Monday, July 25, 2011

We live in a sick society, not because of immigrants... because of biggity Bahamians who hate themselves and don't want anyone to know about it... That self-hate is the cancer that is eating us from the inside out

Tribune Staff Reporter

ON THE matter of squatter settlements, the government is being misleadingly vague about how much information it has on the squatter problem when in fact the government has been mining information on squatter settlements in an organized manner for years. The most recent data from a government study that was internally published in January 2011 indicates there are 38 documented squatter settlements in New Providence, for which only 10 are known to be on government land.

In the 26 cases where the land tenure is known, the overwhelming majority - 61 per cent - of these housing communities are located on private land. Between 2004 and 2010 several of these settlements were converted into housing sub-divisions. Pride Estates, Dignity Gardens, Mandarin Close Subdivision and Ross Davis Estates all stand where squatter settlements once existed.

In the case of Pride Estates, reliable sources have told me that Bahamian police officers and defence force officers who were squatting on the land counted themselves amongst the many who got land in the regularized subdivision. I say that because Bahamians love to put a colour, an accent and a status to squatters when very often they are speaking about those who they count amongst their own.

All in all, the total size of squatter settlements in New Providence, measured by structure count, is 940, according to well-placed Tribune sources. There was a net increase in the size of squatter settlements between 2004 and 2010, with the number of structures increasing by 407 and decreasing by 238. Well placed sources say the government knows exactly how many Bahamians and how many legal Haitians inhabit those dwellings. This would seem plausible based on the mere fact that immigration raids into squatter settlements target those who are illegal. This is not to dismiss the fact that residents with status are harassed, sometimes to a severe degree, during these operations.

Bahamian people have sanctioned the growth and development of squatter settlements by virtue of their own administrative negligence, and failure to establish a proper plan for the integration of its immigrant community. As a result, people, Bahamian and non-Bahamian, have established families and livelihoods in squatter settlements. Regardless of how one judges the living standards in these settlements, they are at the end of the day housing communities. And how irresponsible is it for Bahamian people to believe they have the unabated right to destroy these communities at any and all cost or expense. That is a recipe for social upheaval, which is what Bahamians continue to bring on themselves.

History and geography played a large role in the integrated society in which we now live, but we were also participants in the creation of this reality, and now we selfishly do not want to accept who we are. Every Bahamian family, including my own, has a story to tell over the past 38 years of independence and beyond of a Haitian national who they employed, a Guyanese national who they were taught by or a Jamaican national who wiped their backsides as a child. We should not be ashamed of that. How could we? "These people" formed our community; in many instances they became a part of our biological family. And now we want to raise hell because the immigrant community over the years integrated into the society as best as we allowed them to. Now we want to raise hell because people who were born and bred in the Bahamas want to call themselves Bahamian.

The people living in squatter settlements have developed communities as best they could in order to serve a Bahamian labour force that employs them. Now, Bahamians think of Haitians as our slave masters, those who once were good enough to cook our food, wash our clothes and nurse our suckling babies, but are not good enough to live in our houses, eat our food or cohabitate with our children.

The Haitian community has been pushed to the margins by the very people who gave birth to them, literally and figuratively. Many of the so-called upstanding Bahamian men in society, who have sweet-hearting down to a science, have children born of Haitian mothers roaming the streets with no clue of their heritage. These are the children we claim have no right to call themselves Bahamian?

In trying to have a balanced debate about the Haitian community and the problems we so readily ascribe to them I had to ask myself a question: Why is it that in the face of facts, evidence and rational arguments that prove many of the claims levelled against the Haitian community to be false and unfounded that Bahamians are still mulish, inflexible and unyielding in their beliefs?

I found my answer with Dr Amos Wilson, a man who ranks amongst the top black scholars in the modern world. He says it is because the individuals who hold these beliefs have a personal interest in the persistence of those beliefs. In other words, no manner of logic or evidence can dissuade them otherwise, because their beliefs are not based on logic or evidence. They are based on self-reinforcing tall tales. He was speaking about the general beliefs that persistently linger about the African race, but his thoughts are more than relevant in relation to our beliefs of the immigrant community.

Unfortunately, Haitians take the heat, but the Bahamian view of "the other" is all the same, except when it comes to those who arrive in private jets with their pockets fat and their suntan lotion in toe.

Some Bahamians have a strange concept of a pure blooded Bahamian or a real Bahamian that I simply cannot grasp. You would be hard pressed to find a Bahamian of any and every means over the age of 40 who does not have an immediate family connection to another Caribbean island, the United States or the old empire.

So who are the real Bahamians? We have some people around here who are the descendants of other people who came here as "masters", procreated on Bahamian soil, passed on property and wealth gained under an illegal an illegitimate colonial system, and happened to stick around until we negotiated an independence. Are they the real Bahamians? Many of these people, who are the inheritors of ill-gotten wealth: are they the real Bahamians?

Between May 2007 and June 2010, the government approved 10,012 permits to reside, and another 22,839 permits between May 2002 and May 2007. Like it or not, the Bahamas has an enormous immigrant community, living and working legally in the country. In that same eight year time period, the government granted 3,227 citizenships; 2,747 permanent residency applications and 3,792 spousal permits. Bahamians need to wake up. We are a multicultural society and our misdirected hate is unnecessarily stirring social tension.

Our immigration policies are literally tearing families apart. I grew up with a friend whose professional parents lived here on a work permit. We grew up together from primary school all the way to high school. The government eventually naturalized her and her siblings but refused to do so with her parents, who had been contributing members of society for decades. My friend's parents were force to move back to their country of birth after establishing their roots in the Bahamas and growing their seeds in Bahamian soil. Many Bahamians would look at this case as an example of the successful implementation of our immigration policy. I say what a shame.

If I were a Bahamian-born child of Haitian parents, who were legally employed to a Bahamian family in the 1970s, and I came of age to apply for citizenship in the 1990s, and because of some procedure inefficiency, or some misplaced political cowardice, 20 years later I was still without citizenship, I would rightfully be upset and fully deserving of some due process. Why, if the government announced, it was going to take my file out of the filing cabinet and figure out what was the hold up, should Bahamians be outraged at that?

Had my grandfather not been a Progressive Liberal Party supporter in the early 1990s and my Jamaican-born mother not been a beloved teacher of many Bahamian children in the public school system, her application for citizenship might have been counted amongst those now infamous 1,300.

I am so sick of politicians manipulating information to stoke xenophobic fears for their own political advantage, and the nerve that they would do so in the name of their love for the Bahamas. Branville McCartney, who is under advisement by the one and only Loftus Roker, is currently milking all he can from the furor around the Ministry of Housing's activities in Mackey Yard and recent disclosures by Brent Symonette, Minister of Immigration.

After Mr McCartney claimed the government was attempting to "secretly regularize thousands of non-Bahamians on the run up to election," Mr Symonette refuted the claims and suggested that Mr McCartney was perhaps misled by the grapevine's reporting of a new initiative at the Department of Immigration.

That initiative he said was the government's employment of 12 people to investigate the status of some 1,300 applications that have been sitting dormant for years.

These applicants have nothing to do with the former residents of Mackey Yard, or the current subdivision being developed.

And yet, Mr McCartney, I suppose in his attempt to make aged political cheese, released his latest statement on the matter of "the 1,300" to say: "The DNA, along with scores of Bahamians across the length and breadth of the Bahamas, is increasingly troubled by the government of the Bahamas' attempt to secretly regularise thousands of non-Bahamians during an election season, while at the same time admittedly following the fashion of the Christie administration and its old 'land give-away' practices."

To use this government initiative, which will hopefully give hundreds of entitled applicants their due process, to advance the completely invented notion that the government is attempting to "secretly regularize thousands of non-Bahamians on the run up to election" is blatantly disingenuous. It is a political strategy taken out of the crudest of political play books being advanced by the so-called "different" political party.

There are sinister efforts at play, trying to tie the Department of Immigration's efforts to the alleged land sale at Mackey Yard.

No one is truly interested in an explanation, the facts of the matter, or doing their own investigation. The many people who are feigning outrage over the airways are simply satisfied with playing up the possibility in order to feed their own egos, their misplaced senses of superiority and righteousness, and to obtain a political advantage.

They are not interested in social unity; they are not interested in peace; they are not interested in taking responsibility as a society.

We live in a sick society, not because of immigrants, because of biggity Bahamians who hate themselves and don't want anyone to know about it.

That self-hate is the cancer that is eating us from the inside out.

July 25, 2011