Bob Stannard | The view from my place: Skin color - does it matter?


There is a mysterious island east of America known as Eleuthera, which means "Free." It is part of the Bahamas and one of those places that has, thankfully, been overlooked.

The island is 112 miles long and anywhere between 1.6 miles and 100 feet wide (at the Glass Window you can stand on one side of the road and see the cobalt blue Atlantic.

Cross the road and you'll see the stunning turquoise colors of Exuma Bay. The two oceans mix together under the road. The mixing of the dark and light seas provides the perfect metaphor for this special place.

There are roughly 11,000 people who live here; 85% of whom are black; 12% European and 3% other. If you are white you are very much in the minority. If the color of one's skin is not important to you then you'll not even notice that you are in the minority. There is no racial tension here. There are no white supremacists here. There is no fear of one another here. There is also very little crime here.

Our first day here we got lost. Well, OK, it's virtually impossible to get lost because it's a pretty narrow island, so let's say we were "misplaced." I stopped our rented car and asked a black lady who was about our age for directions to Governor's Harbour. She thought for a second, then opened the back door and just got in the car. "Go that way," she said as she pointed towards the windshield.

"Are you from here?" I asked.

"No, I'm from Nassau. I don't really know my way around here much," was her reply. My wife and I were slightly confused. We didn't know where we were going and now we had a total stranger in our back seat who know about as much as we did. Up ahead we could see two men, probably in their late 50s standing on the side of the road.

"Pick these men up," she said from the back seat. Blindly obeying her command I pulled over and without a word these two guys hopped in the back seat now bringing the total up to three strangers. I drive another 200 yards when the lady says, "Stop the car. This is where I get out. My car is here."

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Say what? I stopped the car. She got out, but not before giving both Alison and me her hand for a warm thank you handshake. "I'm sure these two know how to get to Governor's Harbour" and with that she was gone.

Sure enough our two new friends knew right where to go and we ended up right where we wanted to be. What an introduction to Eleuthera! There was no big "Thanks for the ride" or any apprehension whatsoever. I had a car. They didn't. I was lost. They weren't. It just came together with smiles all the way around.

It only got better after that first day. With each beautiful sunset, it became clear that these people all live together in peace and harmony.

Blacks, whites, whoever. No one really cares. The blacks that are here are predominantly the children of slaves; just like most of the blacks in America. The difference is that they appear to harbor no ill will toward the past. Granted, unlike America they did not have a lengthy, bloody, civil war, that to this day has not truly been resolved.

The most refreshing component to this island is that there is no fear; no hate here. There are no guns; or at least none on display. The whites don't feel compelled to strap on automatic weapons and parade around like pseudo tough guys in hopes of intimidating others. If they were to do that here they would be laughed at by both the blacks and the whites. There is no place here for that childish behavior.

In America and around the world we are seeing the rise of the so-called alt-right; the white supremacists; the fascists and it's disgusting to watch. Instead of using his significant influence to tamp this behavior down, we have a president who fans the flames of hate, fear and discontent. He would refer to this country as a s__thole, when the reality is that it's just the opposite.

With its pink sand beaches and inhabitants who are quick with a smile and willing to lend a hand when called upon, the island of Eleuthera serves as shining beacon in the turquoise seas of what the world should strive to be. It's a tranquil place where people have figured out how to survive on their own. They live together and work together to make their lives better for all. They are dependent upon tourists, for sure, but they are also dependent upon each other. They've not lost track of who they once were and have not let their past get in the way of the present. There is more love, understanding, appreciation and celebration of their unique differences than any other place I've ever seen.

It seems to me as though that the Eleuthera of today resembles the America of my youth. We once cared about and for each other. We did not live in fear and hold hate in our hearts as we do today. Is it possible for us to claw our way back to a day when our primary feelings towards each other is love? I would advocate that if it can work on this island it can work anywhere. It's really simple. It's up to us.

Bob Stannard writes a biweekly column for the Banner.


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