EDITOR, The Tribune.
In a Ramble Bahamas write-up entitled The Contract, authors Jessica Dawson and Tracey Thompson wrote that between 1943 and 1965, approximately 30,000 Bahamians worked on The Contract in the United States. In the early 1940s, the Bahamian economy, particularly in New Providence, was in complete shambles, owing to World War II.
Most of these Bahamians worked in the Deep South, in states that comprised the 11 Confederate States which severed ties with the Union in 1861. This ill-advised move, opposed by General Robert E Lee, would lead to the Civil War of 1861 to 1865. Notwithstanding the Lost Cause propaganda spun by Confederate sympathisers and Dixie Southerners, the war was fought over the controversial issue of slavery, as was convincingly argued by Dr Joel McDurmon in his The Problem of Slavery in Christian America. Being mostly populated by Southerners, oftentimes derisively called “crackers” and “rednecks,” Bahamian contract labourers would encounter systemic discrimination in the Deep South states and throughout the United States where they worked, as the two Ramble Bahamas authors mentioned.
Consequently, the Bahamian Contract labourers interacted with the progeny of Confederates, adopting their cultural values and social patterns, which have had devastating consequences for The Bahamas. These Bahamians would then give birth to the Baby Boomers in the early 1960s, upon their return home. The Baby Boomers then gave birth to Generation X, who would birth Generation Y, popularly known as Millennials. Each of the subsequent generations since the early 1960s would inherit the antisocial behavioral patterns of The Contract generation. In his 2005 publication titled Black Rednecks and White Liberals, African American conservative and economist Thomas Sowell took aim at Alexis de Tocqueville and Frederick Law Olmsted for attributing the anti-social behaviour of Dixie Southerners to slavery. According to Sowell, the cracker subculture goes back for centuries with the ancestors of Dixie Southerners, who hailed from the northern borderlands of England, the Scottish Highlands and Ulster County, Ireland, before the Anglicization of those areas.
According to Sowell, these uncivilised Europeans had an aversion to work, were prone to violence, negligent towards education; were sexually promiscuous; lacked entrepreneurship; were improvident and religious; and were preoccupied with entertainment. Lynchings, burning of crosses and mob violence predated the slave era in the antebellum South and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee. In fact, according to Sowell, these destructive practices were routinely carried out in Europe by the barbaric ancestors of Dixie Southerners centuries before they had ever seen a Negro. According to Sowell, prior to the Civil War most lynching victims were white men. Blacks became the main targets of lynch mobs after the Civil War.
Sowell alleged that as late as 1850, more than one-fifth of Southern whites were illiterate, compared to less than one percent of New Englanders, and that white southern soldiers scored lower on mental tests than Black soldiers from New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois during World War I.
While out of wedlock pregnancies were rare in New England during the 19th century and before, they were quite common in the Southern states, as Sowell alleged that in one particular Southern backcountry, the illegitimacy rate was a staggering 90 percent. What’s more, according to Sowell, these Southerners also showed very little interest in saving their money, quoting one Jacob Riis who said that Dixie Southerners “loved fine clothes and good living a good deal more than a bank account.” Does all this sound familiar?
In meticulously documenting all the foregoing data, Sowell’s entire point was to demonstrate the continued cultural influence of the rednecks and crackers on the residual population in America’s Black ghettos, which are plagued with the very same social ills that were once common in the antebellum South. The same can be said for The Bahamas, with its high murder rate, national D average and high illegitimacy rate, among other social ills. White and Black conservatives in the United States, most notably Rush Limbaugh and Candace Owens, love detailing the many social ills plaguing Black America while conveniently ignoring the enormous role Southern whites from the antebellum age played in shaping that racial demographic. Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool conservative employed at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution for many years, Sowell is brutally honest with the data presented in Black Rednecks and White Liberals. Dr McDurmon quotes Sowell as stating that had a substantial minority of white Americans opposed Jim Crow and its attendant violence against ethnic minorities, America would’ve achieved civil rights decades before the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
I believe that the counterproductive values of Dixie Southerners were transferred to Bahamians who worked on The Contract. These Bahamians would then pass on these destructive values to succeeding generations – values that we are still struggling to rid ourselves of – some 77 years after the first group of Bahamians stepped foot on American soil to work on The Contract.
Freeport, Grand Bahama.
September 21, 2020.