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Seniors have a right to be bitter, don’t they?

Many people under the age of 60 have a hard time understanding why older black folks are still bitter about the disadvantages, ill-treatment and unfair practices they suffered at the hands of a system that was designed to keep them oppressed, suppressed and essentially, the have-nots.

I'm 48 and many members of my peer group (and certainly those who are younger) think such people should just 'get over it and move on'. Well, it is not that simple.

There is an adage: “You cannot judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.” What I take from this is that most of my peer group and those younger didn't experience the hardships that our forefathers had to endure so we just don't understand.

There is no way that we can truly feel what they felt, because the pain, suffering, anger, bitterness and resentment are not, were not, and most likely will not, be visited upon us. At least let's hope not.

It is widely understood that discrimination today is more subtle; somewhat marginalised, institutionalised, but less 'in our faces'.

Black folks have been able to advance educationally, financially, build wealth, join country clubs, own and develop real estate with less encumbrances and denials of opportunity generally have a better life materially and socially.

After the First World War ended, the Government of the day sought to develop the tourist industry, setting aside 600 acres in Tucker's Town to establish luxury hotels and private homes for millionaires and golf courses.

In 1923, black Tucker's Town residents were 'forced' under the Expropriation Act, to sell their homes and relocate. Can you imagine?

Nobody has told me that I must sell my house and move up the street. Who in heaven's name am I to begrudge those people their right to be angry, bitter and/or upset?

To be fair, some white folks had a tough time then too. For instance, in 1799 Rev John Stephenson went against the “status quo” and was fined and imprisoned for preaching the Word of God to my ancestors.

The last reference I wish to make to this is stories told to me by my dad and other older men in the community. Apparently a black man (a woman wouldn't even dare go into a bank to do business back then) couldn't get a loan to purchase or develop real estate back in the day.

Bankers would say to the man: ”Let's see you get the piece of land first and then we will see if we can loan you the money to build.“

The man returns a few years later and has the land. That very same banker would then say: ”OK, let's see you dig the tank, build the tank and build up to ground level, then we will see if we can give you a loan to finish.”

He gets that done after some five years and returns, broke, looking for cash. Same banker says: ”Try to get the first storey built or get up to the wall plate and then we will see if you can get a loan to finish.“

I don't really have to go on do I? You get the picture.

The stress, anger, bitterness, distrust, and in some cases even hatred, that this type of treatment can cause cannot be described by those far more articulate. It can only be really and truly understood by experiencing it first-hand.

In any event, my point is that ANYBODY who went through that type of treatment would be angry, bitter, distrustful of white people and might just carry those feelings to their graves.

Now there's one more issue. Education.

One of the reasons that we had such excellent teachers back in the day is because black folks could only get scholarships or funding to become teachers not doctors, lawyers or accountants, or bankers.

So the best and brightest black Bermudians became schoolteachers. These guys had to become teachers to get a college degree and then, later in life, they could branch out into other careers like law or business or banking.

Nowadays blacks can get scholarships to do anything. As a result no offense to the existing schoolteachers (hey I'm a teacher's child) the best and brightest among us are choosing other careers these days because they are more lucrative and we are, many of us, material boys and girls.

Because blacks are given the same opportunities as people of any other ethnic group and have been for some time, black people under the age of 60 tend not to be as bitter or untrusting of other ethnic groups. Many think that these older folks should just 'let it go'.

Well this is not entirely fair, because we didn't live through that.

Similarly, it is not fair for the older guard to demand and expect that the younger generation should be bitter, untrusting, confrontational and make most issues matters of race.

To move us forward I propose that older folks accept that they suffered and paid the price and paved the way for future generations to have the privileges, advantages, opportunities and hope for a better life than they had.

I'm not asking you to not be bitter. I'm not qualified to do that because I didn't walk that road and that is not really my story. Please tell your stories to your children, grandchildren and all the kids in the neighbourhoods and let's take steps to ensure that no group of people are discriminated against ever again.

Also to move us forward the younger generation need to give their elders the respect that they are due, by acknowledging their suffering and sacrifice for us to have the opportunities that we have today and by taking full advantage of our opportunities.

We must also give back and make sure that we take care of all of our seniors, regardless of race, creed or colour. This is why we must ensure that every senior has proper healthcare that they can afford and if we have to pay more for it then that is just the way it should be because they paid the price for us.

Peace, DJLT.

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Published October 19, 2012 at 9:00 am (Updated October 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm)

Seniors have a right to be bitter, don’t they?

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