Race conversation 'should start with reparations'


Tribune Chief Reporter


Former Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez believes a national conversation on race should start with reparations.

Mr Gomez said he was appalled by the tone struck by former Cabinet minister Brent Symonette, who suggested he faced political barriers and attacks due to his skin colour.

On Wednesday, the former deputy prime minister suggested the country was not ready for a white prime minister and reiterated his call for a national discussion on race and wealth in politics.

In a letter to the editor, Mr Gomez said: “I am appalled at the beneficiary of racism attacking the victims of racism.”

“I am a Bahamian of African descent,” said Mr Gomez, who noted the displacement and genocide of Africans due to the slave trade.

“After the abolition of slavery, the emancipated Africans were forced into servitude for a fixed period.”

Mr Gomez said: “Black Bahamians of African decent are entitled to be outraged at the abuses of our ancestors and of us as individuals. While white people profited at our collective expense, while England collected taxes from the blood and sweat of the efforts of African descendants, no one in the white community ever sought out forgiveness, not even thought us worthy of seeking it!”

Mr Gomez added that the English did “precious little” to acknowledge their debt to Bahamians or West Indians of African decent.

He underscored the legendary “orgy of corruption” that followed after World War 2 by white merchants was documented in a Royal Commission of Inquiry Report.

“Since then the heirs and successors of these criminals have used ill-gotten gains of their forebears to the disadvantage of everyone else, including white Bahamians uninvolved in the corruption,” Mr Gomez continued.

“How can those involved in our oppression question us the victims of racism about our distrust of you who have been at the forefront of our affliction. Yes, there is a need to discuss race in The Bahamas, but let's start talking about reparations. Let's talk about returning lands obtained through Crown Grants while the recipients held public office.

He added: “Let's talk about taxing these people in a meaningful way to enable the just compensation of those who have been savagely wronged.”

Mr Symonette’s comments made in several interviews during the week sparked widespread debate over his privilege and perceived victimhood.

Yesterday, Central and South Abaco MP James Albury told The Tribune the merits of a Prime Minister’s character should matter more than the colour of their skin.

For himself, Mr Albury said he was comfortable with the country never having a white Prime Minister.

Mr Albury underscored that young Bahamians and subsequent generations will not be easily baited or politically exploited on matters of race because they did not hold living memory of the divisive struggles of the country’s history.

“I've always felt that race relations in our country have been more relaxed than what you might observe around the world or even amongst our own neighbouring countries,” Mr Albury said.

“I’m sure there are those who would say I'm not qualified to comment on such things, but that has been my experience as an MP and as a Bahamian.

He continued: “I think it's more important to remember that for myself, and thousands of other young Bahamians, there is no living memory of the UBP, the struggle for majority rule and independence, the 25 years of PLP administration, etc. It's important to remember our history and our progress, but it will get more and more difficult to evoke and exploit that feeling of separation amongst the public as newer generations come up and assert themselves.

Mr Albury said he felt Mr Symonette’s departure would have been controversial regardless of the reason or timing due to his tenure in front line politics.

“This is the case for anyone who has been in the public eye and frontline politics so long. But the spectre of the UBP, and the inseparable role the Symonette family played in the formation of the modern Bahamas, means the lens is magnified that much more,” Mr Albury said.

“There may someday be a white Prime Minister. There may never be one. Both outcomes, in my eyes, are fine.

Mr Albury added: “The merits of a Prime Minister's character should matter more than their melanin content.”