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Senator calls on business to tackle inequality

A Government senator challenged companies yesterday to introduce measures to tackle racial inequality.

Ianthia Simmons-Wade congratulated Jasmine Brangman and Dynera Bean for organising last Sunday's demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter movement against injustice and police brutality.

She said: “It is important to understand, what is systemic racism?

“It is expressed in the practice of social and political institutions, it is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, healthcare, political power and education, among other things.

“Racism is the elephant in the room that insidiously infiltrates every aspect of our society, which goes unseen by anyone who is not on the receiving end, anyone who is not black or minority.”

Ms Simmons-Wade added that black people did not benefit from the “unquestioned and unearned” advantages experienced by white people and appealed to the private sector to introduce a list of measures, including that they would:

• Make a specific and public commitment to improve representation at all staffing levels, especially in senior and leadership positions

• Provide extensive bias training to human resources departments and all managerial staff

• Invest in management and leadership training as well as mentorship and career development programmes for black employees

• Require all leadership to be active participants in company diversity and inclusivity initiatives

• Introduce a wage equity plan to make sure that black employees and staff from other backgrounds are fairly compensated.

Ms Simmons-Wade said: “My hope is that the individuals that came out to support Black Lives Matter show the same support for legislation that will be put forth by our Government, to reverse the impact of systematic injustices in income, employment, opportunities, wealth, healthcare and housing.”

Dwayne Robinson, a One Bermuda Alliance senator, said: “I do see a lot of calls, from this particular Government, to get people behind supporting legislation for change and as much as I do hope to see legislation passed, we have to also remember that the Progressive Labour Party has been Government for almost a quarter of a century.

“We have had a Progressive Labour Government in more recent times that has been in power for three years straight.”

Mr Robinson added: “We have seen a lot of committees formed, to plan a plan, but now all of a sudden when we have a huge social movement birthed out of young people who have had enough, we now suddenly see a look towards passing legislation to tackle this.

“We've had a lot of lip service leading up to this point, so my challenge to this Progressive Labour Government is to move past the lip service, actually deliver on what they've been saying.”

He asked what “exactly has been accomplished” on matters like living wages and cost of living in the past three years.

Mr Robinson added that he had held similar conversations with his party colleagues, but “we're not in the driving seat right now”.

Jarion Richardson, also an Opposition senator, said: “Where we come out on this feels as much to me legislative as it is individual.

“Our individual decisions, actions, relationships, our words will form a kind of aggregate in our society of where we move on from this point.

“We have to be so authentic and decent. We have to be so strong that we push through this challenging time and that we take all of us with us to a higher state of existence, to a more equal state of existence and equity.”

Anthony Richardson, a PLP senator, said he had seen “green shoots of hope” but that there could be “rough times” ahead.

He warned that legislators on both sides of the political divide would “have to make some significant changes in terms of how our economy is structured”.

Mr Richardson added: “Bermuda has been in existence and subject to tremendous social distress, discrimination, all kinds of negatives for 400 years and any contention that the PLP should have changed all those things in the past 20 years is ... absolute foolishness.”

Vance Campbell, a Government senator, earlier told the upper house that last week's demonstration was “a good start”.

But he added: “It would be naive to believe that all will be well going forward because of the support shown on Sunday, but hopefully the change began and progress was started.”

Ianthia Simmons-Wade, a senator for the Progressive Labour Party. (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published June 11, 2020 at 10:22 am (Updated June 11, 2020 at 10:22 am)

Senator calls on business to tackle inequality

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