I had a great vacation in Nassau, thanks for asking! When going to the islands, I don’t spend much time on the beach; I have beaches here in Charleston. I rarely go to the hotel pool; I have a pool here in Charleston. I don’t hang out in bars; I have lots of bars here in Charleston. And I certainly don’t drink the water or use their ice cubes, because my doctor is back here in Charleston.
What I did is exactly what the tour guides told me NOT to do. I wandered into the foreign neighborhoods and talked to the people who live there. This can be dangerous at times. For those who have never been to Nassau, it’s kind of like Remount Road in North Charleston, but with steel-drum music and better-spoken English. The sidewalks are very narrow and ultimately more uneven and hazardous than the sidewalks on East Bay Street in Charleston.
The Royal Bahamas Police Force is everywhere — literally on every corner. They smile and say “hullo” as you stumble by, with a look on their face that says, “I am amused by you, yet fascinated.” After all, WE Americans are the foreigners there. It’s their country, and they are merely tolerating us, because we spend money there. Bahamians like American money. Americans, Europeans and South Americans are the reason that the Bahamas are the wealthiest nation in the Caribbean, and they know it.
It was here, traipsing along a side street in Nassau, that I came across a most interesting museum: The Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation. This is where I met my new friend, Malia. She either runs the place or she thinks she does. In any case, she was my guide, and she had as many questions for me as I did for her.
Unlike the politically-correct tone of most of our history museums in the U.S., the Bahamians have no qualms at all in telling you the brutal truth and kicking political correctness to the curb. (Meanwhile, we await an understanding of the content in the forthcoming International African American Museum in Charleston: How well will it tell the story?) Foremost, they are adamant in telling you who is at fault for Africans in slavery, which is Africans selling their own people. It’s written all over the walls of the museum by Bahamians, living in a country that is 85 percent Afro-Bahamian.
Now THIS is a truth you won’t see in the museums here in this country. “Africans were enslaving each other for hundreds of years before the Europeans came shopping,” Malia told me. Then she asked, “Why do Americans not know their history? Why do Black Americans call themselves ‘African-Americans’ when they are not? Why are Americans all so fat?”
I couldn’t answer the last or second question, but did reply with appreciation that Bahamian children go to school to learn and suggested too many American children have other agendas on their minds.
“I do not understand American Black people,” she said, waving her hands, “They believe ‘cray-tings’ (crazy things).”
She then showed me some shackles that were utilized in coffles (connected neck-to-neck links), which were used to march African slaves from Central Africa to the West Africa Coast. The neck-shackles were made of wood. If Europeans had made them, they would likely be made of metal, although there is some evidence of metallurgy in ancient Africa. This was Africans enslaving and selling other Africans. They also point out that the Africans brought to the Bahamas did not end up in the United States, but went primarily to Cuba and South America.
“Africa did this! They still do this!” exclaimed Malia. The museum also has a large display, including big interactive touch-screens, lamenting the fact that slavery still exists today in Africa. Today, as in much of yesteryear, it is the Muslims doing the slave-trading. The Bahamians rightly want to know why not one Muslim nation stands up to the modern slave runners and puts a stop to the practice, since it is their people doing the dirty deed.
Hardly any museum space at all is paid to the Confederate States of America, except one display that mentions Nassau buying cotton and other goods directly out of Charleston via blockade-runners. They were NOT trading slaves with Confederates.
One sign on the museum wall proclaims that Africa is “the birthplace of civilization and the birthplace of slavery.” Try putting that on the wall of an American public school.
Recall from George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” I’m not sure that is true, but I do know that Americans seem more interested in political correctness rather than historical correctness. Sometimes historical facts get in the way of modern political agendas. After all, we wouldn’t want to hurt anyone's feelings, now would we?
So I bid Malia farewell and gave her my card. She hasn’t called yet. Maybe she thinks I’m just another fat American thinking cray-tings.
You can hear a discussion on this with a historian and me at http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/nasty-nassau-gets-it-right_131368
Rocky Dee may be found at www.rockyd.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.