In the wake of recent shootings of black men by American police, the Bahamian government is right to issue travel advisories for citizens visiting the United States.
On July 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Immigration Issues released an official travel advisory for Bahamians traveling to the United States. Placing a special focus on the dangers that traveling to the U.S. could present to black males, the Bahamian government urged tourists to remain cautious and alert and, above all, avoid confrontation with police officers.
The timing of the travel advisory is essential to understanding why the warning is legitimate.
First, the advisory was issued days before the country’s Independence Day celebration, July 10. Many Bahamians travel to the United States for the holiday weekend. In preparation for the increase in travel, the MOFA took special care to warn the Bahamian people about the ways that this year’s Independence Day weekend could be different than in previous years.
This brings me to the next timely reason for the Bahamian travel advisory: July's news headlines.
July 5 brought the fatal shooting of Alton B. Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Just a day later, Philando Castile was shot to death during a traffic stop in St. Paul, Minnesota. In both incidents, black men were shot by police officers.
As peaceful demonstrators protested the shootings in Dallas, Texas, on July 7, five police officers were killed by a gunman who wanted "to kill white men, especially white officers," according to Police Chief David O. Brown.
That night (before the shootings), President Barack Obama made a statement calling for the recognition of a “serious problem” in America. He admitted that prejudice within law enforcement is an undisputable fact in the United States, backed by numbers.
If nothing else, these news headlines demonstrate a period of racial unrest in America. The Bahamian travel advisory, issued on the final day of a tragic week in humanitarian history, is neither surprising nor illegitimate.
The CIA reports that 90.6 percent of the population in The Bahamas is black. It would make sense that the majority of citizens traveling from The Bahamas to the United States are black. As informed protectors of their people, Bahamian government officials are smart to raise a red flag before a significant portion of their population travels to a country whose recent news headlines overwhelmingly involve police brutality and provoke the trending of #blacklivesmatter.
The MOFA’s travel advisory also warns Bahamians to avoid becoming involved in ongoing protests. July 11 marks the sixth day of ongoing protest and demonstration in Philadelphia. Though The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the crowds at these demonstrations, as well as similar protests around the country, are diverse, they may be some of the most dangerous places for individuals trying to avoid confrontation with law enforcement.
Notably, the MOFA’s travel advisory is not a restriction. The Bahamian government is not telling its people that a trip to the United States will result in inevitable harm. The advisory is simply a timely warning in the wake of tragic events.
Indisputably, the United States currently faces a problem of racial injustice. The Bahamian government is completely within reason to warn travelers of the unfortunate dangers that exist on American soil.