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The Colonial Impact


October 12, 1492 - The day Christopher Columbus made landfall in what is now known as the Bahamas. It's a famous time in history but its long-term generational impact is overlooked and mostly unknown to the world.

A Brief History of the Bahamas

From around 900-1500 AD, the islands of the Bahamas were occupied by native Lucayan people called Guanahani. There were around 40,000 Lucayans who were wiped out within 25 years of Columbus' arrival, from disease and slavery.

By 1690 to 1720, the Bahamas had the greatest concentration of pirates in the world. Known as the Golden Age of Piracy, many privateers and pirates like Blackbeard and Calico Jack, came to store their treasure. The shallow waters of the Bahamas and 700 islands made the country a great hiding place for treasure. It was also in close proximity to well-traveled shipping lanes, making it easy to steal from merchant ships.

More than a century later, American colonists loyal to Britain arrived in Eleuthera (an Island of the Bahamas) paving the way for the 18th century slave trade. Africans were brought to the Bahamas as slaves to work unpaid. Their descendants now constitute 85% of the Bahamian population.

The Slave Mentality

African-American writer, Kuuleme T. Stephens, in an article titled, “Slave Mentality vs. Entitlement Mentality” defines the slave mentality perfectly:

“...when a person has or is feeling inferior or… feeling lost without hope, a feeling that we do not have the power to significantly alter our own circumstances… Another sad symptom of having a slave mentality is believing that White people are superior… A person conditioned to quietly, and without objection, accept harmful circumstances for themselves as the natural order of things. They’re also conditioned to accept their master’s view and beliefs, about themselves, and strive to get others, within their group, to accept the master’s view…”

The Bahamas was under British colonial rule for 325 years, until it finally gained its independence just 46 years ago, on July 10th, 1973. Slavery was an economic enterprise as much as it was a political and social instrument of power and conquest. As such, it has affected every aspect of modern Bahamian culture; from society, food, beauty, education and business to economics and politics.

My Experiences

After living in the Bahamas for a year now, my interest in the impacts of colonialism on Bahamian society started with my first-hand experience as a foreigner with lighter skin. Experiences like uninterrupted access and close parking to some beaches, until I bring a Bahamian friend, or the police and security interrogations of Bahamians in predominately white areas, particularly those with dreadlocks, were shocking and eye-opening.

It's like the saying goes, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Not to mention the treatment of white foreigners by Bahamians; foreign brands and businesses mean better quality, working with foreigners means more money and status, having visited and/or lived in the U.S. means you're more worldly. Bahamians gravitate towards foreigners for privilege. It's like the saying goes, 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em'.

It is an inherited trauma of colonization and the slave trade that has lead to a subconscious and unconscious slave mentality and a feeling of inferiority among Bahamians as a black peoples/ nation.

"There are white people who are not racist, but they work in a racist system," my Rastafarian friend said to me once, "but black people are prejudice, and they're prejudice because they want to be accepted by the white man," he says.

"I believe racism means to love your own race. But a black person is the first to scrutinize me and the last to work with me because of my locks," he says.

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