March 7, 2008
I do not know Dr. Keith A. Russell, and obviously he also does not
know me, based on a letter that he wrote to The Freeport News in
response to my weekly column published on Friday, February 29, 2008.
In that column, I repeated an opinion that I had expressed on a
number of occasions relative to the monumental contributions made to
this country by the late Sir Stafford Sands, the Minister of Finance
and Tourism in the former United Bahamian Party (UBP) Government.
I noted that Sir Stafford was an astute economist and it was because
of his "economic genius that the Bahamian dollar currently is one of
the few currencies in the world that trades dollar for dollar with
the mightY American dollar." Further, I pointed out that The Bahamas
today is recognized as one of the top tourist destinations in the
world because of the successful tourism model designed and
established by Sir Stafford.
Dr. Russell considered my comments about Sir Stafford to be an
indication that he was my hero, describing him as a "villainous
racist." He could not deny, however, that everything I had written
about Sir Stafford was true, in support of my contention that he
deserves to be appropriately honoured by The Bahamas. That is why Dr.
Russell resorted to using racial epithets, as he has done in previous
letters written to the media on issues dealing with race relations in
this country. Indeed, the one conclusion that can be drawn from his
letters is that he is himself an avowed racist with a deep-seated
hatred for white people in general, a hatred that he more likely than
not developed as a result of unpleasant experiences he encounted with
racist whites at some point during his life.
It is this likelihood that convinces me that, in reaching the
conclusion that Sir Stafford was my hero, Dr. Russell hasn't the
faintest knowledge of my background. At one stage in my youthful
years, I despised Sir Stafford and the UPB in general for the
oppressive policies that they had in place as the then government of
this country. Those were my dashiki-wearing, Afro-coiffured and
goateed days when looking menacing enhanced my persona as a Black
In fact, I was one of only a handful of black radicals in this
country who were formally affiliated with the Black Panther Party,
which was very active at the time in the United States. Members of
the Black Panthers did not agree with Dr. Martin Luther King's
turn-the-other cheek philosophy; instead, they embraced the doctrine
enunciated by Malcolm X, who believed that blacks had to use whatever
means were necessary including resorting to violence if they were
going to win the "revolution."
Consequently, my heroes of the American Civil Rights Movement at the
time were not non-violence advocates like Dr. King, Joseph Lowery and
Hosea Williams, but rather militant activists such as Malcolm X,
Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown and Black Panther members Huey
Newton, Bobby Seal and Eldridge Cleaver. To be frank, I was a racist
who agreed with Malcolm X that most white folk were "blue-eyed devils."
My views in this regard were fomented and nurtured by personal
experience and exposure to unadulterated racism, both here at home
and abroad. The fact that there was a movie theatre on Bay Street,
The Savoy, that refused blacks admission indicates the intolerable
level of racism that existed in The Bahamas at the time.
In the early 1960s, I was also exposed to the raw practices of racism
that were mandated by law in the southern area of the Unites States
prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Bahamians who
travelled to Miami around that time will recall that Miami Beach and
downtown Miami were very much segregated, and the hotels of choice to
live in were The Carver and Sir John in the black neighbourhood.
The further north you went in Florida, it seemed as if racism became
more pervasive, as I experienced during a bus trip from Miami to
Wichita, Kansas, with a baseball team in 1963. Not being able to see
a movie at the Savoy Theatre did not come close to the degradation of
having to abide by a rule which stipulated that I had to use a
restroom designated for "Blacks Only" as opposed to one saying
"Whites Only" during a rest stop at a bus station in Dothan, Alabama.
That experience reinforced my commitment to fight racism here at home.
Being a Black Power advocate in the l960s served its purpose during
that era, but to harbour racist views in this day and time is
evidence of a mindset that's incapable of keeping in step with the
many progressive changes that have taken place in the lives of black
people not only here in The Bahamas, but around the world. Besides, I
long ago concluded that not all white people are racists and that
there are many blacks like Dr. Russell who classify as practitioners
of detestable reversed racism.
Over the years, especially during the 20 years I lived in the United
States, I became acquainted with many white individuals who were
truly good and decent human beings; likewise, I met many blacks who
definitely were not.
The result was that my views on race relations changed considerably
and I became a firm believer in Dr. Martin Luther King's doctrine
that people should be judged by the content of their character and
not the colour of their skin.
What's more, in 1974 when I decided to leave The Bahamas I had
reached the painful conclusion that being black did not insulate me
from being victimized by other blacks in a manner far worse than I
had ever experienced under the UBP Government.
For more than three years, I was unable to find meaningful employment
in this country because I openly opposed the policies of the then PLP
Government that I had fought so hard to help win the general
elections in 1967.
Because he was responsible for sending me to London for a year's
training at The London Evening Standard after the PLP came to power
as a reward for my contributions to the struggle for majority rule,
Sir Lynden Pindling wrongly assumed that my gratitude would be so
overwhelming that I would not be critical of wrongdoing that had
become prevalent among the party's hierarchy by the time I returned
from London in November of 1969.
On my return, I was appointed editor of The Bahamian Times, the then
mouthpiece of the PLP, but was fired in March of 1970 because I
refused to "toe the line" and do something Pindling had asked me to
do that would have seriously compromised my journalistic ethics.
I subsequently became convinced that it was not a coincidence that my
search for employment related to my training was unsuccessful because
of certain individuals in positions of power in the Government. I
used to be consumed by a great deal of animosity towards these
persons, but my deep faith in God and my firm belief that He does not
allow wicked people to prosper cured me of the mentally debilitating
"disease" that hatred induces.
Dr. Russell surely could benefit greatly by allowing God to also
redirect his life in this same manner. I am told that he is a
religious man who is the pastor of church in Freeport.
He is not a medical doctor, so the fact that he uses the title of
"doctor" suggests that he has completed a prescribed course of study
in an educational discipline and has a doctorate degree.
This should mean that he is an educated man. Of course, as pastor of
a church, he could be among the legions of "religious leaders" in
this country who disingenuously refer to themselves as "doctors"
without having earned the right to do so.
Whatever category he fits in, if he is indeed a believer in the
teachings of Jesus Christ, I would suggest that he takes a refresher
course in theology and commit to memory a discussion be-tween Christ
and Peter documented in Matthew, Chapter 18, beginning at verse 21.
Here's part of what it says: "Then Peter came to him and asked,
'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?' "
"No," Jesus replied, "seventy times seven."
If he is indeed a true believer in the teachings of Jesus Christ, Dr.
Russell should keep this advice in mind whenever his thoughts reflect
on Sir Stafford Sands, who indeed is deserving of being honoured by
The Bahamas, not as a hero, but as one of the most important
contributors to the growth and development of this country.
Oswald T. Brown is editor and general manager of The Freeport News.
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