The oppressor’s methods

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January 3, 2013

Dear Sir

I do not read the bloggers but I would like to comment on the one quoted by Ayo Johnson. He/she contends that Mr Johnson’s earlier article was part of The Royal Gazette conspiracy against the Progressive Labour Party. It was not The Royal Gazette, but the electorate that caused the defeat of the PLP. I believe that the seeds of the PLP defeat was in its inception. Why would a group of black Bermudians look to Europe and Britain (their ‘colonial masters’) for a political model that would bring them relief from the oppression of a racially segregated society? It was because they had internalised the racism that told them that whites were so superior to them that they could not find solutions to their own problems. They needed to look to white people for a political model. The long term impact of racism does not disappear overnight.

There was a particular irony in their approach at that moment in time. The black community had just achieved two major victories. In spite of the ferocious resistance of the white community and the white power structure, the Progressive Group had just broken down public segregation and the CUAS had just achieved Universal Franchise.

An older and very conservative black politician, WL Tucker, had placed the franchise on the agenda. A young “progressive, energetic” and very radical Roosevelt Brown took up the issue and both educated and motivated the black community to recognise its importance in their struggle for racial and social justice. When he left the Island more mature and politically conventional black politicians like Walter Robinson and Arnold Francis saw it to its conclusion.

The task had been achieved by the working together of individuals of all ages and widely different political perspectives. It was to benefit the entire black community (as well as others who were disenfranchised). There was no conflict about leadership, no division within the community. There was just a unified concern for social justice for all. It was at this moment, after this victory of a unified black community, that these men, no doubt well intentioned, turned to the white world to move us forward!

The formation of the political party promptly created divisions within the black community and repeated conflict over the leadership. The objective was no longer social justice for the community but merely victory for the political party. The responsibility and leadership in the struggle for social justice no longer belonged to all of us and anyone who was inspired. It “belonged to”, and was jealously guarded by, the PLP hierarchy alone. The community were told to leave it to the party. The PLP hierarchy were often so consumed by partisan infighting that they had much less time to conceive of the best and most unifying way forward for those who needed it most. It was internalised racism that made it impossible for the PLP founders to see the value of the manner in which a unified black community had begun to achieve success in their struggle for social and racial justice.

The opportunity for struggle for status, and power within the PLP hierarchy came at a time when the success of the Progressive Group to modify the racist policies meant that other roles with status and salaries, previously not even conceived of within the black community, were being bestowed on “appropriate and acceptable” blacks by the white power structure. It was almost inevitable that internalised racism would be reinforced so that not only was the white political model with all of its divisiveness being adopted, but so were the values of the white community. The values that had sustained and civilised the black community through its darkest days were being discarded. Without either status or salaries the hierarchy within the black community had been based on age and experience. The respect based on age was at least democratic because all eventually grew old and there did not have to be conspiracies, jealousies, nepotism and conflict to acquire these roles with their status and salaries. It was eventually achieved by all.

Blacks in various leadership or administrative or decision making roles began to take on not only the values but the attitudes of those who had built the racial barriers. They not only appeased them they mimicked them. Those who most loudly condemned our “colonial masters” behaved the most like them. There is a reason that Stuart Lambert could write, (Royal Gazette, December 28) “The PLP under the influence of aggrandising elites morphed into a self-serving politically partisan machine which many voters believed was blind and deaf to them and to their pressing needs”.

The origin and history of the PLP is what it is, but anyone in leadership roles in the black community should both recognise and address the fact that the worst long-term aspect of racism is the internalised racism which has influenced and undermined whatever struggle there has been for a more socially and racially just society. Our greatest challenge now, as a black community, is not the defeat of the PLP it is the reason for its defeat.



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Published Jan 5, 2013 at 10:44 am (Updated Jan 5, 2013 at 10:43 am)

The oppressor’s methods

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