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Bank scholarships attacked for shoring up white privilege

Clarien Bank (File photograph)

A bank came under fire for the perpetuation of racist mechanisms yesterday after it offered several private school bursaries for Black pupils.

Social Justice Bermuda said that it supported the principle of investment in education for Black Bermudians, but that the bank’s approach was “rooted in racist ideologies”.

The attack came after Clarien Bank announced this week it would pledge $25,000 a year to fund private school scholarships for Black pupils and others from other underrepresented communities.

The bank included five private schools in the scheme – but missed out the Bermuda Institute, where the majority of pupils are Black.

A spokeswoman for the bank said: “Clarien’s Education Fund was designed to meet a need where individuals, specifically black and underrepresented segments of the population, were attending private schools, but could not financially afford to continue their studies at these establishments.

“It was not our intent to offend, and certainly not to discriminate as has been suggested by some.”

The spokeswoman admitted: “We were remiss in not including Bermuda Institute into the programme and have committed to do so.”

But a spokesman for SJB said: “Furthering the educational endeavours of Black Bermudians is certainly a worthy cause, however, this isn’t that.

“We call on Clarien to seriously rethink their approach to addressing this matter and to commit to actually addressing racial inequality in Bermuda rather than subsidising private schools and engaging in tokenism which excludes the majority of Bermuda’s Black student population.”

The Clarien Education Fund initiative, announced on Monday, will give $5,000 a year each to five private schools for the next four years to go towards school fees.

But SJB said the decision to fund select Black pupils to attend “traditionally white private schools” was “rooted in the same racist ideologies that led to Aboriginal and Native children being removed from their homes and communities in Australia, Canada and the United States to be educated at Anglo schools”.

The group added that mostly white private schools were included, but primarily black private schools – such as the Bermuda Institute – were excluded.

The spokesman said: “The vast majority of Black Bermudian students attend public school.

“If Clarien wants to support Black Bermudian educational endeavours in Bermuda, its $100,000 would be more effective if invested directly into the public education system, where it could impact far more Black Bermudians, or by addressing root causes of racial inequality in Bermuda generally.”

The spokesman said the $5,000 bursary would support “a fraction of school fees” for individual pupils, but the pooled funds could help hundreds of schoolchildren.

He added: “All this does is help the private schools with their image problem – a legacy of centuries of entrenched racial power.”

The Clarien spokeswoman said: “We accept that this is a sensitive issue and we will be working with various stakeholders and engage in constructive discussion to enhance our community giving programme."

"Clarien has also engaged the Human Rights Commission to provide guidance and education as we continue to evolve our giving and education initiatives in support of all demographic sectors of our community.“

She added: “The Clarien Foundation gives annually to a broad range of charitable organisations which has a direct impact on the lives of many Bermudians and residents ranging from family services, education, youth development and health."

The controversy also sparked a reaction on social media.

Ryan Robinson Perinchief, who was awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship last year and is founder of Future Leaders Bermuda, wrote on Twitter: “A formal practice of funnelling Black Bermudian children out of community schools into private ones on the basis of ‘charity’ is short-sighted and individualistic at best, and detrimental to all those working hard for systemic change in our schools at worst.”

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Published May 19, 2021 at 8:14 am (Updated May 19, 2021 at 8:14 am)

Bank scholarships attacked for shoring up white privilege

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