The Bahamas Issues Shocking U.S. Travel Advisory

by Abby Johnston

Americans are accustomed to receiving travel advisories when venturing to foreign countries: a disease, a possible security threat to Americans — those aren't uncommon. But what kind of threat does the United States pose to people coming in to visit? The Bahamas issued a U.S. travel advisory to use "extreme caution" around police, advice that came just before a national independence holiday weekend. The country is 90 percent black.

On July 8, the day after the United States dealt with two separate killings of black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana, the Bahamian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration released a statement saying that it has "taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers."

The statement continued:

We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the US but especially to the affected cities to exercise appropriate caution generally. In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.

There isn't a lot of mental gymnastics involved in understanding why the ministry would feel the need to warn its overwhelmingly black citizens about traveling to the United States. As the Washington Post points out, this isn't the first time that countries have issued travel warnings to the U.S cities. Last summer, France cautioned its citizens not to travel to St. Louis, Cleveland, and Baltimore amid protests against police violence.


Still, it seems pretty telling that a predominantly black country would feel compelled to warn its citizens, particularly young men, not to tangle with police in America. That gives at least some clue as to how the rest of the world sees the current situation in the United States: that if you're black, especially if you're a black man, you should be completely docile when it comes to interactions with officers.

This message of remaining non-confrontational echoes the sentiment that Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile — who was killed near St. Paul, Minnesota, this week — expressed to CNN after her son's death: "Comply, comply, comply," she said of teaching her son to deal with police officers.

The fact is, no one should have to be taught to shrink when they see police. And the fact that it disproportionately affects black people has become an apparent red flag to Bahamians. Hopefully people in the United States will see it as a similar warning sign.