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A reminder that racism is still an issue

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Last Friday, I wrote that Bermudians did not need any political party to demonstrate or to remind them of the state of past and present-day race relations in this country.

As usual, the faceless critics labelled that as near heresy.

Well, unfortunately, it did not take long for naked racism to rear its head in public.

On Sunday, well-known entertainer and LGBTQ advocate, Mr Tony Brannon, took it upon himself, on two separate social media postings, to post some of the most vile public comments about blacks.

Here are the exact comments:

“You gave 29 years of your life to #Bermuda and the cockroaches here wouldn't even give you a PRC …”

“ ...@Bermudagovernment we have a problem — you cockroaches need to open up immigration.”

So, for avoidance of doubt, in both cases, he was making reference to the Government of Bermuda.

For clarity, he would be talking about the Minister of Immigration Wayne Caines and the Chief Immigration Officer Dr Danette Ming and her staff.

Both of whom would be responsible for all aspects of immigration. Both of whom, happen to be black.

After being called out publicly, Mr Brannon went on to issue the standard apology that those caught making racist statements put out:

“I apologise and meant no racially motivated slur by using the term cockroach, though I was aware it is a negative term and used it in that context. I was not aware that some consider it a racist remark, and would never have used the word had I known.”

For further clarity, he sent a separate apology to Minister Caines. So, for those who would claim he was not referring to Minister Caines, why would he send him a personal apology?

As usual, there were the usual apologists defending his statements with claims such as:

“Never heard cockroach used as a racial slur. Is a rolly polly considered racist too”

“Who are slurred by the term cockroach?”

“Certainly Tony meant to be critical (with good reason) and not racist.”

After reading such comments, one realises why Tony Brannon, continues to make racist statements. He himself, begrudgingly admitted that the statement was racist, yet his circle of friends, under the very same post that he admitted using a racist term, then say that the term is not racist.

Clearly, this shows our cultural divide and double standards as a country.

Had a public figure, any public figure, made similar derogatory claims about whites and/or the LGBTQ community, these same folks defending Tony, would never in a million years downplay the words as non-offensive.

Hypocrisy at its finest.

Let's be clear. Most whites are not racist and do not refer to blacks as such.

Tony Brannon is, however, symptomatic of a small percentage of those who see themselves as economically, socially and morally superior.

Nevertheless, to the bigger picture at hand. As a country, we have to be honest with ourselves and each other about racism.

Anyone remember that big word, catharsis, from a few weeks ago?

You know, the word that means, the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

We have to have an open conversation as we plan to move ahead with comprehensive immigration reform.

Last week, in Parliament, I watched One Bermuda Alliance MP Ben Smith, rise to his feet and make one of the finest speeches we have witnessed.

With great passion, he spoke of the racism that has permeated our history, causing divisions and differing views on immigration.

He then went on to speak about the work that has been done over the past two years, to bring us, as a country, to a point of new, balanced immigration legislation.

Legislation that will take into account not only where we have been, but more importantly, where we need to head.

I sat back transfixed with his words as they truly reflected the work that we, as MPs from both parties, have poured our hearts into bringing forth.

Over the next few weeks, we will be speaking with both internal and external groups, to explain the rationale of the legislation.

Some will say it has gone too far, while others will say it does not go far enough.

Here is the thing: there will never be policy or legislation that will please any community with diverging views on racism and immigration.

Minister Caines has done a yeoman's job of meeting with diverse groups, listening to their views and needs, in order to produce progressive policies.

Without a doubt, this is the reason there was an historic moment in Parliament on Monday when every MP, from both the OBA and PLP, stood to their feet, to condemn the racist attack against Minister Caines, Dr Ming and the staff at the immigration department.

Christopher Famous is the MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). Contact him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at cfamous@plp.bm

Musician and activist: Tony Brannon
Christopher Famous is the MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). Contact him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at cfamous@plp.bm

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Published March 06, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated March 05, 2020 at 10:50 pm)

A reminder that racism is still an issue

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