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2005-12-06 11:44:29

PLP Crippled By Race Issue

To many of us hearing their words, they (the PLP) come across as being crippled by a serious racial problem.

We weren't talking race, we were just talking history! Poor old Raynard Rigby, PLP chairman, seems to live in a perpetual cloud of confusion.

Guest on Sunday's radio programme, Parliament Street, Mr Rigby claimed that his party members were not being racist, they were just explaining history at their party's recent annual convention. They were talking about that once-upon-a-time when black men were governed by a minority of white men.

The only problem is that while Mr Rigby heard history, the rest of us heard some of his colleagues going apoplectic over race. Of course, we might have been tuned into a different PLP convention than the one attended by Mr Rigby. If so, then we shall have to complain to Cable Bahamas about playing tricks on us.

The PLP talked about many things at their convention, but whenever they skirted the Brent Symonette election as deputy leader of the FNM, those who chose to touch the subject sounded racists to most of us.

"When majority rule came in 1967 that was the only time that black Bahamians had an opportunity in governing the Bahamas," said Mr Rigby. "If that is the history of the Bahamas and if a speaker says in his presentation that as a party we are moving our party and country forward and we will not take our country backward. For the life of me that can't be racist because it puts the Bahamas of 2005 in an important context," Mr Rigby told his radio audience.

Was Agriculture Minister Alfred Gray talking history when he berated FNM Sidney Collie for losing the deputy leadership of that party to Brent Symonette, a white man, whose father was leader of the UBP?

Said a highly emotional Mr Grey: "Tonight I wish to charge him (Collie) with failure to secure his own seat as deputy leader and I also charge him for handing it over, not to an FNM, but to a UBP - and I can tell you brother, the Bahamian people ain't going back there. Fellow delegates, could you imagine, God forbid, that they should win, and something were to happen to Hubiggity, that we would be back in the hands of the UBP? Please don't let me imagine - that."

The appearance of one white face - a white man who they insist is UBP, but in fact never was - threatens them with returning to a past that most of them never knew. Mr Symonette has always been an FNM. Unlike some, he has never switched political parties.

What are they worried about going back to? Certainly not to the UBP as a party. That folded in 1971. Certainly not under UBP leaders. They are all dead, and were never known to those who speak of them today with such authority.

Not to the days when people of colour could not enter such public places as restaurants, hotels and theatres. Those days existed under the UBP, but also went out under the UBP. Not to the days when women didn't have the vote. Women got the vote under the UBP. Not to the days when blacks could not get a job in the Royal Bank of Canada. Aquinas College introduced a secretarial course and trained young Bahamian women, who once qualified were hired by the bank. That happened under the UBP.

And so even if there were a UBP to go back to, it would not be the UBP that their parents told them about. It would not be a UBP whose colour bar forced Melanie Griffin's mother to wait outside a movie theatre while her employer's children enjoyed the show inside.

So just what are they having nightmares about?

Or is it rather an inferiority complex. A fear that if the white Bahamian were put on an even political playing field as the black Bahamian, the latter might disappear in the shadow of the former. It is generally assumed that the white Bahamian, because of his heritage, is a more astute businessman than the black Bahamian. Is this what they are afraid of?

Is the Bahamas a multi-racial society? Is it a society in which all men - and women- have equal opportunities? Is this a society in which all citizens - whatever their skin tone - can be equal participants in a process that will create a better Bahamas?

If the answer to these questions is "yes" then why should anyone suggest that the hands of the clock can be turned back half a century? Are these suggestions being made through ignorance, or malice?

Whatever it is, these men and women should examine their own hearts - they appear to be bowed down under a heavy burden. To many of us hearing their words, they come across as being crippled by a serious racial problem. If they have an inferiority complex, then don't try to pass it on to a new generation of Bahamians, who happily see the world through more inclusive eyes.

Source: The Tribune - Nassau, Bahamas

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