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America’s Cup restrictions make economic apartheid

On May 16, Opposition leader David Burt gave a speech on Bermuda's social issues to the Hamilton Rotary Club and spoke about the Two Bermudas: the economic divide, ongoing income inequality and the divisions that are present in our community.

The speech resonates with Curb's mission and philosophy around the need to address the divisions around race, and the urgent need to address the increasing polarisation between those with wealth and the unemployed and impoverished; with this division predominantly along racial lines and largely built off the back of generational inequities of a system that has its roots in slavery and segregation.

There is a great need to address matters of racial justice and the need for change. James Baldwin, one of the 20th century's greatest writers, said: “You cannot fix what you will not face.”

His groundbreaking, literary work on the exploration of racial and social issues is as important and as relevant today as it was in the middle of the 20th century. To address these issues head-on resonates with Baldwin's adage. As a society, we must be willing to face the truth of our past and its continuing resultant inequalities. This work must be done not only at an individual level, but at a systemic level across political, economic, business, cultural, social and community organisations.

The lack of numbers at the Hamilton rotary luncheon clearly indicates there were those who chose not to attend the presentation. This is an organisation that is supposed to put “service above self”.

The action taken by those members gives implicit support to the structurally racist policies that gave rise to the Two Bermudas, and by default makes their stance far more political than the actual speech, which focused on social issues, collaboration and community.

This action goes against Rotary International's stance that Rotarians be involved in their communities, be civic-minded and engaged in public improvement; and to keep under review political developments in their own communities and to seek reliable information through balanced programmes and discussion so that members can reach their own conclusions.

We hope the Hamilton Rotary Club will be inspired to follow the lead of the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, which has taken steps through its “Theory of Change” to tackle the conditions that gave rise to the Two Bermudas. Curb welcomes the foundation's foresight and willingness to lead on this front.

Race continues to be a strong force in determining how opportunity is distributed in Bermudian society. It influences important decisions made in people's personal, professional and social lives, including how we vote, what social programmes we volunteer for, what cultural events we attend, and who we hire.

We also recognise the subtle forces of racism. We view the America's Cup Restricted Marketing Order 2017, while protecting the rights and brands of participants and sponsors of AC35, as restricting the rights of less-well-off Bermudians, in particular.

A common practice of legally selling goods on the streets has been curtailed by this order, save for Bermuda Day. An event that has been billed as one that will benefit all of Bermuda now restricts those most in need. To avoid the appearance of economic and cultural apartheid, we call on the Government to immediately restore the street-selling rights of ordinary Bermudians outside of the America's Cup Village.

By talking about race, we have the opportunity to explore, examine and challenge these attitudes. If we do not talk about race, it remains unchallenged and by default continues and worsens the continued inequality in our society.

To that end, as a community seeking to move forward and resolve these inequalities, we must be willing to face, to examine and to work towards eliminating barriers to opportunity by fashioning programmes, legislation and policies that support and enable social and economic opportunity.

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Published May 22, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 22, 2017 at 2:14 am)

America’s Cup restrictions make economic apartheid

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