“You can’t speak Creole in here. English only”: Experiences of Stigma and Acts of Resistance among Adults of Haitian Descent in the Bahamas





Haitians in the Bahamas, Haitian diaspora, Stigma, Second Generation immigrants


This article builds upon William J. Fielding, Virginia Ballance, Carol Scriven, Thaddeus McDonald, and Pandora Johnson’s (2008) argument that there is a strong and pervasive stigma of being Haitian in The Bahamas. In this article, I build upon and support their research by using examples from 28 semi-structured interviews with adults of Haitian descent in The Bahamas which reinforce their arguments concerning stigma. In particular, I explore examples of stigma in the public hospital, speaking Haitian Creole, fear of being stopped by immigration officers, and surnames. This article will conclude by discussing the ways people of Haitian descent display acts of resistance in the face of such stigma. This is important because it demonstrates the way people of Haitian descent persevere in the face of adversity and the incessant stigma of being Haitian in The Bahamas.

Author Biography

Charmane M. Perry, University of Alabama at Birmingham

African American Studies Program


Alanez, T. (2019, September 8). Stigma of being Haitian in the Bahamas reignites after Hurricane Dorian. South Florida Sun Sentinel. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/weather/hurricane/fl-ne-dorian-haitian-evacuees-nassau-20190909-sjcg5pegjrgnnhsve7w3pd3ozu-story.html

Arellano, G. (2018, May 27). Spanish, not English, is the most all-American language and has been for centuries. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/spanish-not-english-most-all-american-language-has-been-centuries-ncna877716

Bahamas Department of Statistics. (2002). Report of the 2000 census of population and housing.

Bertrand, M., & Sendhil, M. (2004). Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination. The American Economic Reviews, 94(4), 991–1013. https://doi.org/ 10.1257/0002828042002561

Bushman, B. J., & Bonacci, A. M. (2004). You've got mail: Using e-mail to examine the effect of prejudiced attitudes on discrimination against Arabs. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(6), 753–759. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2004.02.001

College of The Bahamas. (2005). Haitian Migrants in The Bahamas: A report for the International Organization for Migration. https://dloc.com/AA00078779/00001

Craton, M. (1995). The Bahamian self and the Haitian other: The migration of Haitians to and through the Bahamas, 1950-2000. Immigrants and Minorities, 14 (3), 265–288. https://doi.org/10.1080/02619288.1995.9974867

Creole will be the dominant language within ten years [Letter to the Editor]. (2005, November 10). The Tribune, p. 9. http://dloc.com/UF00084249/00251/9

Fielding, W. J., Ballance, V., Scriven, C., McDonald, T., & Johnson, P. (2008). The stigma of being ‘Haitian’ in The Bahamas. The College of The Bahamas Research Journal, 14, 38–50. http://doi.org/10.15362/ijbs.v14i0.97

Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Prentice-Hall.

Johnson, C. (2004, May 19). Excited crowd enjoys Flag Day frolics. The Tribune.

Link, B. G., & Phelan, J. C. (2001). Conceptualizing stigma. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 363-385. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.363

Marshall, D. (1979). The Haitian problem: Illegal migration to the Bahamas. Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies.

Mazzeo, J. (2013). Hypertension among Haitians living in the Bahamas. International Journal of Bahamian Studies, 19, 15-30. http://doi.org/10.15362/ijbs.v19i1.177

McCartney, J. (2013, June 17). The rise of the Haitian population: Community expands since independence. The Nassau Guardian, http://www.thenassauguardian.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=39885:the-rise-of-thehaitian-population&Itemid=37

Ogbu, J. U. (1991). Immigrant and involuntary minorities in comparative perspective. In M. A. Gibson & J. U. Ogbu (Eds.), Minority status and schooling: A comparative study of immigrant and involuntary minorities (pp. 3-33). Garland Publishing.

Perreira, K. M., & Ornelas, I. (2013). Painful passages: Traumatic experiences and post-traumatic stress among immigrant Latino adolescents and their primary caregivers. International Migration Review, 47(4), 976-1005. https://doi.org/10.1111/imre.12050

Public Hospitals Authority (Bahamas). (2020). Historical overview. http://www.pmh.phabahamas.org/about/historical-overview/

Robles, F. (2015, January 30). Immigration rules in Bahamas sweep up Haitians. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/world/haitians-are-swept-up-as-bahamas-tightens-immigration-rules.html

Rubenstein, Y., & Brenner, D. (2013). Pride and prejudice: Using ethnic-sounding names and inter-ethnic marriages to identify labour market discrimination. The Review of Economic Studies, 81(1), 389–425. https://doi.org/10.1093/restud/rdt031

Sears, A. (1994). The Haitian question in the Bahamas. Journal of the Bahamas Historical Society, 16, 10-20.

Stepick, A. (1998). Pride and prejudice: Haitians in the United States. Allyn & Bacon.

Wade, A. (1997). Small acts of living: Everyday resistance to violence and other forms of oppression. Contemporary Family Therapy, 19(1), 23–39. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026154215299