The Racist Cost of a Pandemic Vacation in The Bahamas
Is our suffering worth the frolic on the beach and a few Instagram likes?
It has only been a year since Hurricane Dorian devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama in The Bahamas. The country has been reeling from its impact since September 2019, from unknown death tolls to the slow process of rebuilding. Now, the Covid-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult to contend with as people on the islands have just started to find their footing, only to lose it again.
With the first lockdown in March came the closing of the borders. It prompted resorts and hotels to close and put thousands of people out of work. This is not the first time that we’re forced to contend with the lingering effects of colonialism and the consequences of a tourism-dependent economy. Tourism is not only too susceptible to global events — especially those affecting North America — but a vehicle of oppression and a microcosm of a society frequently referred to as plantation-based. Black people are cogs in the wheels of capitalism, dizzying us as they turn, taking us nowhere.
People in critical positions — housekeeping, security, and food service — are paid low wages, increasing their dependence on tips and, by extension, deference, subservience, and the inability to say no. They work erratic shifts, miss special family occasions, and completely exhaust themselves if they pursue a degree to facilitate a career change.
The Bahamian dream, we joke, is to get a job at a mega-resort and build a duplex. That the common goals of individuals are not only tied to servitude but result in mere proximity to the middle-class experience speaks to our perceptions of our potential within this plantation-adjacent existence. We work to maintain paradise, but we can only observe others experiencing it.
Tourists seemed to have more freedom than residents; this should not have been surprising in a country that boasts casinos where residents are not permitted to play.
In March, the first lockdown was announced, borders closed, and resorts projected to reopen in July. With very little financial support…