I once taught a student who wanted to write a research essay on poverty. As she developed her ideas, it became clear to me that she was choosing to do so because she thought of the average Bahamian as poor, and of herself as an average Bahamian. I asked her a couple of questions, such as how she defined “poor”, and how she justified the idea that Bahamians (in general) were poor people; her answer was that most people she knew did not have enough money to pay all their bills. When I asked her whether there was a more basic standard of poverty (Michael Jackson, after all, apparently has trouble paying his bills, but is by no stretch of the imagination poor), she disagreed. Poverty for her was the state in which the majority of black Bahamians found themselves. The fact that she had attended a private school, was employed in a very respectable position, and attended a church whose wealth was patently visible, seemed to make no difference to her belief that she was poor.
She is not alone. Again and again, I run into students who believe that the majority of people in the Bahamas, themselves included, are poor. Now when I consider that there are 500,000 trips from the Bahamas to South Florida a year, (there are only 310,000 Bahamian men, women and children, according to the 2000 census); that Bahamians spend hundreds of millions of dollars in South Florida and still seem to have enough money left over to keep the malls and Palmdale in business; and that the number of registered vehicles in New Providence alone appears to be over 150,000 (this in a total urban population of roughly 200,000) I have to wonder just what size this “majority” is.
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