Curb reflects on first round of race talks
For one black Bermudian woman reflecting candidly on race, the group conversation afforded by Bermuda's latest effort at truth and reconciliation talks has proven instructive.
“There will always be the tension, the differences of opinion, and there will always be the struggle,” she said.
“It's about how you handle the struggle. Because I work in the corporate world doesn't mean I haven't struggled; it's about how I handle it. Racial tensions are not going to just go away. But that doesn't mean we can't contribute to helping it get better.”
Speaking anonymously in the wake of her group's completion of six weeks of talks, she said the team had found the forums, offered through the group Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda, valuable enough to keep the dialogue going on their own.
The group has finished the first round of Curb talks, but is continuing to gather for a reading club on the island's racial and historical topics.
She acknowledged that many black Bermudians express frustration at what they view as the reluctance of white contemporaries to address race.
“My motive is to never give up,” she said. “I've succeeded if I can make a difference in one person's mind. It's like applying for a job. You may get 99 rejections, but it's the one that makes the difference.”
Her own perspective is informed by her long career in business, her background as “a child of the Fifties” and her rewarding involvement in the Big Conversation, a race relations programme launched in 2007 under the Progressive Labour Party government.
She found it “enlightening” to consider the lack of Bermudian history taught in schools — and the multitudes of stories that weave into it.
That experience, and her personal decision to become “an agent of change”, prompted her to sign up in January when Curb presented its community conversations initiative.
The groups are organised into small circles, led by facilitators with backgrounds in racial and restorative justice.
“Bermuda's a small place, but when you get into these meetings with people you don't necessarily know, you're thinking, am I going to open up? Are they?”
The talks are started with an emphasis on group trust, aimed at establishing the space for a conversation.
“You have to start somewhere,” she said. “If we don't open up, then we're never going to get to a solution. You have to listen carefully to what is being said, and go in without being defensive.”
Asked if the talks had come with any surprises, she said: “I've surely had my share of experiences in my lifetime. I've been in my field over 20 years. There was nothing that surprised me. Did I hear things that I hadn't heard before? Yes.”
The talks left many in the group with a new resolve to learn about the island and its history, and opted to start by looking into Walton Brown's book Bermuda and the Struggle for Reform, which analyses the changes from 1944 to 1998. The author himself is to address their gathering.
“People are very motivated and anxious about continuing our conversation,” she said.
Curb's next round of truth and reconciliation conversations is set for September. To join in or learn more, e-mail email@example.com