search for stability in The Bahamas and in another place.

Dorian has uncovered a systematic problem throughout the region born out of social stratification that will not end with donations. Millions have been donated to rebuild The Bahamas. And while few will move to a better location and higher grounds, hate, polarization, and self-interest will remain.

Public safety is vital, and if migrants commit crimes, they ought to be held accountable swiftly.

Despite the task ahead, The Bahamas will rise again. More tourists will arrive, but I hope that The Bahamas will use this opportunity to be more inclusive while remaining one of the safest and more attractive places in the region where people want to live and retire.

Tolerance will be the key to success in this new world economy. We all cannot be the same because life would be boring. Let us kill ignorance and narrow-mindedness and embrace each other to grow.

– R.D. Miller

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