We must accept responsibility for Black-on-Black violence
After reading Rolfe Commissiong's November 8, 2021 opinion titled “Know your place”, and in particular his characterisation of the meaning behind the words of Paul King and Sir John Swan, a few things come to mind. The first being we — all of us in the Black community — must begin to take ownership of our problems. Politicking around the issue to keep in place political bias does nothing to solve the problem, but everything to exacerbate division.
In a recent op-ed that I penned, I wrote about the gang-type attitudes that flow down from our MPs and political parties. Rolfe's comment is evidence of that and a continuation of a disease that has deliberately targeted the Black merchant community since 1965 and is obviously alive and well in 2021.
This attitude does not just manifest in words; it is as effective as apartheid in a self-imposed and needless bias that serves only to divide the Black community. It had its purpose, political, to maintain a constituency of support by denigrating their adversary. The consequences of this targeted bias flowed throughout government services, negating or preventing equal services and contracts.
It was enough that the White superstructure exerted its bias. However, for the problem of the old Black merchant class to have continued victimisation by its own people is the same as the Black-on-Black violence seen in the streets — but played out in higher circles. Until that ends, persons such as Rolfe do not demonstrate the moral authority to talk about solutions or causes for the youth situation in any capacity.
Let's talk about “back of town”. I can recall as a 16-year-old youth walking along what we called C-Street. This straight-back youth would hunch his shoulders and walk with a drawl to feel in place on C-Street. Why? What else? To be seen as “hip” was the order of the day for young men. The C-Street mood was a contrast to the “Nelly's Walk”, which was the predecessor of style and the in crowd.
Nelly's Walk reflected an era when the young men who wanted to be impressive wore silk shirts with fishnet undershirts, daks pants and brogue shoes. If they weren’t educated, you could not tell from their speech, which was also impressive. All of that changed in step with the hippie era and “acid”, which brought a sudden switch to “funky”. Where now the new standard became "I'm funky, man". No longer classy, but funky.
A subculture developed that attracted many young men into a world of drugs. Heroin, cocaine, hashish and cannabis were trafficked openly on what we called “The Block”.
The suburbs of Hamilton were the staging ground where drugs were packaged for the streets and also the escape route for a drug bust. So can we be rational? Wherever there is drug activity and an underworld with disputes, which cannot be settled in a civil court, there will be a violent crime? Can we own that? If we can, then it's just a fact of life that there was a disproportionate amount of crime in the back of town.
Every country and city has its districts where crime is more prevalent. How could Bermuda be any different. With this consideration, Paul King’s comment taken in proper context — he meant the problem has grown and become island-wide. It did not mean that it was OK, as long as it stayed in a district, but with it no longer being only a district problem, it means it is an island-wide phenomenon. Sadly, a few days before the Robin Hood murders, in a South Shore beach club lounge, an individual patron nearly lost his arm through a machete attack when young men barged into the club brandishing weapons.
Before we can solve our problems, we have to take ownership. Passing the blame all over the place does not get down to the issue at hand. Yes, there are contributing factors such as systemic impoverishment, but that's a problem in every society — capitalist or communist. We have to fix faulty economies through market interventions, by empowering people in the marketplace. Paying people more or handing out money is not the answer.
The maxim “give a man a fish he has fish for a day, teach a man to fish and he will have fish for a lifetime” is important to build a lasting strategy.