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Over the past two weeks while travelling as The Domestic Tourist on a staycation in Nassau and a day trip in Grand Bahama I had back to back experiences of rude and unprofessional customer service that I attribute squarely to this bad habit we have in the tourism sector of treating Bahamians like an inferior class of traveler.
I thought long and hard about how to articulate the way such an experience makes me feel and the description that simply would not go away is this: My own people tried to make a nigger out of me.
I use the term nigger in its derogatory context, specifically as it would have been used when it was acceptable to consider a black person inferior, because that is the feeling such an experience invokes. It makes you remember that though we may have been created equal all human beings are not equal in the eyes of their fellow men.
Speaking about poor customer service in this manner is not to make the experience of discrimination in a colonial or Jim Crow era seem trite. It serves to acknowledge the emotional connection, the spiritual continuum. The feeling today of being dismissed because you are black or because you are local, or being made to feel inferior or invisible on the same basis resonates at a parallel frequency.
As a travel professional who is deeply invested in the promotion of domestic tourism and Family Island travel it makes me particularly irate when I encounter so called professionals who have no self-awareness about the disrespectful ways they treat fellow Bahamian travelers. Even when it is subtle, the behavior is unmistakable. There is a certain cold and dismissive nature and an impertinence that is recognizable. If you happen to be in the nearby company of white foreigners, sometimes you have the added bonus of witnessing the change in countenance right before your very eyes. It could really make you believing, black people deal in Monopoly money.
Whether I am at a gourmet restaurant or a roadside shack, I for one will not accept anything less than a high level of professionalism and common courtesy. And I will definitely not take kindly to anyone trying to make a nigger out of me. My blood is red and my money is green just like any other man or woman.
Many have sacrificed in the name of resisting prejudice and discrimination, in the name of demanding our common humanity. But we must remember that the enemy is not always on the outside; it is often within. We must be self-aware and continue working to free our enslaved minds.
If we don’t demand more as domestic tourists we will continue to settle for less.
Tourism professionals who don’t get it need to get going. Let us raise the bar as travelers and as service providers so we can all better enjoy our home, this paradise we call the Islands of the Bahamas.
Visit www.domestictourist.com to follow Noelle Khalila on her island-hopping exploits across the Islands of the Bahamas. Connect with the #1 island hopping travel blog on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.