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The Black male problem

Police at the scene of the May 2 firearm incident in Middle Town, Pembroke (Photograph supplied)

The recent daylight shooting in Middle Town, Pembroke, that injured four people brought back the realisation that this scourge has virtually eaten away what should be the sanctity of being a young male in Bermuda.

In days gone by, I would have proposed answers to what we have been witnessing more graphically since 2008 — that which we termed the Black male problem. Bermuda has become a dangerous place for young teenage boys to live. Many parents have opted to move to Britain and other places, hoping to get a little space to better their odds of not having their sons caught in the damning cycle of gang violence.

It is very tempting to point fingers and lay blame, and depending on how far back one can see, there will appear more culprits to blame. But blaming does not fix the problem at hand or reverse the trajectory of the young lives affected.

So once again, here we get sucked into responding to criminal events that have no apparent strategic action plan to tackle the problem, other than to offer words of condolences to parents of the victims and platitudes of shock and horror from government leaders, now scripted to perfection with seeming abandon.

No one has this violence under check or, better, any mechanism offering an off-ramp for young men to better their lives, step out from a life of crime and become safe, productive citizens.

I have lived with the theory that all the problems of society lay in the marketplace; that one’s social status is a direct relation and product of the market. The real education of a society is to prepare the people to be masters of the marketplace. A truly egalitarian world is a world where sufficient people have their hands sharing in the fruits of the harvest; where capitalism does not mean a monopoly.

Bermuda lost its opportunity to become that shining example when we examine its history of commerce. Not that we were there, but with gentle encouragement, we could have been — and with a dynamic population to match. However, economic paternalism and political tribalism with overarching racism made a mockery of the idea of a homogenous society with its diversity flourishing. The captains of our shores turned the helm of the ship towards tumultuous waters.

What we experienced instead was that we were the farthest from the economic fountain or “credit” — credit which became the essential backbone of business trade and development from the Sixties to recent times. This was lost because they were disproportionately and deliberately locked out. This was no accident or symptom of natural selection; it was calculated with reckless ambition and little thought for the future.

Paternalism stopped in the Black community; there were no longer existing L.L. Newton Butterfields, O.C. Virgils, Edward Simonses, Herbie Simonses. There were men in every neighbourhood then, whether the Hills from Crawl or the Raynors from Southampton, the Ednesses and DeShields in Warwick.

These folks didn’t just disappear; they were actually “murdered” in broad daylight like the four men shot in Middle Town, but differently. They were done away with systematically in ways to make it appear as though they simply failed.

They didn't fail from 1834 to 1900 and still thrived for another 60 years, then suddenly inside 25 years they all failed?

So now what do we have? The community is broken, but international business is still flourishing and perhaps the only sector with real disposable incomes until that vanishes. The politics is guided by a tribalism that results in an apartheid practised against the undesirables. The populace wrongly called it “friends and family”, but truthfully it’s “anyone but” — favour may be found for someone White or foreign, but not “So and So”. The sad thing is that it was “So and So” who was the paternalist of yesterday that aided the young men. They, too, now have no one.

We have heard the saying “Come to Jesus moment”. If we are not there now, then the next stop is hell. The country has culturally shifted from an economy filled with a healthy mix of entrepreneurial spirits, which was negentropic in its configuration, to that which is more entropic and dependent. The present government is concerned only about its survival and not the community it claims to serve.

The short answer that foreshadows the issue of violence is that we need the entire community to be working together to solve this national dilemma, and it will take selfless leadership to set the proper stage for any meaningful steps to be made.

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Published May 20, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 19, 2024 at 3:44 pm)

The Black male problem

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