Once upon a time in America, it was illegal for a White person to marry a Black person. Anti-miscegenation laws were passed in many states to prohibit interracial marriages.
Anti-miscegenation laws were established and remained so until ruled unconstitutional in 1967 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.
But my worry is no longer the issue of the racial divide in America; it is a seriously misguided sentence by a senior government official in The Gambia, whose ministry is responsible for attracting hundreds of thousands of Westerners to vacation in The Gambia.
My fear is men of influence and gets such racist ideas stick into the minds of so many and in the future, mixed raced Gambians with equal rights like any one of us, may face discrimination and regarded as foreigners.
Today, America is still facing the brunt of the anti-miscegenation, Jim Grow and other discriminatory and segregational laws that were passed to harm Black people.
It all started with such statements and while the Gambia may not pass such laws, if such remarks go unchecked, we stand to face a time in the future when race, tribalism, and religion will send our nation into chaos.
Hamat Bah instead of focusing on policy has attempted to justify his call for Gambian youths in Europe after securing their permanent residency to return home and marry Gambian women.
In his justification, Bah, who is the Minister of Tourism and Culture said the country is at a risk of being a mixed raced society gambling a takeover by outsiders.
“You do not want to create a mixed race society. If you don’t do that [return to marry Gambian women], in 10 to 15 years Gambia will be a mixed raced society,” Bah said.
“Say what you want to say on the internet. This is my strong position and I stand by it.”
But this is not a matter of saying what we want to say about Bah, who is speaking with such arrogance without any respect to the position he holds.
Such racial statements are discriminatory against Gambians whose parents found love regardless of their color and backgrounds.
No Gambian is more Gambian than the likes of Sona Jobarteh, who are promoting and representing our nation well.
Gambia’s strength and beauty are in its diversity. And we have done a great job as a nation at embracing that but Hamat Bah is not taking Gambians of mixed raced as citizens if he fears a mixed race society.
Professor Paul R. Spickard argued that: “race, while it has some relationship to biology, is not mainly a biological matter. Race is primarily a sociopolitical construct. Not only is race different from what many people have believed it to be, but people of mixed race are not what many have assumed them to be.”
This may seem self-evident to many of us, and the likes of Hamat Bah are trying to confuse the people about race in an attempt to maintain political lines that otherwise were too blurry to see.
While he thinks he can make such statement like Jammeh did to have a crowd cheer him under the banner of Pan-Africanism, we must not allow Hamat Bah to send us into a national confusion about race.
Hamat Bah should be ashamed and must apologize for making such an irrational and irresponsible statement.
It is not the first time that Bah has made such off the cuff irresponsible statements. During a congress by his party, Bah defended Jammeh’s calls for homosexuality not to be accepted in The Gambia.
He must be put in check as the chief tourism ambassador of our nation. As matter of fact, Bah made his wealth from mostly the European women he seeks to alienate as an entertainment manager in Gambian hotels.
It is insulting for Hamat Bah to think that Gambian men should go home to marry our women and return to Europe to work and literally send money home to take care of their families.
This will not solve the economic and unemployment issues we face and it will further exasperate the mass exodus of our youths, which Bah is blaming on the West and calling it a new form of slavery.
“Our youths are leaving our country, they are dying in the Mediterranean – another form of slavery,” he said.
“We believe that when you come for greener pastures and succeed, go back and marry our women and then return.”
Clearly, Bah, who has for two decades unsuccessfully contested elections for the presidency has no plans, whatsoever, that would take the Gambia from an economic slump to a progressive society.
Tourism is one of the country’s highest foreign exchange earners and this sort of behavior from him will only make it plunge.
He would have run a failed government that would leave our economy worst than Yahya Jammeh because his thinking is equally backward and mediocre.
A man with such discriminatory and dense beliefs cannot brand or represent our nation and help tourism grow.
In this generation of progressive thinkers and Millennials, one would hope that a politician and a minister of the state would be able to use policy and new ideas to reignite our dreams and hopes to stay in our country and build a strong economy.
Instead, all we are getting from our minister of tourism is discriminatory and racist remarks and above all, backward ideas that men have to travel, work and send money back to The Gambia.
It is a shame! If Bah has nothing good to say, at least something smart, and will not be fired because of his incapability to run a ministry and will continue to hold his ministerial post as a reward for being a politician, then he should hold his peace and stop embarrassing our country.