Young people have gone beyond race politics OBA candidate Anthony Francis
Race is not an issue for the younger generation, according to One Bermuda Alliance candidate Anthony Francis.
Speaking at an “open mic” youth event organised by Future Bermuda Alliance the youth group of the OBA Mr Francis said that it was wrong for the PLP to “push” race on the younger generation.
He was responding to a question from Oba Swan who said: “There seems to be a lot of issues that people don’t have resolved from 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. Bermudians are all different backgrounds, so all of a sudden with the PLP using race as their platform, I’m wondering ‘How is OBA going to see the next generation through this racism that’s going on right now?’.”
Mr Francis, who has been adopted as the OBA’s candidate for Devonshire North Central, Constituency 13, said: “I’ve heard this race issue come up. I was on the front line in 1998 for the PLP.
“I grew up in a house that had PLP and UBP members sitting at the dinner table. I have a problem with the fact that they [the PLP] are trying to push this race issue on us in this generation.
“Many of us do not understand where this race issue came from, because when we grew up and we went to school, we went to school with everybody. I don’t understand it.”
Mr Francis said he was educated at Dellwood Primary School “which was 90 percent black” and at Saltus Grammar School “which was 90 percent white” and Queen’s University in Canada, “which was everybody”.
“I understand that we’re different colours but I didn’t understand there was a problem with the other colour because I got educated correctly by white teachers and black teachers,” the 43-year-old said. “So when they bring this racecard to me I ask them, Well hold on, our kids now don’t understand that so you can’t tell them there’s a race problem, because they don’t understand a race problem’.
“Because when we play with our kids, we play together. When we grow up, we grow up together. When we go to school, we go together. So for us, race is not an issue.
“When we turn around, we look at the character, integrity and intellect of the person standing next to us and that is the only thing that matters.
“Because if you prove your character, if you prove your integrity, if you prove your intellect then guess what? We can sit down and have a conversation.”
And if we can have a conversation we can solve some problems. If we can solve some problems, we can make Bermuda better.”
He continued: “If you’re gonna talk race, you can talk race to my mother and father who are 75 years old and who grew up when race was an issue.
“But if you talk to me and if you talk to my friends who are around me, you can’t say race is an issue because it isn’t. We don’t see colour. We see the fact that you are Bermudian, we see the fact that you want to make this place better.”
The speech went down well with most of the audience which was fairly diverse racially and age-wise.
“When I started at Warwick Academy there were only three black children in my class and I did experience overt racism from some other students,” 25-year-old OBA member Whitney Wilson told
The Royal Gazette. “I had a child in P3 tell me that her daddy said that she didn’t have to play with black people.
“Racism is part of our painful history and still affects our present. To deny it is insulting to those who still feel pained by it.”
She added that there is plenty of research that shows that race plays a role in our perceptions of each other.
“We are more likely to look at a picture of a black man and think criminal as opposed to doctor,” Ms Wilson said. “Political parties need to admit that racial issues are still a painful thing to discuss in Bermuda.
“They need to acknowledge that the injustices of the past still affect our present economically and socially.
“If the OBA is to truly be seen as distinct from the UBP they need to acknowledge these things, even if that acknowledgment is accompanied by the fact that they don’t know what to do to address the issue. Acknowledging race does not have to be negative.”
The Royal Gazette asked OBA Leader Craig Cannonier to define exactly how the party viewed race.
“We know that race has become a major part of our social and economic fabric,” he said. “We recognise that race has played a pivotal part in the politics of this Country but it certainly hasn’t led to any resolutions.”
However, Mr Cannonier added: “People are more concerned with whether they can pay their rent as opposed to whether they are black or white.”
He said the OBA was an alliance “that’s inclusive of everyone”. “If race is used as a tool by which to vote then that’s not being inclusive is it?
“You cannot exclude the fact that there are many who say that because they are white, they are disadvantaged. And there are many who feel that because they are black that they are at a disadvantage,” Mr Cannonier continued. “If we do nothing to bridge that divide then we do nothing toward furthering understanding of why they feel that way.”
The view that the Progressive Labour Party is seen by some as using race for political advantage was put to party spokesman Curtis Williams.
Mr Williams referred to the PLP’s Throne Speech, themed ‘Let us Build One Another Together’ and remarks Premier Paula Cox made at a post Throne Speech conference.
Mr Williams said the theme had been “well received across all segments of our Island”.
“Though it may serve the OBA’s political purposes to have their candidates constantly talk about racial division, our party has and will continue to remain focused on our challenges as identified in the 2011 Throne Speech.
“Finally, as [the PLP’s public relations officer] I would like to echo the Premier and Party Leader’s remarks on Friday: ‘Will our differences distract us from making shared progress together?
“Will the desire of some to re-fight old battles cause us not to act? As a Country, we must accept the fact that if we are not all winners, then we will certainly all be losers. Building one another together is not just a theme, it is an imperative.’”
He continued: “The PLP Government is working hard to build one another together, we’d hope the OBA candidates would join us and the rest of Bermuda in a discussion about Bermuda’s future.”
The OBA youth event was held at Moon nightclub on Saturday.