Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Overcoming Racial Prejudice

Last week the Bahamas Human Rights Network (BHRN) hosted an information table at the United Evangelistic International Crusade sponsored by Nassau's Haitian churches. Dick Coulson, a BHRN member, has given me permission to post his comments on the experience here:

In that connection, I would like to say to all that my last night's visit to the Haitian conclave at the Church of God auditorium was, for me a white Bahamian, an extraordinary experience. I saw a religious-civic gathering of nearly 1,000 Haitians living in Nassau and got to talk to a few of them - some citizens, many with resident status and some still undocumented but having found work and by no means a drag on our society. Perhaps this group was not typical of our alleged 60,000 Haitians living here (who has ever verified that number even approximately?), but any Bahamian who has a lingering prejudice against Haitians in our midst should visit an event like this to see the well-dressed, orderly, polite, obviously hard-working men with their wives and children, enthusiastically singing the Creole hymns and listening to their Creole pastors.

If BHRN is to really make an impact on these people and discover their problems, we must have our promotional material translated, into Creole not French. While some men to whom I gave our literature did read English, it was a struggle for them, and only announcements in Creole will make a real impact. They are and will remain a distinct community, but can and already do contribute to Bahamian life. Probably many of them would tell us that they really have no great problems with local authorities, but it is our task to find out.
Dick's experience is an important reminder that racial and ethnic prejudices will only be overcome when we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and meet with others on their own turf and, to the extent possible, dialogue with them in their own language.

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