The PLP have always shied away from discussing race

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  • Dr Eva Hodgson and younger brother Arthur Hodgson at Buckingham Palace. June 8,2012

    Dr Eva Hodgson and younger brother Arthur Hodgson at Buckingham Palace. June 8,2012


The saying, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, could well describe the creed that Dr Eva Hodgson lives by.

She has been using her pen to fight Bermuda’s racial ills since she was a teenager and in May, her efforts to improve her community were recognised by the Queen when she was awarded an OBE.

Some people were surprised that she accepted the award, given Her Majesty’s position as the Island’s head of state, but she never gave it a second thought.

“There were people at the time who were critical of me for accepting it. I think they interpreted or confused my discussion about racism, and whether or not the Island should be independent with whether or not I should accept,” she said.

“The fact is that even people in independent countries like America and Jamaica receive honours from the Queen, and even there it is perceived as a big deal. I certainly wouldn’t have seen any reason not to accept. The irony is if I had not accepted it, no one would know that I was offered it, so not accepting it is not a significant political statement, in any case.”

A long time member of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB), she founded the National Association of Reconciliation, and is the author of ‘Second-Class Citizens, First-Class Men, or, Great Men All Remind Us’ and ‘A Storm in a Teacup: The 1959 Bermuda Theatre Boycott and its Aftermath’.

Dr Hodgson has a doctoral degree in African and Black American History, was the recipient of a national research fellowship for field research in Liberia, and in 1983 was seconded to the Department of Education to help preserve the Island’s oral history, and to introduce human rights issues into the social science and civics curriculum.

A teacher by training, she taught at The Berkeley Institute for many years, as well as in the United States at the college level.

Dr Hodgson accepted her award from Prince Charles on May 31, shortly before the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations in London. Before accepting the award she visited Lyme Regis, England, which is twinned with St George's in Bermuda.

“When I went up for my award, Prince Charles asked me if I had just come all the way from Bermuda,” said Dr Hodgson. “I hadn’t, I’d been to Lyme Regis where Sir George Somer’s came from. I thought it was a very pleasant English town. I think me mentioning Lyme Regis threw him off a bit. Then Prince Charles made some comments about the new governor and the problem with his eye.”

Dr Hodgson said during the wait at Buckingham Palace, what she noticed most was the formality of everything.

“I noticed the fact that they were giving you so many instructions for what was in essence a very simple process,” said Dr Hodgson. “The theatre of it impressed me.”

It is not unusual for three or four letters from Dr Hodgson to appear in The Royal Gazette in a month. She has been an ardent supporter of the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) since its beginnings, but one of her frustrations is what she perceives as the party’s silence on racial issues.

“The PLP have never talked about racism,” she said. “Racism has never been on their agenda. When they began, I and the founders of the party had so many discussions and arguments about it. At the time we were officially segregated. It was government sponsored segregation. The PLP would not take on the issue. That is why they talked about labour rather than race.”

She believed that they had made some progress with labour issues, and if they had tackled Bermuda’s race problems, they would have made some progress there also.

“When they started some of their top people like Walter Robinson had just come back from the School of Economics in Great Britain. That was the ideology they had was to be labour verses capitalist. Our society is not even based on industrial labour and capitalism, but that is where their head was by result. They went in that direction rather than talking about race. They were so anxious to show that they were not racially oriented that they displaced Russell Levi Pearman who was a black politician who ran in Pembroke and was then displaced for a white woman named Dorothy Thompson to show they were open to integration.”

Today, you hear the occasional comment about race from politicians such as Renee Webb but it has not been the general philosophy of the PLP to discuss the matter, she said.

“That is why Premier Ewart Brown came as such a shock to some, and a breath of fresh air to others, depending on how you looked at it, because he came on with racial rhetoric,” said Dr Hodgson. “The irony was that it was just rhetoric, not that he did anything about it. People like Paula Cox, Terry Lister and Dale Butler have said they were going to dial back on race rhetoric because that is what the PLP have always done. That has never been an issue.”

She was equally critical of the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) leader Craig Cannonier.

“When he went to the House in his first comments as leader he had a little paragraph about the poignancy of the moment considering the racism that he experienced growing up. Since he has become leader of the party he will not discuss race or bring it up except in a negative context where he said the PLP’s economic failure has helped blacks most because it is black businessmen who are failing most.

“He threw that as a crack at the PLP, a PLP person responded by saying he was using the racecard. The real reason that black businesses must fail first, is they have not had years of investment and they are far less experienced in the business world. They are going to have a more tenuous hold on it. All of that is the result of our history of racism. Inevitably, they will be the first to fail because they have less capital behind them. They are also most likely to have the customers who will become delinquent in payment because they are dealing with other black people who have less money.”

There have been recent discussions in the community about the possibility of white PLP member, Zane DeSilva becoming leader of the PLP.

“If Zane DeSilva was made leader it would bother me from the psychological point of view,” said Dr Hodgson. “You have all these black men there who could be the leader, but it wouldn’t surprise me because that is a part of the impact of centuries of racism. Apparently, Zane DeSilva is a hard worker, but one thing that those against him have said is that he hasn’t been there long enough to pay his dues. He is still very new to the party to become the leader.

“From my point of view it reflects the problems that are latent in the black community. Whatever is wrong with the PLP, it came out of the black community. Whatever is wrong with them is wrong with the rest of us. One of the things that is wrong is the continuing psychological perspective of white dominance. They tell me that Ewart and his supporters are in favour of Zane, which makes a statement against Ewart and his ‘radical racism’.”

She started speaking out against racism and Bermuda’s social ills when she was very young. Her mother died when she was a baby and her father, Harold Hodgson was deeply religious.

“My father came from a very strong Christian family who felt that it was pointless to look to politicians for solutions,” she said. “They were not politically active, and I suppose theoretically he might have felt I was wasting my time. Nevertheless they were the ones who imbued me with my views. Although they were not publicly or politically active they were extremely sensitive to racism and all the demeaning aspects of it.”

Over the years Dr Hodgson has been asked about running for public office, but she never has. She said in her life, she has learned that she was not meant for that kind of work.

“Also, it would have meant I would have had to give up my teaching career, with only the possibility that I might get in,” she said. “I didn’t want to give up teaching.”

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Published Jun 19, 2012 at 8:03 am (Updated Jun 19, 2012 at 8:02 am)

The PLP have always shied away from discussing race

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