Commissiong demands apology from Gazette

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  • Unfinished business: Rolfe Commissiong has demanded an apology from The Royal Gazette for its role during the era of slavery in Bermuda (File photograph)

    Unfinished business: Rolfe Commissiong has demanded an apology from The Royal Gazette for its role during the era of slavery in Bermuda (File photograph)

Progressive Labour Party MP Rolfe Commissiong last night challenged The Royal Gazette to do “the right thing” and apologise for the role he said the newspaper played in maintaining the “strict racial hierarchy” after emancipation.

The backbencher was speaking during the Motion to Adjourn when he introduced the topic of how the island can begin to move forward and close the racial divide.

He described The Royal Gazette as a tribune of racial oppression and the message board of white supremacy in Bermuda after emancipation.

“Four-and-a-half years ago, I implored The Royal Gazette to offer an apology for the role it played during the period of chattel slavery in Bermuda, a period of bondage of persons of African and Native American descent, and for the role it played in maintaining a strict racial hierarchy after emancipation right up until the Sixties and Seventies,” Mr Commissiong said.

The Royal Gazette was in many ways a tribune of that racial oppression, the message board of white supremacy in Bermuda; slave sales, employment ads basically saying Negroes need not apply, whites only. I have seen a few of those ads that were featured in that paper in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties.”

Mr Commissiong spoke of his father’s role in the Theatre Boycott, and said that his father had pointed out to him that most newspapers had apologised for the role they played in “maintaining white supremacy” after emancipation, but The Royal Gazette had not.

He added: “We always hear some members of our white community saying you people need to get beyond this, we need to put it behind us and come together as one.

“Well, that is how you do that. I agree with you, let The Royal Gazette apologise. You see, that is how you begin the process of coming together as one, putting it behind us. We have a reporter here from The Royal Gazette, let the word go out that I, Rolfe Commissiong, have again challenged The Royal The Royal Gazette to do the right thing, challenged the Bermuda Press (Holdings) to do the right thing.”

Mr Commissiong also used his speech to thank first-time voters and young black men and women who turned out for the July 18 General Election.

He also noted the upsurge in support for the PLP from Bermuda’s white community. He also highlighted the growing need to come to terms with the “multi-generational issues” facing young black men and the black community in Bermuda, and the importance of a living wage.

Dexter Smith, Editor of The Royal Gazette, said last night: “While I appreciate the passion that Mr Commissiong brings in relation to this topic, The Royal Gazette is not in a position to respond before giving considerable thought.

“For what the legacy of slavery means to our island, and the black community in particular, a kneejerk reaction to a de facto parliamentary summons would be inappropriate.”

• UPDATE: this article has been amended to make clear that Rolfe Commissiong made reference in his parliamentary speech to chattel slavery and not child slavery

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Published Sep 23, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 23, 2017 at 10:05 am)

Commissiong demands apology from Gazette

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