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Challenging the status quo

At a Progressive Labour Party social function in 2008, lawyer and politician Lawrence (Larry) Scott stood up and suggested that more had to be done to save young black males in our society.

“They are herded into courts daily for crimes that are horrendous and un-Bermudian, and they are missing their chance to reach their goals,” he told his audience during a toast to his brother, also a politician and lawyer, Michael Scott.

According to Mr Scott, his statement was quickly shot down by former Premier Jennifer Smith with the sharp retort that the young people he spoke about were “only four percent of the population”.

In response, Mr Scott went home and pulled out one of man's most effective weapons, the pen, or in this case his laptop computer. He began to write. The result is his first book, newly released this month by Atlantic Publishing House, called 'It's Only 4 percent Crime in Bermuda'.

No one is spared in the book. It references his old political party, the United Bermuda Party (UBP); his current one, the PLP; the church; the education system; the judicial system; and this newspaper. Mr Scott is a member of the Bermuda Bar Association and works as a civil and criminal advocate in the firm of Scott & Scott. He was a UBP senator from 1993 to 1998.

Critics, such as Ira Philip, have referred to the book as “a hot potato”.

“I'm not expecting any fall out,” said Mr Scott. “I am fairly straightforward with my views and I don't apologise for that. I want people to think about these things instead of saying 'you have offended'. We have some difficulties in this community and I try to tackle them from the root cause. I wish he hadn't have called it a 'hot potato' because that calls for the attitude of carefulness. If you are firm with your view and someone counters it, you move forward. I am not fearful of comment.”

Mr Scott wrote from a personal perspective, delving into his long experience as a lawyer, often representing the troubled young black males that he spoke about at the PLP gathering.

In his book, he writes: “Black youths are not the problem; black youths manifest the problem we have in society. As seen in the police crime statistics, the number of whites involved in crime would appear negligible in comparison to blacks, but in a society as small as Bermuda's, we know that white criminal behaviour is no less prevalent than black crime.”

He stated that there is a built-in system of racial bias in the very system that we employ to control crime, the police, the prosecutors and the courts.

Mr Scott believed that we need to stop using old, harshly punitive methods to solve our current problems.

“I think people are reaching out for a new way of doing things,” he said. “We have become a society of the leisure class. We find so much time for leisure that we are not concerned about drive. Leisure will replace education. If you don't have education then you can't think. Leisure includes religion. We can get really charged up about that, but we won't bring a secular scientific thought process to our thoughts. We don't think enough because we don't read enough, and we don't read conceptually.”

Mr Scott said he is not saying that Christianity should go away. He believed that while Christianity was a kind of glue holding together society, it should only be one part of our weighing up of issues.

He said one success story in Bermuda is the racial integration of our public schools.

“Before, when a white girl at the Bermuda High School for Girls got a scholarship, our children said 'oh, she must be so much brighter than me'. Now we put our children together. Now I am the brightest kid in the class, everything I do is done well and you are a young white girl in school with me. You are slow and just can't get it. Now, your whiteness is never going to give you superior status as it did years ago. That is what integration did. Now our children just look at one another and say 'wow, we are just people. I know where our strengths and weaknesses are'. That is a success story. Thank God we did that. We have created a new world but we haven't quite got there. We are treating our problems in the old world, but we have to move on.”

One of Mr Scott's old teachers, Arthur Hodgson, wrote a preface for the book. As a teenager, Mr Scott attended Sandys Secondary School. He describes himself as having been a mediocre student at best. He went on to Wilberforce University in Ohio. There he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science in 1971.

“They said to me, if you can get through your freshman year, you can go to your sophomore year and on you go,” said Mr Scott. “I did it. I wasn't at the top of the curve. I struggled along. I had to do a lot more work to understand and catch up. It took me a long time, but I was not to be defeated.”

He went on to study in the UK at The Polytechnic of North London, now The University of North London and London Met. The school was known worldwide for its radicalism. He received his law degree in 1980. In 1993, he received a legal education certificate from Norman Manley Law School in Kingston, Jamaica.

“I tell children you must keep going,” he said. “Education is a process. Because you are not the brightest child doesn't mean you won't be able to understand. You have to just keep going. Most of us are plodders. It is the exceptional child that can read that page and memorise it the first time.”

He said we have to work hard to encourage our young people and make them believe in themselves and their own self-worth.

“I think they appreciate that they are not being respected,” he said. “We have to do it differently and I think we can.”

Mr Scott said he did not believe that the PLP had made many inroads into improving education in Bermuda, despite all its promises.

“To be honest, I don't think they know where to start,” said Mr Scott. “But I really think that to fix the problem we have to start with improving our education system.”

Mr Scott has two daughters, Shoshana and Sinead, and two grandsons, Zaire and Zion. The book is dedicated to them.

He is to speak Friday at Cafe 4 on Queen Street, with other male authors published by Atlantic Publishing House, from 5 to 8pm. All are welcome to attend.

lPLP MP Dale Butler's new documentary 'Flip the Script', which includes interviews with Mr Scott and other social commentators, will screen 2.30pm at the Liberty Theatre on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased from the Liberty Theatre for $30 and include raffles and two Bermuda books. For more information contact Mr Butler on 505-3409.

Provocative: Lawrence (Larry) Scott and his new book 'It's Only 4 percent - Crime in Bermuda'

Excerpt from Lawrence Scott's book 'It's only 4 percent — Crime in Bermuda'.

'Is it any wonder that there is a breakdown in our society? No one, not even our youth, is prepared to join or actively buy into the real fabric of this system. It remains as oppressive as it ever was, and we fool ourselves if we don't at least admit that fact to ourselves, despite the fact that as black people we have succeeded in elevating our own political party into power.

Our party has not made significant cultural changes to our colonialism. What is more surprising is the fact that some type of 1960s struggle has not reared its head again in Bermuda, or maybe it has. Maybe this is what is happening right now.

Remember, in large measure our black parents did not fully understand what we were about in the 1960s. They had jobs, mortgages and lives to protect, and what we were doing was a threat to this existence, which is why they did not dare march or protest with us. Just like today, we dare not march with the youth. We have SUVs to pay for and the hope that we can still pay for the condo, take that trip, school that child, get that next bonus, and get a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes with our mad money, or in this case for many a middle class black man, take a trip to Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic to try out the girls there.

But even after you have schooled your child at great expense, he stands no better chance of going down the same path than the boys we now call gangs. There are clear examples of that, even now.'

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Published August 31, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated August 31, 2011 at 10:06 am)

Challenging the status quo

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