Caring for the next generation
It took many unsung, brave souls who toiled endlessly to help pave the way for what we would consider today as progress in a world still struggling over what constitutes proper values for living.
Here in Bermuda that struggle was very much a part of daily life during the dark period of racial injustice that poisoned so many societies globally, leaving social scars that are yet to fully heal.
Sacrifices were made by Blacks and Whites who never had their names in lights, or on any honours list.
Against a flowing tide of social injustice, some were reluctant to make bold moves to tackle racial injustice out of fear of losing privileges enjoyed because their skin was not dark. This sensitive subject is rarely discussed without annoying those who would prefer to leave that part of our history in books.
In other words, let’s not spend time talking about the segregated past, and simply move on. That attitude is sure to enable history to repeat itself. We must learn that what we do today will matter when it comes to the next generation, who will be faced with issues that should have been rectified by the previous generation.
I recall an early lesson my mother taught me about life and the issue of racism. Those days, she and many parents in Bermuda endured racism on a daily basis. That lesson came out of an incident that occurred on Christmas Eve, in an alley that led from Reid Street to Church Street in Hamilton.
I was with my younger brother, now deceased, making our way out of crowded Hamilton. In that alley, a man took off his hat and smacked me on the shoulder with the words, ”Get out of the way, boy, you are Black” — giggling as he walked off. I was not hurt, but shaken by this stranger and his bitter words of prejudice.
When I told my mother what happened, she calmly urged me not to worry because I had done nothing wrong. She said the problem was with that man, who was not taught proper values. She emphasised that every White person was not like that, and that we must never respond in a similar manner because good people come in all colours.
Although there were challenging moments ahead, I learnt how true her words were. During the war years, when food in Bermuda was rationed, she sent me to the Golden Gate on Reid Street with a coupon for bread. The man serving me was White and, for reasons I have never been able to explain, he put bread in a bag, looked quickly around him, and said, “Here. take this extra loaf.”
I thought about that moment of kindness for years.
Even more significant during that period, especially in the Black community, there was concern about the behaviour of young people, and how best to prepare them for the future, which they knew would change only with perseverance in seeking justice, while never losing sight of values of respect and decency.
I cannot speak for all of Bermuda, but I know in my neighbourhood back then, most children attended Sunday school, and that was important in enhancing good values for living. At the end of each session, our closing song ended with the words, “we will be kind and true”.
Much of the world has changed since those days in the struggle for justice. There has been progress over the years, but concern remains about what is being done these days to protect children from a wide range of negative distractions — some of which are accepted as a part of today’s modern culture.
Children are still dying every day around the world, falling victim to various substances that not only damage minds, but which threaten community life. Every government in free countries should be mindful that protecting children is a vital responsibility.
While there will always be heated debate over the issue of values, authorities should tread carefully in opening the door for a product known to damage young minds. According to medical experts, cannabis under strict control has benefits in the field of medicine.
This is not a time for going for the jugular over whether the issue of cannabis should be placed in the same category of alcohol, which Is legal. However, It is a time for taking action that clearly shows concern about the next generation, and what values they will need to raise a family, and also tackle major issues such as climate change and the global task of seeking justice.
Sadly, there are oppressed regions where the enduring nightmare of human suffering continues despite efforts by the United Nations. We in Bermuda do have much to be proud about on our lovely island, but we are aware of substance-abuse problems beneath the surface that need a collective approach.
Our history includes courageous Bermudians who sacrificed much in trying to build an island community that would be an example to the world. Diversity and good values should be priorities in sowing seeds that can be passed on to future generations.
The actions we take today will determine whether or not future generations will have even more to be proud about on this lovely island in the Atlantic. Much will depend on what we do in showing we really care about the next generation.