Log In

Reset Password

Commissiong: Black men failed by elites

Systemic problem: former PLP MP Rolfe Commissiong (File photograph)

A former Progressive Labour Party MP has accused the Government of failing to tackle systemic racial biases that put young Black males at the bottom of the economic ladder and draw them into a life of crime.

Rolfe Commissiong spoke out after a spate of shootings last week.

Four men were wounded in a single incident in the Middle Town Lane area of Pembroke on May 2, including one victim who was admitted to the ICU and continued to recover in hospital this week.

Mr Commissiong served as the PLP MP for Pembroke South East between 2012 and 2020.

He expressed his anguish at the violence that had ripped through his former constituency — but added that the Government needed to dig deeper if it intended to stem the rise in gang hostilities.

Mr Commissiong said: “I not only represented that community as an important part of my constituency for eight years, I forged a close bond with that community and I am thankful that no one lost their life.

“My heart goes out to the victims and those families that were affected.

“But my real disappointment stems from the fact that the systemic issues that have been bedevilling young Black men — mainly from working poor communities up and down in this society — have still not been adequately addressed by the right mix of public policies, despite my efforts over the last two decades to raise the consciousness of Bermudians about this issue with successive Progressive Labour Party governments.”

Mr Commissiong served on a government-appointed living wage commission, set up shortly after the PLP came to office in July 2017. The commission’s aim was to establish minimum and living wages for the less well-off.

Mr Commissiong has been a driving force behind the commission. He maintains that to steer clear of a life of crime, low-income earners need to be given a path out of poverty.

The seasoned activist claimed that the Black population was dwindling because of a “get out of jail free” card in emigration to the United Kingdom — a damning indictment on the present administration’s track record of service to its people.

Quoting from the Mincy Report — a 2009 study that explored the relationship between education and earnings among Black Bermudian males — Mr Commissiong argued that massive numbers of Black teenagers had dropped out of high school before graduation.

He said: “They would go into a labour market where poverty-level wages were becoming the norm in hospitality.

“Bermuda may have the fourth highest GDP in the world but if you wish to know where it is concentrated, look at the last report of the outgoing Chief Medical Officer released in late 2023.

“You will note that in that report he stated that 90 per cent of the homeless are Black men.

“This government betrayed the interest of those young men and women by endorsing a business model in hospitality that sees that sector use an increasing number of low-cost, low-to-medium-skilled foreign labour to drive down or maintain wages at poverty levels.

“For those young men, the drug trade was always hiring.

“In countries with high levels of income and wealth inequality — which is continuing to grow in Bermuda with this current international business-led boom — those at the bottom of income distribution experience increasing economy fragility.

“The following adverse societal impacts that affect that particular sub group of Black males in Bermuda is concentrated in low-income, Black-dominated households with usually one female parent, although not exclusively.

“Too many on the House of Assembly benches have normalised a status quo that has underserved this community in a country that needs all of its diminishing human capital on deck.

“The Black financial and political elites have failed them.”

Mr Commissiong called for “distributive policies” to support Black people in the areas of healthcare and unemployment insurance, and positive discrimination to ensure that qualified Black males hold positions in the international business sector.

He said: “It is Black Bermudian men who are under-represented the most in a sector of the economy that is the most lucrative in the country.”

The Royal Gazette sent a copy of Mr Commissiong’s comments to the Government’s Department of Communications requesting comment from David Burt. The Premier did not respond by press time.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published May 11, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated May 13, 2024 at 8:11 am)

Commissiong: Black men failed by elites

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon