Racism dies only with passing of generations

  • Strength in numbers: young and old take part in a Caribbean-led Black Lives Matter rally at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn yesterday. Protests have grown since the May 25 murder of George Floyd by a policeman (Photograph by Kathy Willens/AP)

    Strength in numbers: young and old take part in a Caribbean-led Black Lives Matter rally at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn yesterday. Protests have grown since the May 25 murder of George Floyd by a policeman (Photograph by Kathy Willens/AP)

First, I cannot make an apology for my opinion. It’s my qualified assessment, while realising there are levels along a full spectrum of racial attitudes — some more humanly evolved than others.

I therefore speak to the lowest level of that spectrum, which has been the most negative and most impactful. Looking at Bermuda’s racial dimensions, we know what we witnessed in the United States with George Floyd could never occur in Bermuda.

Going all the way back to the Belco riots in the 1960s, it became crystal clear that Bermudians had no fear of combating the police. If four white police accosted a black man in Bermuda, the concern would immediately shift to whether or not those police could survive an immediate and overwhelming retaliation.

OK, so does that mean we are spared the degradation and humiliation that is so rabidly displayed in America? Are we asymptomatic to the ravages of racism? So, are there no racist whites in Bermuda like those that exist in the US? Or could it be that in Bermuda, racist attitudes existed, but the actions was sublimated to manifest in a different form and be equally as effective?

The cunningness and subtle disguise, which saw that same knee pressed so firmly and comfortably upon our necks, was done so perniciously in Bermuda and just as openly. But it looked like it wasn’t happening and, if so, it was interpreted as the victims’ fault.

Indeed, in some cases, we did contribute when too often, rather than militate against what were offences or properly termed lynchings, we offered an applause, laughed and clapped as they lynched our men. And while they were burning at the stake, we stood in lines passing gasoline to the saboteurs.

The lynchings to which I refer took place in banks and law firms where they did not have to use the name n****r; you just happened to be black and potentially progressive and your name would roll around the banks like mud.

They played games propping us up and tearing us down visibly as examples to prove our unworthiness. Unless, of course, we had some relevance to maintaining their order, you could shine for a while, but then just as long as you did their bidding.

It was legal to take plans to the planning department, then for them to be withheld and suddenly reappear with someone else. The same was true at the banks, where you could present a good proposal to be denied, but soon thereafter it would appear as someone else’s. It was all legal.

How many individuals and groups do we know of that were a bit undercapitalised, who got an injections only to become then controlled and even owned by that injection? Or those who sought advice, to be eventually taken over by their advisers?

It was not just legal but fashionable to have usury in the form of capital as the core means to deprive the undercapitalised.

It did not help that during the 1960s and a little beyond, an ideology developed amid the unrest within the black population that labelled its own businessmen as gradualist and a host of other unworthy titles germane to left-wing thinking, which wasn’t our struggle.

The Cold War was between the Soviet Union and the US and the West. We carried a Soviet-modelled ideology, ostracising and insulting our own in a battle between two forces, neither of which was our benefactor. Russia did not have open arms to black people, certainly no more than the US, yet we were prepared to destroy the integrity of our ancestors who built businesses and a culture of entrepreneurship for an alien cause.

Look at what happened to Somalia and Ethiopia. We were all puppets in another man’s war. That which was built by our hands over 150 years since slavery, we watched and cheered its destruction in a couple of decades — worse, we labelled some of them who led the destruction as revolutionaries and heroes.

Simultaneous to that, the white community developed a continuous sense of entitlement, with the obliteration of the black merchants, and without rivals, the economy and all things economic became their business alone.

The trade-off? Just pay us a decent wage, give us some good benefits and we will remain your loyal but demanding labour force.

The racism we have has been a not-so-silent killer that has destroyed generations and, undetected, was easily deniable. When there is a threat of a market shift that challenges the status quo, that is when the veil comes down. Every ploy, whether environmental or outright lies, rational or irrational, becomes the arsenal used to discredit the risk, if not eliminate it altogether.

This is where C.V. “Jim” Woolridge’s statement becomes prophetic: “White folks don’t mind you being in charge as long as you do as they say.”

Again, not too different from that of Sir John Swan, whose statement after he introduced an independence referendum Bill and later was made to give up what was otherwise a useful 13-year premiership: “They don’t invite me for tea and cookies any more.”

These are unfortunate comments by two highly public men who gave the better part of their life to the cause of inclusivity, and whose works were tossed aside when they did not serve their “real” cause.

Of course, all of this will be firmly denied and many will say it is an unfair generalisation. However, the sense of entitlement is so deep that it is normalised and just the expected way. When you don’t follow the current, regardless of the reason, it is seen as wrong or improper.

Even I have tried to avoid that saga, but have never in any of my affairs to date been able to disprove. I am also willing to accept that my experience is not the sum totality of all encounters, but I do say that because of being open and always seeking inclusivity, my experience has been vast.

This racial synopsis is not a new phenomenon because as far back as Sir Stanley Gascoigne’s term as governor, you will find clear evidence of the British trying to encourage a reluctant oligarchy to step into the new world, which was becoming increasingly open to real integration and plurality.

Bermuda was stuck and lagging behind the world in embracing diversity. The United Bermuda Party was a failed, theoretical attempt to evolve racial unity. However, As late as 2000, there was still a deep resistance among white politicians to recognise the structural racism and polarisation of the marketplace; hence their ouster to political obscurity was an inevitable consequence of that narcissism.

If my argument was not true, Bermuda would look different today. But like Tulsa of 1921 when the most affluent black community, known as the “Black Wall Street” in the US, was completely destroyed, Bermuda enjoyed a similar status as a progressive, post-slavery economic example in the Fifties and early Sixties before being similarly and ruthlessly destroyed within a decade.

This is a tactical fact of history, the cause of which has been never explored.

Some believe that Bermuda’s racism is so entrenched that it is endemic — almost like DNA with persons hardly aware of their own racism — which has become a culture. Thus, the only cure for that kind of racism in Bermuda is time. Not time alone, but the emergence of newer and younger generations as the older generations pass on, taking their cultural attitudes with them.

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Published Jun 16, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 16, 2020 at 7:59 am)

Racism dies only with passing of generations

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