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Social Unskillworkers

In: Social Issues

Submitted By ashy123
Words 2612
Pages 11
Title: The Burma Road Riot
Name: Alieth Jeanienne Adderley
Student ID#: 000-06-8795
Instructor’s Name: Tracey Thompson
Date of Submission: 29th March 2012

The Burma Road Riot, despite being often misunderstood and misinterpreted is still regarded as one of the most significant events in the racial and political history of The Bahamas. Although there were immediate causes of the riot, the social system existing from emancipation fostered dissatisfaction in the hearts of many non-white Bahamians. Prior to 1838, slaveholders who were mostly white were prescribed by law to own black slaves but after emancipation in 1838, Bahamian society was reorganized in a three tier system, the white elite, the coloured middle class and the black masses. Although this system was similar to the model of The British West Indian colonies, The Bahamas, due to its proximity to the United States, was influenced by The Jim Crowe laws existing in The Southern United States which discriminated against African Americans in an effort to control their movements. The white elite, being the former slave holders used any means necessary to maintain their status as the ‘master class.’ This included economic control through the use of the truck, share and labour tenancy systems, which ensured that black Bahamians were in debt, legal means which prevented them from not acquiring land, and social means by using the coloured middle class to create social divisions among the black Bahamians.
Bahamian society in the early 1900’s was characterized by entrenched white social and economic rule and advantage so much so that according to Bishop Gilbert Thompson segregation was a social norm and an accepted part of everyday life. Blacks were discriminated against in almost every sphere of society. He recalled blacks entering establishments like Jas. P Sands Co. and having to stand off to the side until the clerk saw fit to serve them. Thompson also mentions his own firsthand experience with discrimination; he remembered an instance when he and a group of friends attempted to order a meal from Grand Central, a ‘whites only’ restaurant. The black waitress who took their order bluntly stated that it was beyond her power to do anything for them. Thompson in his interview also revealed that whites had their own ball playing field and although there were some coloureds who were allowed to play, it was out of the question for a dark skinned black to participate. It was also accepted that unless you were from a certain family and unless your skin was a certain shade you were unable to attend Queens College. Blacks were not allowed to work in banks and at store fronts and when sitting on the bus, initially they had to sit in the back and gradually move up front. Aggravating these conditions were the loss of economic mainstays and the outbreak of World War II and although there was developments thanks to Sir Harry Oakes, employment was still a major concern because of the collapse of the sponge and agricultural industries.
It was during World War II when The United States and British Government made arrangements to construct air bases on several British West Indian Islands because of the fear of Axis invasion in The Caribbean. The Bahamas was chosen because of its close proximity to The United States and the bases were contracted to be built on the island of New Providence, the urban and economic center of the colony. The American Pleasantville Corporation was contracted to build two air bases, Main Field, south of Grants Town and Satellite Field situated on the western side of the New Providence. One of the requirements Pleasantville Corporation, the company given the contract, was expected to fulfill was the hiring of some twenty five hundred domestic laborers.
Throughout Bahamian history, Bahamians were accustomed to a certain degree of economic prosperity that foreign investment provided and the ‘boom and bust’ nature of our economy had already conditioned many of the Bahamian labourers to take advantage of any blessing and opportunity that came their way. Thus, the economic and social injustice that they had encountered because of ‘The Project’ combined with the temporary nature of the work, ‘Garveyism,’ and the recent unrest in the British Caribbean Islands spurned, as Dame Doris Johnson would claim ‘a watershed event in The Bahamas’ political and racial history; the Burma Road Riot.’ The purpose of this research paper is to argue the significance of the Burma Road Riot as it relates to the development of black consciousness in The Bahamas and by extension the struggle for majority rule, focusing especially on the intangible effects of the riot. I intend to analyze the arguments presented by historians such as Gail Saunders, Colin Hughes and Sir Randol Fawkes to support my argument focusing on the change that occurred in the mindset of the black Bahamian, the exposure of Bay Street’s weaknesses, the use of the Burma Road riot in speeches, sermons and songs, the involvement of black Bahamians from different backgrounds, and the significance of Bay Street.
This belief that the Burma Road Riot had a significant impact on the struggle for majority rule is generally not embraced by many authors in the historical community such as Gail Saunders, Colin Hughes and political activist Etienne Dupuch. In fact, in her book, Bahamian Society after Emancipation, Gail Saunders describes the Burma Road Riot as a ‘short lived spontaneous outburst by a group of disgruntled laborers’ after which ‘the black masses slept on.’ Colin Hughes, a political scientist who first documented this belief states that the Burma Road Riot was ‘a momentary outburst of raw energy’ that ‘provided martyrs and a heroic moment’ to Bahamian blacks ‘once a political movement had finally started.’ Similar to the argument presented by Saunders and Hughes, Etienne Dupuch not only discounts the effects of The Burma Road riot but euphemizes the entire political, racial and social landscape as it relates to the black masses in the 20th century Bahamas. Dupuch depicts the Burma Road Riot as ‘the natural outcome of the narrow economic, political and social policies pursued by a small but dominant political group in this colony during the last quarter century.’ I am more inclined to accept the picture that Dr. Claudius R. Walker, civil rights activist and politician, has painted of the black masses problems ‘The underlying causes of this unrest are manifold, we are in the majority, but have minority problems, we are poorly housed, poorly fed, and poorly educated. Truth to tell, we are the wretched of the earth.’ Taking this into account, it is erroneous to describe the blatantly hegemonic practices of exploitation and discrimination of the black masses by the white mercantile elite as simply narrow socioeconomic policies. These historians are of the opinion that because the Burma Road Riot did not yield immediate, tangible effects on Bahamian society it did not have any effect on the political changes that would take place in the 1960’s. On the other hand, Sir Randol Fawkes, labor leader and former Member of Parliament agrees with Dame Doris Johnson’s view of the riots consequences. The Burma Road Riot, she believes was ‘the first awakenings of a new political awareness began to be felt in the hearts of black people.’ It was the fiery start of a relatively quiet revolution that ushered in independence. The Burma Road Riot was symbolic of a growing black consciousness in the Bahamian black masses. I agree with the opinion of Sir Randol Fawkes and Dame Doris Johnson that the riot was in fact the first outright challenge by the black masses to the white oligarchy who controlled Bay Street. The Burma Road Riot ignited in the Bahamian masses a sense of political awareness that was a necessary precursor for Independence. In ‘I’se a Man’ Nona Martin and Virgil Storr argue that during the Burma Road Riot the processes of identity convergence and construction were underway. . The term identity convergence refers to the process in which an individual participates in a group in an effort to pursue goals and behave in ways that are consistent with the individual’s sense of self. Identity construction refers to the ‘process through which personal identities are aligned with the collective identity of a movement to which he belongs’ Leonard Green, was at one point labeled the leader of The Burma Road Riot because he was one of the more vocal laborers demanding higher wages. His cry ‘I’se a man’ perfectly vocalized and rationalized their actions, actions that were generally unlike the Bahamian black masses. It is also important to note that never before then had the Black Bahamian masses ever attempted to take on the white mercantile princes. The 1937 riot in Inagua and the 1935 labor disturbance at Prince George Hotel can be considered exceptions, but even then in these riots far less people participated, the motives were different and they did not develop into a political or labour riot. In the 1935 riot only about three hundred or four hundred men participated, unemployment was the main reason and there was no destruction of property or loss of life. However, after the Burma Road Riot, the Bahamian Black masses began to discover a new sense of political and social awareness. The significance of Bay Street should also be noted considering that in the 1940’s, blacks were not allowed to be on Bay Street other than during Junkanoo. This flagrant disregard of that then accepted norm could be symbolic of the black masses desire to take their country back from the white ‘mercantile princes.’
In addition, as Colin Hughes concedes, The Burma Road Riot symbolizes one of the most popular collective movements by the black masses commemorated in songs sermons and political speeches. The reason the Burma Road Riot has been so popular among politicians, songwriters and preachers is because of its ability to bond the black masses together and of its true, underlying meaning- the beginning of the movement toward majority rule. Some examples of these songs, sermons and speeches that mention or are based on The Burma Road Riot are “Don’t Burn Down Burma Road’ and “Going Down Burma Road.” It was used in a sermon by a Methodist minister, H.H. Brown in 1946 and in political speeches by Sir Randol Fawkes in 1955 and by Sir Lynden Pindling in the 1990’s. In my opinion, the use of The Burma Road Riot almost half a century later still speaks to the tremendous impact that The Burma Road had and continues to have on Bahamians and what it symbolizes.
The white oligarchy also experienced lasting effects due to The Burma Road Riot. The Bay Street Boys after the Burma Road Rio were well aware that the black masses, if sufficiently provoked would rebel. In response The Bay Street boys, always hegemonic in principle made moderate political reform in order to prevent another uprising .The white oligarchy made political concessions such as extending the secret ballot to the Out Islands, passing labour union legislation and increasing the wage paid to the black laborers. That year, the Bay Street Boys decided to ban the semiannual Junkanoo parade for fear of another riot. The strong effect that the Burma Road Riot had on the white oligarchy was still evident some sixteen years later in the General Strike of 1958. The white Bay Street boys were so uneasy that they had taken precautions to prevent damage to their property. It speaks to not only how much damage was done but how the legacy had survived almost twenty years later.
Gail Saunders in her book ‘Bahamian Society After Emancipation’ claims that the Burma Road riot was an outburst by a ‘group of disgruntled laborers.’ In response to Gail Saunders depiction of The Burma Road Riot; it is widely accepted and documented that men and women who had no affiliation with the project also participated in the rioting and looting that took place on the 1st and 2nd of June. In fact, ‘I’se a Man’ uses an eyewitness account by Oswald Moseley who said that women were inciting the men to loot and Samuel Felix Cartwright another observer admits that ‘most of the looting was done by youngsters and women.’ The gender and age variations were not the only significant characteristics, the frenzied mob also consisted of ‘Out Islanders’ and skilled and unskilled workers. Bahamians from different backgrounds, with different skill sets, different ages and even different sexes participated in the Burma Road Riot and this illustrates how the Burma Road Riot was truly the first time that the black masses had collectively demanded change. The black masses did not just riot because of poor wages but because the economic and social injustice had become so blatant it couldn’t be ignored. It had been discovered that white Americans were getting paid four times more than black Bahamians who did the same work, and adding insult to injury the American Pleasantville Corporation was of the erroneous opinion that white Bahamians, purely because of their colour would be more equipped to control the black laborers. The black laborers felt they had no other choice to stand up and demand better. The underlying racial tension in The Bahamas played a huge role in the Burma Road Riot. The Black Bahamians had become tired of feeling like second class citizens in their own country and having ‘minority problems’ when they were the majority. On Bay Street, the rioters targeted white owned stores and were openly hostile to whites they had encountered. Statements like ‘we declare war on the ‘conchy joe’ and ‘no white man is passing here today’ makes it obvious that a ‘wage dispute’ was not the only cause for the Burma Road Riot.
Although the Burma Road Riot remains one of the most important events in Bahamian social and political history, authors have overlooked and ignored its importance in relation to the struggle for majority rule. They have downplayed its significance because the effects were heard to trace. Colin Hughes, for example has portrayed the riot as ‘a momentary outburst of raw energy’. Likewise, Gail Saunders has suggested that ‘black anger erupted spontaneously and then quickly died’ However, I am of the opinion that the Burma Road Riot was the forerunner of political movements that would take place in the Bahamas more visibly in the 1960’s. Doris Johnson, described the rioters as being well aware of their struggle for rights and implied that the riot had appealed to black Bahamians from all walks of life and this collective struggle ultimately led to political and social change in the Bahamas.

Bibliography

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. The National Archives of The Bahamas. The Burma Road Riot 1942.©2009 by The National Archives of The Bahamas. Compact Disc
[ 2 ]. The National Archives of The Bahamas. The Burma Road Riot 194. Compact Disc
[ 3 ]. Doris Johnson, The Quiet Revolution in the Bahamas (Nassau, Bahamas: Family Island Press Limited, 172), 27.
[ 4 ]. Gail Saunders, Bahamian Society After Emancipation (Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 2003),119.
[ 5 ]. Colin A. Hughes, Race and Politics in The Bahamas, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981), 212-213.
[ 6 ]. Evidence of Etienne Dupuch to The Russell Commission, 301.
[ 7 ]. Doris Johnson, The Quiet Revolution, 27.
[ 8 ]. Nona P Martin and Virgil H. Storr, ‘I’se a Man: Political Awakening and the 1942 Riot in The Bahamas.’ Journal of Caribbean History 41 1&2 (2008):2
[ 9 ]. Martin and Storr,11.
[ 10 ]. Martin and Storr, 11
[ 11 ]. Martin and Storr,13
[ 12 ]. Evidence of Oswald Moseley to The Russell Commission, 266
[ 13 ]. Evidence of Samuel Felix Cartwright, The Russell Commission, 370
[ 14 ]. Gail Saunders, Bahamian Society after Emancipation,119
[ 15 ]. Colin A Hughes, Race and Politics, 212-213

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Business

...The Coffee Shop: Social and Physical factors Influencing Place Attachment Lisa Waxman, Ph.D., Florida State University aBstract This study explored the characteristics that encourage gathering behavior and contribute to place attachment in selected coffee shops in the context of literature suggesting social gathering places contribute to social capital. These gathering places, with the potential to enhance community in this manner, have been called third places. The study was qualitative in nature and included the research techniques of visual documentation, observation and behavioral mapping, interview, and survey. A transactional approach to this study was chosen to better understand the meaning of the person-environment relationship. Each coffee shop was observed for twenty-five hours for a total of seventy-five hours. Eighteen interviews were conducted and surveys were collected from 94 patrons to reveal patron attitudes toward the physical and social aspects of the coffee shop as well as their feelings regarding the community in which they live. The key findings regarding the physical characteristics showed the top five design considerations included: cleanliness, appealing aroma, adequate lighting, comfortable furniture, and a view to the outside. A number of themes emerged related to people, their activities, and their feelings and attitudes regarding the coffee shop. Each coffee shop was found to have a unique social climate and culture related to sense of......

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