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Amazed at contemptuous attitudes

Dear Sir,

I can't recall a time when I was filled with as much indignation and compulsion to write as now. Although I had some anticipation, nonetheless I was still amazed by the level of resistance and the contemptuous attitudes and derogatory comments by some for just mentioning having pride and a preference for my own Bermudian entrepreneurial heritage over that of the Caribbean.

There are those among us who would have me apologise for acknowledging my white relatives and who would also describe the evolution of our uniquely Bermudian experience as doing no more than producing a bunch of black collaborators of white oppression.

Even worse, without them having any knowledge or understanding of the richness of our experience, they would prefer us to dismiss our heritage and replace it with another's, which they would deem as more worthy of emulating.

The nature of an economy and its cultural development are inextricably linked. Any academic research would clearly reveal the huge difference in cultural development and types of societal relationships between that of a maritime slave society and an agricultural economy based on large crop plantations.

Notwithstanding slavery being inhumane in either case, the human transactions underpinning the means for the products of each economy were achieved of necessity very differently. It will show up in language, dialect, racial intermixing and economic opportunities, many leading to self-attained freedom and manumission as opposed to having to escape to freedom or exile.

Added to the Bermuda experience given its strategic location, the Royal Navy headquarters and shipyard for the Atlantic and the western hemisphere was here.

The role Bermuda played in reshaping the world is understated. All these elements led to the sophistication of Bermuda's early development. Another significant consideration is the size of the country and its relatively small population.

Around the year 1800, there were only about 8,000 to 9,000 souls, 5,000 blacks and 20 per cent of them free. Considering the hemisphere, the Bermudian population was hardly the proverbial drop in the bucket.

The Western slave experience in the main was agricultural. The combined population of the Caribbean was in the millions and, added to the southern states of America with a similar cultural slave experience, is multiple millions. Hence, the dominant view of slavery is that of the experiences of the Caribbean and the Americas. Naturally within that dominant experience are some slight variations and some exceptions.

The difficulty is grasping the Bermuda experience in the face of dominant cultural attitudes. Another is to understand its uniqueness and to come to terms with the natural right to claim it as being different.

Look at Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines: many will have difficulty distinguishing between the peoples because they are made of the similar ethnic and racial mixes. However, they are different and, regardless as to whether their looks carry the Chinese or the Aboriginal component, they all are either Malaysian or Indonesian etc.

The nature of the Bermuda gene pool ostensibly generated from those original souls in truth means we are also more of a tribe than separated by race. Probably every black person of older decent has white mix. And, little known but equally as true, very few whites, if any of the old Bermuda stock, are pure white because through inbreeding they have black mix also running through their veins.

The reality is that in spite of the disadvantage of slavery and repression, the blacks of Bermuda owned and controlled whole aspects of the economy and were, as asserted by Eva Hodgson, “first-class men, second-class citizens”.

They were non-ideological and mastered the opportunities available to them prior to 1900 with a legacy hard to equal anywhere on the planet for the period. If one were to choose an ideology for them, it would be that of Booker T. Washington, who might have been influenced by their example.

This small and still very unique country continues to evolve. Underneath and between all the migrations happening over the past century and more, which have contributed to our present shape, lies a rich and unique history that has the potential of providing a sense of pride.

We need to uncover it and preserve it and not allow anyone to denigrate our uniqueness simply because they don't understand or can't relate to it.


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Published August 12, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 12, 2015 at 12:59 am)

Amazed at contemptuous attitudes

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