Premier's statement June 1
Burt: we can’t sweep racism under the rug
Systemic racism in Bermuda and around the world must not be swept under the rug, the Premier warned yesterday.
David Burt reminded that, while the issue of race has been put in the international spotlight in the wake of the death of black American George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota, Bermuda has its own share of issues to address.
He said: “How can we pretend to be outraged by systemic racism everywhere else except here at home?
“[Racism] has been with us for a long time and sweeping it under the rug, the call and accusations of persons playing the race card is just minimising real issues.
“The real issues are that racism exists in the world, racism exists in Bermuda and, though we might celebrate a black leader or other things, that does not mean that the systemic racism that exists in the country has withdrawn.”
The Premier said that while the deaths of black men and women internationally had sparked outrage in Bermuda, more work was required on home soil.
“Our future depends on our ability to confront and deal with our past,” he said.
“We must never forget or diminish the people who live among us and who have experienced first-hand discriminatory laws, policies and practices stating where they can go, where they can live, what they could own or what they could do or aspire to achieve.”
Mr Burt said the Government had worked to introduce legislation to address systemic inequalities in Bermuda, and added that the island could benefit only from true equality.
“The issue of systemic and institutional racism is holding us back from our own potential,” Mr Burt said.
“It is causing capable, qualified Bermudians to be excluded from opportunities in their own country.
“Time and time again, research shows that when you have a diverse workforce, profits and profitability increase.”
Mr Burt said a segment of the population has never wanted to discuss the topic, but the sense of unity forged in the face of the coronavirus pandemic had created an opportunity for dialogue.
He said: “At a place and time where we are now, where we have the ability to be unified while we confront certain issues, it’s important that we speak out on issues of race.
“We have never as a party been frightened to do so, but there have been people in this community who have been afraid, so I welcome that they take up the mantle and recognise that we have systemic racism and injustices.”
Mr Burt noted the work of the late Eva Hodgson, a celebrated Bermudian civil rights campaigner who passed away on Friday, and said her work must be continued.
He said: “We must know our history and know there is pain and hurt in that history, and there was a struggle that got us to where we are today,” he said.
“Dr Hodgson is the very embodiment of a freedom fighter and, as we mourn her passing, we must commit to seeing her work continue.
“No more second-class citizens; only first-class men and women.”
• To view the Premier’s statement, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”
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