When the Bahamas issued a travel advisory last weekend about visiting the U.S. — citing police brutality against black people — my first reaction was:
The Bahamas is warning Bahamians about cop cruelty against blacks in America? How about warning Bahamians about cop cruelty against blacks in the Bahamas?
For years, human rights groups like Amnesty International have slammed the Royal Bahamas Police Force for case after case of abuse, including a number of extrajudicial killings — few if any of which have resulted in real punishment. And because the Bahamian population is more than 90 percent black, guess which group feels the brunt of that Royal Ruthlessness.
So initially it was hard to take Nassau’s sudden concern for police treatment of black people all that seriously. It smacked of one of those hypocritical Third World potshots at Uncle Sam. It reminded me of the scene in “Animal House” when a fraternity leader sees the ROTC abusing one of his freshmen and says, “They can’t do that to our pledges. Only we can do that to our pledges.”
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But then, of course, I began to appreciate the Bahamas’ travel advisory for what it actually is. It’s a warning from Latin America and the Caribbean — where cops are infamous cops for beating up the underdog — that we’re looking a bit too much like them today.
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Tim Padgett is WLRN’s Americas editor.