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COLUMN – Race test on Browne’s Beach . . .

fighting goliathWhat does the ongoing saga between Sean De Freitas and the group of small black businessmen who operate on Browne’s Beach say about the state of race and class relations in Barbados?

For the benefit of those Barbadians who might not have been paying attention, let me briefly recap the facts.

Sean De Freitas is a white businessman who owns or manages The Boatyard –– the largest and most powerful restaurant and beach bar on Browne’s Beach, the number one beach of choice of native Barbadians.

And over the past month, the said Sean De Freitas has taken it upon himself to wage a campaign of trade-related aggression against a small group (some 14 or 15 in number) of small black Barbadian businessmen who ply their trade on Browne’s Beach as jet ski, snorkle boat and “banana” boat operators.

De Freitas’ “trade-related” aggression has taken the following forms:

1. He has stipulated that every person who purchases an entry ticket to patronize the services of The Boatyard restaurant and beach bar is contractually obligated not to avail themselves of any of the jet ski, snorkle boat or banana boat services offered by this group of small black Barbadian businessmen. (And any customer of The Boatyard who breaches this contractual stipulation is liable to be immediately ejected from The Boatyard –– as in fact happened on February 1, 2015,
to a Mexican tourist by the name of Pedro Gracia.)

2. He has erected a “Notice” in The Boatyard which asserts as follows:

“Due to the unruly behaviour and refusal of some of the jet ski and watersports operators to conduct their business in an orderly and professional manner while on this beach, as well as to ensure that your stay with us is as hassle-free as possible, we regret to inform our customers that one of the conditions of entry into The Boatyard will be that once you choose to use our facilities and wear the required wristband, you also agree not to do business with these operators while doing so . . . we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause; however your safety is of great importance to us . . . .”

3. De Freitas also avails himself of a public address system, and regularly informs the tourists lying on his beach chairs on Browne’s Beach (as well as all others within earshot) that the group of jet ski and water sports operators are substandard, unsafe and suspect, and that they (the tourists) must have nothing to do with these Barbadian service providers.

It also needs to be noted that the 14-odd jet ski and water sports operators are all legitimate service providers who possess licences issued to them by the Barbados Government’s Division of International Transport under the Shipping Watersports Regulations 2004, and that several of them have been plying their trade on Browne’s Beach for in excess of 30 years –– long before The Boatyard was even thought of!

Furthermore, on several occasions these jet ski and boat operators have had to go to the rescue of customers of The Boatyard who have swum out to sea and found themselves in difficulty!

And, needless to say, this campaign of trade-related aggression has taken a toll on these small black Barbadian businessmen, with virtually all of them confirming that De Freitas’ negative characterization of them has so damaged their reputations in the minds of the tourists that they have experienced a massive 80 per cent fall-off in earnings over the past three or four weeks!

Now, the first question that comes to mind in relation to this matter is: “What is there in the social culture of Barbados that would permit a man like De Freitas to form the notion that it is permissible for him to openly denigrate the reputations of these Barbadian businessmen and to so aggressively set out to denude their business prospects?”

Well, De Freitas needs to be aware that, in a country with our peculiar type of race-based history, many people will take note of the fact that he is white and wealthy, and that the jet ski and watersport operators are all black and small business persons. Whether one likes it or not, issues of race and class are always simmering under the surface of social life in Barbados.

It is a fact of our history that for over 300 years Barbadian society was based on a foundation of “white supremacy”, and that a social culture was created in which white people were so possessed of a sense of privilege and superiority in relation to black people that they felt they could do as they pleased and that no one would dare question them.

No less a Barbadian than the great George Lamming has publicly testified time and time again that when he was growing up in Barbados in the 1930s and 1940s, he did not know a single black Barbadian who was not afraid of white people.

And so, back in the 1930s or 1940s, it was not unusual for white Barbadians to engage in self-centred actions that showed little or no regard for the rights or interests of their black fellow-citizens. It was clear back then that such behaviour wasa product of our sordid history of slavery and colonialism. But this is not the 1940s –– this is 2015 –– and we are now almost 50 years into our journey as a post-colonial, Independent nation!

Are we really to believe that after nearly 50 years of Independence that the state of our race and class relations in Barbados is in such a primitive condition that rich white Barbadians are still indulging in the backward thinking and behaviour characteristic of feudal societies?

Oh, say it isn’t so, Barbados! Please tell me that there is no truth to my suspicions? Tell me, for example, that the white corporate leaders of such organizations as the Barbados Chamber of Commerce (BCCI) and the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA) have already met with and spoken to De Freitas and explained to him that what he is doing is unacceptable and just plain wrong!

Well, BCCI and BHTA, have you already acted and done the right thing in this “95 per cent post-slavery black society”, or are you still captive to feudalistic social notions?

Whatever the answer to that question may be, I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to send a message
to Mr Sean De Freitas and all those who still think like him.

And my message is that the black Barbadian community has reached such a stage of consciousness that we will no longer permit our “unfaired” brothers and sisters to have to fight their race and class-based battles alone! On the contrary, we are resolved –– where justice demands it –– to come together in solidarity and to lend our skills and strength to brothers and sisters in need.

In fact, let it be known that a team comprising Mr Bobby Clarke (attorney-at-law), Mr Trevor Prescod (Member of Parliament), Mr Mohammed Nasser (veteran black activist), and your humble servant –– David Comissiong –– has already been mobilized, and is already acting in solidarity with the jet ski and watersport operators of Browne’s Beach!

We therefore wish to assure all and sundry that this matter is going to be dealt with thoroughly and rigorously! There are aspects of this matter which we will need to deal with under the Defamation Act, Chapter 199 of the Laws Of Barbados, and other aspects that will require recourse to the Fair Trading Commission and the Fair Competition Act, Chapter 326C of the Laws Of Barbados.

How sad it is that in 2015 we are not much farther along the road of transforming Barbados into a truly socially inclusive society in which we treat each other as equal and precious fellow citizens!

(David A. Comissiong, an attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)

19 Responses to COLUMN – Race test on Browne’s Beach . . .

  1. geefin February 11, 2015 at 10:10 am

    The issue(s) has absolutely nothing to do with race, but imagine the surprise when you try to turn it into such.

  2. Kay Critchlow
    Kay Critchlow February 11, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Is it a race issue ? Or just a greedy man ?. Everyone is racist to a point ! Only an hour ago I was sickened that my guy wasn’t given permission to checkout a rental I want for us for the summer ! He told me they would want to deal with me ! Yes the White woman ! Not their brother !,

  3. Simon Gooding
    Simon Gooding February 11, 2015 at 10:16 am

    ..Mr.David … couldnt have said it better….they are some people in Buhbaydus who think that ..if you white you alrite ..if brown you can stick around an if you black stand back…..after 400 hundred yrs of slavery an 50 yrs after independence we as black people are still subject to such offence bhaviour from people who think they are white an rite……..nuff respect…..

  4. Santini More
    Santini More February 11, 2015 at 10:30 am

    The article speaks to the reality of our society. It will be very interesting to see how this is resolved.

  5. Kay Critchlow
    Kay Critchlow February 11, 2015 at 11:31 am

    You know what I am so not colour race anything predudice this gets me down ! Everything is racist as far as you Barbadan folks are concerned ! Always make it a black / white issue ! As I have stated in a previous post theirs none more racist , sexist, classist than you guys ! I’m also wishing somebody would come show you how it was for our families in the uk ! normal lower class in the 1800’s ! Our guys yes and women children had to go down the mines for coal ! The little kids had to climb up chimneys !work in damp mills on 16 hour shifts , It was a class of outright bad greedy people at the time ! Not a whole race issue !

  6. Larry Thompson
    Larry Thompson February 11, 2015 at 11:54 am

    It’s not a race issue. Iam a past water sports operator and some of the operators are to blame for they conduct on the beaches also have a lot of ppl who don’t have any business on the beaches coming on and harassing the tourist and givin the operators a bad name, the ncc and the police have to do they job. Mr defreitas is just tryin to protect his business,at the end of the day if the boat yard closes, they will b no business for no jetskis operators why can’t they see that. If the jetskis go boat yard will still have a business. Some of these guys have no code of conduct.

  7. Larry Thompson
    Larry Thompson February 11, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Mr brian talma is having a issue on his silver sand it a race class thing as well. We need proper police to police the beaches and get the undesirables off that have no business in tourist.or tourism. This is the number one business and it needs the number one attention. Wake up ppl.more resources is put in to catching a man with a splif than gettin ppl that have no business on the beaches off. The number one foreign exchange earner need more attention and fast.

  8. Alec Pierre February 11, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    My son and I have been regulars if Browne’s beach for over fourteen years. We have held off going there from December and are only waiting late March to early April to resume our Monday, Wednesday’s & Friday’s walk along the beach flowed by our thirty minute swim. In short we have been regulars of Browne’s beach for well over a decade and during that time have made the acquaintance of many regular returning visitors who not only speak highly of the beach but appreciate the politeness and friendliness of the vendors and jet ski operators. It would be helpful, as I have observed in Dominica, if an area could be cordoned off outside of whose perimeter swimmers would not be allowed and conversely inside of which would be a ” no zone” for jet ski traffic. Any attempt to impede these young people from earning a decent living should be rigidly prevented by police beach patrol. Whilst on the subject brought up by David Commisiong, it might be useful to investigate the policies of the nearby Harbor Lights on their admittance policies. I used to visit the establishment in my youth but I have been told by quite a few youngsters that there seems to be discriminatory practices associated with the admittance regulations.

  9. Walter Prescod February 11, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Kay Critchlow the word is Barbadians, and if you do your home work your answer would be different, so please do the work before you reply.[ Please learn Barbados history in relation to racial discrimination], so until you have walked in my shoes you don’t know where the pain is , thank you.

  10. Jean Rycroft
    Jean Rycroft February 11, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Love browns beach , never had any problems there . 🙂

  11. Samud Ali
    Samud Ali February 11, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    At the end of the day business is about being professional and offering a high level of service no matter what the area of business is. I know guys on the beach who are polite and hard working and some I observe who are just downright pushy and rude. We all need to pull up the standard and proceed

  12. jason February 11, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Anything to do with Race in this country Mr. David Comissiong is always the first in line to attack the White people of this beautiful island.
    I wonder if he ever goes to the beaches and see how these jetski operators conduct their trade. They are looking for a quick dollar, they get the tourist on the jetski, and off they go.
    No sort of guidelines on how to operate a jetski. Life jacket and off they go..
    I witnessed a jetski operator calling in a tourist that rented his bike from him to beach land it as they call it..
    The tourist did as the operator said and landed on a rock, damaging the ski, if you see how this man got on and telling the tourist he has to give him money to fix it.
    Now do you think that is right??
    Just my 2 cents on this matter..

  13. Richard February 11, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Race is not only about color,it’s about class for example the rich & privileged & the other 99%/poor.

  14. wayne dread February 11, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    They say you should pick your battles, brothers you have my support on this one.for until. ..

  15. Wayne B February 11, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    this has got nothing to do with race, sorry to say! It’s just a business fight among them. Why turning everything into a race issue? If 14 blacks were doing this against one Mr. De Freitas, then it would not be considered a race issue, but a business dispute or?

  16. Wayne February 11, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    As a regular visitor to this wonderful island, let me make one thing clear: many of these supposed businessmen that you are championing (but not all) are a blight on Barbados. If you actually SPOKE to tourists like myself before launching these vitriolic and misguided attacks, you’d find how many of us actually feel about jetski operators (and ZR drivers, whilst we are at it)…

    It saddens me that a clearly intelligent journalist on an island with such a striking rich-poor divide really thinks that this is a cause célèbre to rouse the troops with. How about issues such as a fair minimum living wage? Reducing road accidents/deaths through the introduction of drink driving rules? Drug use/violence? Corruption?

    You seem so blinkered by the supposed racial element to this (non) story that you have lost sight of the bigger picture. I can only hope – because I love this country and its people – that unlike me other tourists do not immerse themselves in the current affairs of this country. Because if this polemical diatribe is an example of Bajan political discourse at its finest, I don’t hold out much hope for your fixing the real problems that are plaguing your nation.

  17. Stephen Lovell February 12, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Sean is not white. He is arrogant and maybe a cunt but I don’t think he is racist.


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