Are we building bridges or reinforcing walls?

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  • Let’s break the divide: teaching young black children to hate white men will only handicap those children throughout life as they isolate themselves further from people who may, in fact, be bringing them advantages

    Let’s break the divide: teaching young black children to hate white men will only handicap those children throughout life as they isolate themselves further from people who may, in fact, be bringing them advantages

I have been really struggling during this election period, as I’m afraid the outcome will cause one group or the other to feel their interests are not represented in our country governance.

I went to public school and was in the education system when integration took place. It wasn’t pretty, but the culture was awful before, during and after integration. Bullying, taunting and marginalisation were norms for all students.

When I became a parent almost 35 years ago, I wanted a better way for my children, which I didn’t find in either public or private schools.

So I was involved in founding what is now Somersfield Academy. We looked into founding a public school, but there seemed no quick avenue and we had only 2½ months to get the school opened. So we formed a private school, with a strategy and philosophy to embrace diversity, to teach an accurate and respectful version of our history.

To train teachers carefully and thoughtfully on issues of tolerance, peace, race, religion, gender in order to create a climate and culture where dignity, respect and human rights were the cultural norms in the school. The school’s motto was “Teach me to do it myself”, which was about self-empowerment.

When I look at the costs of education in the private sector versus public sector per student, it has been documented that it costs more in the public sector to educate each child than in the private sector.

I wouldn’t mind this if I thought the public sector education was better, but all I ever hear are stories of teachers paying for classroom supplies; of it being hit-and-miss for children with special needs.

To me, this is the biggest source of two Bermudas.

Private education (mostly white) versus public education (mostly black).

It is the source of segregation.

This economic divide is highlighted by the 2016 Annual Employment Survey, which is published by the Department of Statistics of the Bermuda Government.

Every “government” that has tried to go in and make changes in public education has met with resistance.

There is a conspiracy theory that there’s a white man somewhere who is controlling everything to keep the black man down.

I have lived in a white family all my life, and have a husband and two sons who are white.

Do they have secret lives I don’t know about?

Let’s put aside the conspiracy theory and get down to the business of doing what we need to do to ensure every child receives the education they need:

1, Take education out of politics, and let those with wisdom, expertise and vision collaborate to create an evolving education system, which develops the potential and meets the needs of all our children and families

2, Let’s ensure that education includes ethics; develops character; addresses behaviours and needs, without labelling; teaches skills to enter the workplace, including entrepreneurship, business, self-promotion and accounting

3, If we want our children to be ready to enter the workplace, we need a healthy business environment and economy to receive them

To constantly imply “business” is bad is biting the hand that will feed our children after we have given them the education they deserve.

We have survived on our wits, on the entrepreneurial and creative spirits of Bermuda and Bermudians, and to ask businesses that have struggled through the deepest recession Bermuda has seen to do more isn’t helpful.

Businesses that can, do a lot behind the scenes and up front to assist our community, so let’s end the rhetoric of creating hatred for “business” as if it is some foreign nasty object.

My friend was telling me he taught his three-year-old son that the white man is the lion. In other words, he taught him to hate and fear white men. He is doing it because he wants him to be safe. I believe the result of this teaching will handicap his son because:

• He will find it more difficult to learn from white schoolteachers

• He will miss out on that special teacher/student relationship that children form with their teachers

• His teacher will be hampered in trying to teach the son and in identifying special needs and talents

• He will be limited socially, as he will not feel comfortable in relationships with white children, as most have white fathers, whom he will fear and mistrust

• When he enters the workforce, especially that of international business, where many of the companies have their roots in North America and Europe, he will struggle finding mentors and role models in white males

• It seems very unlikely he will ever realise his full potential unless he finds a way to surmount the internal legacy of fear and mistrust he learnt in his own family

Everyone loses out.

Racism is taught. It is learnt in families and in society.

It is antagonism directed against someone of a different race, based on a belief in superiority or inferiority.

Characterising white people as “evil”, “white devils”, “crackers”, “they” and as “people to fear and mistrust because of the colour of their skin” on social media, radio or in the public is racism.

Allowing anyone to diminish, denigrate or incite hatred against anyone because of the colour of their skin, their religion or beliefs, nationality, politics and sexual orientation is discrimination.

It is never acceptable, no matter who does it.

We all have “moments” when we discriminate, but we must learn to process those moments in ways that do not cause harm.

We must take responsibility for our actions and bear the consequences regardless of the colour of our skin. Freedom of expression always has to be balanced with freedom from fear and oppression.

We are a tiny Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

We are really limited in how much money we have available to spend because we are still borrowing to meet the expenses of running our government. The biggest bill that has to be paid every month is the cost of salaries.

If we choose to allow racial divisions to consume us, the only people we hurt are ourselves.

We have to decide whether we want to build bridges or walls.

There are many other compelling needs and wants for our country besides education and our economy. The needs and wants require a strategic approach and careful management.

We need to be very creative and respectful in how we improve our country.

Every person has wisdom, is creative, unique and precious — and so are all our children.

We can achieve our shared desires with much greater ease and grace if we choose to live in a community where we respect all people as free and equal in dignity and rights.

Regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, sexual orientation or other status.

Where: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”

That’s the Bermuda I love and want to wake up to every day.

•Monica Jones is a former attorney, and modern-day artist and writer, who has sold her art through private sales from her home studio in Pembroke for the past several years. She started her personal writing in 2010 and has published a newsletter, blog and regular Facebook dialogue, with the goal of creating a more peaceful and humane world

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