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Curb calls for more racial sensitivity over philanthropy

Clarien Bank (File photograph)

An antiracism charity today called for more consideration and consultation on racial matters after controversy broke out over a bank’s bursary programme designed to help Black children attend private schools.

A spokeswoman for Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda said that Clarien Bank should be commended for its philanthropy – but that its approach undermined the “reparative integrity” of the effort.

The spokeswoman added: “A good deed is a terrible thing to waste.

“It is our hope that Clarien and other private entities continue to pursue charitable giving that seeks to repair the harm of our past and will position themselves to ensure their efforts are as impactful and meaningful as they can and should be.

“In this, CURB, as well as many others, are ready and willing to assist.”

She was speaking after Clarien announced on Monday it would offer bursaries to help Black Bermudian pupils having difficult paying school fees, and those from other underrepresented sectors, to continue to attend private schools.

The scheme will offer $5,000 bursaries to five private schools for the next four years.

But the proposal sparked a backlash from campaigners, who claimed it was rooted in racist ideologies and did not include the Bermuda Institute, the island’s only predominantly Black private school.

A Clarien spokeswoman said the proposal was intended to help support Black Bermudians and other under represented youngsters and that no offence or discrimination was intended.

She apologised for the exclusion of the Bermuda Institute and said it would be included in the scheme.

The spokeswoman added: “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."

A Curb spokeswoman said it was hoped the incident would be a learning opportunity on the need for reparative efforts to consider the legacy of the island.

The spokeswoman added: “The reality is greater consultation and collaboration should have been proactively considered in advance of this donation to historically white private schools for black Bermudian students and that without full stakeholder input and listening to the group they are trying to help, organisations will continue to make mistakes in attempts to level the playing field.”

The spokeswoman said that businesses and other groups needed to understand the historical context of racism in Bermuda and ask for advice from specialists and ensure any funds committed were carefully considered to ensure a positive outcome.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said earlier this week he had “glanced” at comments made from groups critical of the Clarien bursary proposal.

He said that the private sector could make donations as it wished, but that the Clarien premise was “ill conceived”.

Mr Rabain said the public school system had “tons” of private entities that donated to them, some of which wanted to be recognised and some of whom wanted to remain anonymous.

But he said he would encourage entities donating to private schools to support public education as well.

He said: “I encourage private entities to donate to education, period. But of course I will always advocate for public education.”

· A previous version of this article said that Mr Rabain had said the private school system had tons of entities donating.

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Published May 20, 2021 at 5:27 pm (Updated May 20, 2021 at 7:44 pm)

Curb calls for more racial sensitivity over philanthropy

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