Slogans won’t stop violence
One Bermuda Alliance Senator and Junior Minister of National Security, Jeff Baron, stated that in his view, “we are stronger than any gangs, stronger than any sub-communities, stronger than any root causes”.
While I accept that the Senator's contribution is filled with good intentions, I humbly think that these remarks demonstrate a complete disconnect from reality and our society's problems.
First, the entire community is afraid of those busting guns and engaging in gun violence. The community is afraid of the gangsters who walk with almost relative immunity among us. Grown men give respect, touches, and even free drinks to many within the gang culture for fear of being extorted, robbed or injured for any sign of disrespect.
Fear grips the mind and certain members of our society have a complete disregard for what others think. The use of weapons may mask their own fears but the use of weapons sends chills through the remainder of us.
How do we reach those willing to pick up guns? How do we reach those willing to shoot at police? How do we reach those willing to continue to kill others?
We can only reach them by direct communication and engagement, which can only be fostered on a one-on-one level.
No slogan or programme will adequately combat decades or centuries of systematic dysfunction which we have all turned a blind eye towards.
These sub-communities do not feel a part of the wider society. They do not feel embraced, wanted, or loved. They do not feel any form of “One Bermuda”.
Contrary to what many think, these men are crying out for love, for a sense of purpose, and belonging and value. Those black men who are willing to kill other black men do not see a value in themselves. Neither do they see value in other black men. For if they did they would not hurt their blood, plot to kill their friends or take out the very same associates they once ran the streets with.
Those living within certain communities surely abhor violence and the constant sound of gunshots and police sirens, or the trade of narcotics. However, fear grips them to remain silent. We are disjointed and fractured. No longer can your neighbour “whoop your butt” for acting out of line.
As far as the root causes, it seems we all like to “dig our heads in the sand” and act “colour blind” in a world which sadly has yet to come to grips with our racist past and racist present.
Yes, there are more mixed race babies in 2014, but when my parents dated in the 1970s schools were still segregated. This simply means that this is not some ancient memory.
Yesterday's problems have manifested into today's hearts and minds. If we keep suggesting race does not feature in our daily lives and is some manufactured creation of politics then we will continue to delude ourselves and watch systematic problems veer their heads as we attempt to move forward.
The entire community has been unwilling to engage in the big conversation. The entire community has been unwilling to address our racist legacy with honesty.
So no, our community cannot win this war for a few simple reasons:
• We are not on a level playing field economically;
• We are not viewed as equals socially;
• We do not communicate with each other openly and honestly.
Recently, I made a remark in the Senate that instead of confining America's Cup celebrations to Front Street alone, the opportunity to celebrate from Front Street to Court Street would have gone some distance to demonstrate a “One Bermuda mindset”.
Not surprisingly, this was scoffed at by many in society. Ironically, a few former UBP and many current OBA members approached me individually to say that they all were thinking the same thing and knew in their heart this to be true.
We have a very serious choice to make as a country. We can continue to stick our heads in the sand. We can continue to find slogans. We can continue to watch the genocide.
Or we can actively engage with those on the front lines who are disenfranchised and excluded from society. The choice is clear. The time is now.