Are black OBA members on the white side of history?
I am well aware that the headline is very provocative. I’m also aware that during our political challenges and debates, race is often shoved front and centre. As a black One Bermuda Alliance member, I dare to ask this question because I know that in many people’s minds — black and white — the answer is a resounding “yes”.
Conversely, I presume many would answer the same when the question is asked: “Are white Progressive Labour Party members on the black side of the racial divide?”
The egregious level of racial divide here prevents Bermudians from transcending from race to nationhood in our political discourse and national development.
This opinion piece is inherently limited in its power to change assumptions and assertions regarding race in Bermuda. But at the very least it can bring forward a much required dialogue and provide an opportunity for a changed discourse.
As a black man parenting two young sons, I did not join the OBA to side with white people in a racial black/white conflict. I joined because I see politics as a means of governance towards deciding how national resources are to be developed, managed and allocated to determine the material quality of life for all of us. This material quality of life will in turn affect the social and cultural way we live, but these are not the Government’s primary concern or remit.
Upon reflecting on the political landscape and the players in late 2014, I saw the OBA as the best opportunity to break with racial politics and move towards nation building in earnest. It offered the best hope of “post-racial governance” primarily concerned with the development, management and allocation of resources for the benefit of Bermuda.
This was an effort that I chose to be a part of, and my vision was that this effort would grow from strength to strength and that it would usher in a new era of shared prosperity that renders race-mongering politics obsolete. This would indeed reshape Bermuda and provide a brighter future for my children’s generation.
It was for this reason that I chose to cast my political hat in with the OBA. As I am writing this I am aware of how tragically short the OBA came in conveying and communicating this message during its tenure. I have reflected upon the blunders and missteps of its governmental policies — see previous article — and how it allowed for the party to be construed as the old, familiar, white oligarchical agenda reincarnated.
However, I am inviting Bermudians to carefully consider the issue. It is very easy to stir up racial sensibilities on both sides to create the perception that government is primarily concerned about something other than the bottom line. That somehow government is responsible for preventing people from squandering educational opportunities; from being unemployable; from desiring to engage in criminal activity; from business practices that seek to monopolise wealth and stifle competition. Government is trusted with responding to these things directly and indirectly, but it does not drive these things.
They are driven by all of us by the choices we make individually and collectively within the context of our societal environment. The amount of resources the Government collects through taxes, fees, licences and duty, and how they are allocated, will ultimately determine the quality of our societal environment.
Business owners and businesses are the primary entities that provide resources to the Government, so it is critical that the environment be healthy to stimulate business growth. Without successful businesses, the health of the economy and the taxes and duties collected are negatively affected.
“Labour” is the other indispensable element of the business dimension and cannot be left out of the primary equation. The reason is simple: business and labour are the twin heads of the production coin. As its name suggests, the PLP is primarily concerned with the labour side of the equation.
However, in spite of the rhetoric, policies and practices, the Government’s primary role remains constant. The role of government is the development, management and the allocation of national resources.
Therefore, today more than ever, while we racially politicise, complain, blame, provide race-mongering comments and dance around the issues, it all boils down to how resources are generated into the government coffers and how they are distributed to affect our overall quality of life.
The time has come and time will continue to reveal that everything else is either diversion, deception, disinformation or exploitation.
I’m hopeful of the day when race-baiting and race-mongering are no longer front and centre in our political dialogue. I’m hopeful for the day when Bermuda moves away from racial politics and we move towards nationhood for the benefit of us all.
What about you?
• Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017
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