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Belizean speaks on racial encounter at airport customs

LettersBelizean speaks on racial encounter at airport customs

Mrs. Estella Bailey-Leslie
Comptroller of Customs
Belize Customs and Excise Department
Belize City

29th August 2022

Practice of Racial Profiling by Customs Officers at the Philip Goldson International Airport on Saturday 20th August 2022

Madam,

My name is Barrington Ludric Myvett, an Afro-Belizean national, United States citizen and retired New York Police Department officer.

My wife, Pearline, and I came into Belize on American Airlines flight 1151 at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday 20th August 2022. On clearing Immigration, we proceeded to the Customs section, entering the Nothing to Declare line.

Just before being attended to, a female Afro-Belizean Customs officer rudely approached us and told us to join the line for persons with dutiable items. She also discourteously gave similar instructions to an African-American citizen and his wife who were immediately behind.

Standing us aside, the officer, an Afro- Belizean, ushered us into the line. Several American tourists — all white — including those who had been standing behind us, were then given immediate attention and waved through the line from which we had been removed.

Upon our querying her and protesting her obvious racially motivated act of racial profiling, she pointedly completely ignored me and walked away. I asked another officer standing nearby who I approached if I could speak with the Supervisor in Charge. He threateningly ordered me to back off and to join the other line as ordered. We complied and stood for what were two hot and excruciatingly uncomfortable hours in the other line until we were attended to.

We felt so humiliated and embarrassed. We could not believe that such an act of blatant racial discrimination could have been inflicted against us in Belize — and by an Afro-Belizean public official at that!

The African-American couple was equally devastated and incredulous that this could be happening to them on their first vacation in Belize. They vowed never to return and would have done so there and then and refrained because it would have placed a financial strain on them.

I am now fully convinced, having experienced it for myself, that the allegation of racial stereotyping of a black people is alive and continues to be a problem for Afro-Belizeans and other people of colour in Belize.

This is one of the dark sides of Belize’s dependence on tourism, where one’s dignity can be wantonly trampled upon in the mad rush to earn the US dollar.

When I left Belize in 1968 to seek a better living in the USA, Evan X Hyde of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) had already identified the adverse effects of tourism when he postulated that “Tourism is Whorism” in sizing up the Government’s tourism policy.

The action of that Customs officer on 20th August 2022 reflects a pervasive racially tinged mindset which underpins our tourism industry and our society as a whole. While we seek to project Belize as a premier tourist destination, there is no good reason to be subservient mental slaves ready to please visitors to the extent of disrespecting the citizens of Belize in doing so.

Barrington Ludric Myvett
Queens, New York
Copied to:
Prime Minister of Belize and Minister of Finance
Minister of Tourism
The Belize Media

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