Bermuda Fables

"I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians." – Charles De Gaulle

Hiatus over January 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — alsys @ 1:15 pm

Hi all.

 

Sorry for the huge gap in posting. Numerous things just came together to make RL a bit more hectic… and to tell the truth, I spent lots of time over at Bda Sux. We were having numerous threads on race and I kinda felt like that was the important conversation and I would be better served joining in there. And I was… for a minute. Then I realized after trying so many different ways to get various points across that this black and white racial gulf in Bermuda is perhaps even larger than I had thought before.  It got to the point that I felt like we truly were speaking two different languages. Like, I’m trying to communicate and I’m shouting louder and louder, but they just speak french… and we got nowhere. I don’t think. Don’t get me wrong, I did learn some things and had a few foundations shaken (which is so totally the point) but not enough to have made all my frustration worthwhile. And I’m sure those on the other side felt the same.

 

I keep thinking that I don’t know who is right, but it just occurred to me that it really doesn’t matter. That isn’t the point, or more truthfully, shouldn’t be the point. This, no pun intended, is not a black and white issue. It’s completely and utterly grey. When it boils down, it’s not about the facts so much as the emotions.  Descartes said cogito ergo sum or I think, therefore I am. I agree but I think it goes even furthur than that. I feel, therefore I live. Humans are inherently emotional beings. Logic and reason are traits but the vast majority of people live their lives dictated by how they feel. Maslow’s heirarchy of needs has things like air, food and water as the most basic of human needs and obviously the most important but I think those are more survival. Humans need stuff like that to live but it is the emotions that make them feel alive. Yes, I know I’m digressing but all that to say that black people (being the only point of view I can truly speak to with any authority) on this island feel like racism permeates every aspect of their lives. That there is a long way to go and that, while it certainly is possible to rise above it, by virtue of having to RISE above it means that it still matters. Hugely. How true that is is not really the point. Perception is key. And if I perceive that a = b, then to me a does truly equal b. The stats back this up, and while a few stats can be explained by matters other than racism… that there is a gulf at all means that racism exists and is effectively working the system.

 

Now there will be some who agree with me, perhaps not exactly the way I put it but will agree… and there are just as many who think I’m talking crap. And that’s the point. It’s not that the two sides aren’t listening to each other, we simply can’t understand each other. Bermuda’s racial Rosetta Stone is yet to be found. And I fear we might have gotten to the point that we simply cannot bridge this gap without it.

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24 Responses to “Hiatus over”

  1. Tryangle Says:

    I feel ya. And that’s what it’s really about, isn’t it, the things you mention in your last paragraph. It’s okay to disagree, but try to understand the other person’s story first and don’t belittle them.

    Race issues in Bermuda remain the most common theme of discussion, at least where message boards are concerned – everything in Bermuda eventually raises the spectre of is person X’s race a factor. I don’t know why myself (probably why I choose to observe those heated Sux convos from a distance), but at the end it never feels like anything gets resolved or concluded satisfactorily.

    But I think that keeping the lines of dialogue open should remain a priority of all, so looking forward to more blog posts from this site and others.

  2. alsys31 Says:

    Exactly, tryangle. I feel like we spend so much time trying to score points against each other that we fail to truly hear each other. And I’m as guilty of that as any other. But my issue is, that while i’m willing to accept the other side claims and feelings as important… I simply don’t feel that, for the most part, the same respect is paid back. And that is where this whole thing falls down. In order to alleviate your concerns, I need to listen to your concerns… not dismiss them out of hand simply because I don’t agree with them.

  3. Casual Observer Says:

    T,

    I am SO feeling you on that. Oftentimes it seems as though we get so caught up on political parties, leaders, and being right (which too many times means trying to prove somebody else wrong) that we lose sight of what’s really important.

    Beyond the UBP, PLP, Ewart Brown, Kim Swan, plantations, shackles, 40 Thieves, etc, we all have a responsibilty to understand each other and in understanding, try to make life better for our fellow Bermudians.

    And as much as discussions on race seem less important in the face of sweeping political and economic changes that may shake this island to it’s very core, it does still remain that there is a gulf between the races…

    Respect is a two-way street and we will only be able to make progress when it’s more about understanding, and less about trying to prove a point or silence the voices that sing essentially the same song in a different key.

  4. Uncle Elvis Says:

    SO happy to see you back, T. Thank god.

    *points up to CO’s post*

    Yeah… what she said. *grin*

  5. alsys31 Says:

    Glad to be back UE. Funnily enough, you know how I was feeling right? Well, coming back and writing this just refreshed me…

  6. Uncle Elvis Says:

    YAY! Let’s have it, bebbeh! Keep ’em coming.

  7. Guilden Says:

    Hey T,

    Glad to have you back and I look forward to lively and respectful discussions here, not just on race but on all topics that may arise. I think as long as we acknowledge and respect each others views much can be accomplished.

    Hey Elvis,

    How come you get a custom icon? I want one too!!!!

  8. Martin Says:

    A couple of thoughts.

    One of the problems with a blog, is that ‘the words one uses’ are often cold and lack emotion. Subtle nuances are difficult to convey in print.

    That said, I think it is right when you talk of ‘respect’. On the broader issue, even if we whites do not understand the issues you have faced and continue to face (and believe me there are those that truly don’t as well as those that do not want to), we could do a lot worse than by starting to respect each other.

    I use the word ‘understand’ as distinct from ‘hear’ what you are saying as I sometimes wonder how one can really understand if we have not experienced? Maybe that’s semantics.

    At the micro level, we must continue the dialogue for the betterment of our respective lives and hope that the ‘perceived’ message that Govt puts out becomes more embracing in its language.

    Welcome back Alsys.

  9. Uncle Elvis Says:

    http://www.gravatar.com

    Sign up and you can set your icon to whatever you want… *grin*

  10. Uncle Elvis Says:

    “…lack people… on this island feel like racism permeates every aspect of their lives. That there is a long way to go and that, while it certainly is possible to rise above it, by virtue of having to RISE above it means that it still matters…”

    This may be one of my favorite sentences ever. You’ve hit the nail on the head. The fact that black folks have to rise above in order to succeed is a VERY good sign of how far we have to go.

    We’ve come a long way. I don’t think anyone rational will deny that (the moon-howlers not included!), but we do have a ways to go.

    Like I said to Guilden a LONG time ago, the goal shouldn’t be to (for example) get a black president of the bank, it should be to get to the point where he’s not referred to as “the black president of the bank”…

    When a black person succeeding isn’t a surprise anymore? That’s when we know we’ve got there.

  11. Martin Says:

    This aspect of ‘perception’ is worrying to me. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand it, but I still struggle with it.

    I know for example that if I am walking alone down a street anywhere in the world late at night, and 5 guys are walking towards me, I have a perception of ‘not being safe’ at best, and ‘feeling threatened’ at worst. As the 5 pass by me without a problem, my perception changes albeit temporarily.

    On BDS, amongst the other issues you mention, perception is a problem just as it is in society generally. Whilst a natural response on BDA to a comment about the Govt, for example, is to say “where are your facts”…the problem remains for many that the perception is that something just isn’t right. I don’t want to get into the issue, but a simple example is the matter of the Premier’s car.The Premier – whoever it is – should be treated no less favourably than the Governor imho. I have no problem with that – BUT – since I ‘know’ that THE car was here for some time, I struggle with Derek Burgess when he says…”it arrived last week”.

    It didn’t. End of story. Why couldn’t he just say…”the car is here”?

    So – my perception of the Govt is reinforced with statements like that, and I quickly conclude that all is not well and continues to be so. Rightly or wrongly, that is how I see it.

    And – so it is with much of BDS. It only takes 1 item where something is subsequently shown not to be true, and the damage is done, and the subsequent effort needed to dispel the perception becomes an up hill struggle.

    The point I am coming to is this. At the very least don’t we owe it to ourselves to check the facts behind a perception if only to find the truth?

    You mention statistics. Isn’t it better to ‘go behind’ the stats, look at all of the data rather than accept that one figure supports one’s perception? If females are paid 15% less than males (say), what should one do to correct that? Increase the salary of every female by 15%? What about the females who were 25% below males – they are still 10% short. I appreciate that it may be difficult to get at the raw data.

    Whilst racism exists – and it does – it doesn’t exist in everyone or everywhere. If black people say “whites are racist”…that isn’t true. Some are – not all. Similarly, some blacks are – and some aren’t.

    If as a society we are looking for racism – and all other ‘isms’ to fade away completely – then we are kidding ourselves as they never will be.

    The best we can do imho, is to continue to work at the individual level to improve the quality of life. You cannot legislate-out racism…the answer lies with individual effort.

  12. alsys31 Says:

    Martin, if the stats show that females are paid 15% less than males (as in your example), I am not saying do not dig down and examine all the criteria. All I’m saying is that the female parts obviously means something. Could it be because they are single mothers… and female? Or less educated… and female? Sure and many other combinations. But to say that the female part of the equation is less relevant than other parts is disingenous.

  13. Martin Says:

    I agree Alsys – it would be disingenuous and I am not trying to be. Hope it didn’t come across that way.

    What I want to stay clear off as I have seen it so often, is the assumption that one number equates to discriminatory practices.

    Now – that may well behind the disparity – but we don’t know until we check.

  14. alsys31 Says:

    I agree totally. Social issues are never as simple as 1 + 1 = 2, and anyone who says otherwise is, ‘scuse my french, an idiot 🙂
    The main thing is that you examine EVERYTHING and that includes institutionalized racism. like above, you made the comment that blacks say “whites are racist” (not all of course, but some). That’s has never been a thought I have expressed. I don’t think whites in Bermuda are racist. I do think that racist practices are still very much in play today.

  15. Martin Says:

    Agreed.

    In the UK in so far as Race Discrimination legislation is concerned, we use the words ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’. Direct discrim is difficult to find in practice, because that comes down to “I am not increasing your salary – because – you are not white”.

    No one consciously does that – we all know it’s wrong.

    But – indirect discrim – is easy to find and comes up as the basis for the majority of employment cases at Tribunal. Why? Because when we write a policy or a procedure or a set of rules etc, we don’t think it through as to how it will affect none whites. We write them as if ‘all’ employees are white!

    Now – the interesting thing is that I would be surprised, even in Bermuda where HR is predominantly a Bermudian stronghold, if company policies were ‘not’ discriminatory.

    You would not expect it – but I am sure many are!

  16. alsys31 Says:

    I’m with you on that one. It’s the subconscious racism that is indeed the most insular and the hardest to fight (and therefore the most enduring). The worst of it is by refusing to see that this is an issue allows such “racist” practices to flourish.

  17. Casual Observer Says:

    Martin –

    … and as you have pointed out, this indirect is much more subtle and a lot more difficult to prove. Which can be frustrating when individuals are asked to ‘prove’ that an injustice on the basis of race has taken place. It’s just not that simple, or pardon the pun, just not that black and white.

    I would agree fully that we need to dig deeper and examine the reasons for the discrepencies when they do present themselves, but I think that a lot of the time it DOES come down to race. Just look at the social factors that are more prevalent in blacks and/or black families (single parent homes, less education, higher levels of incarceration, etc)… a lot of the foundations of these issues can and are rooted in racism – if not direct, then definitely of a more indirect, covert and systematic nature.

    The black race have a 400 year old inferiority complex, either forced by others, or learned. It’s the reason why Obama’s recent victory was so important to some blacks in terms of breaking away from that pathology. It might seem like such a small thing that many take for granted, but there are a lot of individuals who have been unable to say ‘Yes We Can’.

  18. Uncle Elvis Says:

    Just look at the social factors that are more prevalent in blacks and/or black families (single parent homes, less education, higher levels of incarceration, etc)… a lot of the foundations of these issues can and are rooted in racism – if not direct, then definitely of a more indirect, covert and systematic nature.

    Just to extend this a little, the response to some of these things being brought up has, occasionally, been “Well, they should get over it.” or dismissed like it’s the single mothers’ fault, or the less educated, or the incarcerated. Yes, personal responsibility is important, but to just dismiss it without looking at the underlying causes is just putting blinders on yourself, y’know?

    THIS is the ugly stuff that “should make us uncomfortable”.

  19. Martin Says:

    CO…

    I understand ‘conditioning’ and its potential effect. I also understand that (at least to some degree) we are shaped by our history.

    What I really don’t understand is how some people can ‘power out’ of their situation of their own volition, whereas others cannot.

    And – it’s not a black thing either. I can dig back to abject poverty and sheer misery in the UK of years ago where – looking at it objectively – you would think “no way out of that”.

    But – some do power out of it. Some do succeed. Some simply do better. I think for example that the last generation was generally much better at it than we are today. Wasn’t it Dale Butler who said that despite the economic problems associated with being black in the years gone by – there was a pride, there was a sense of achievement however small, there was a community spirit that helped others along.

    I have just finished an article for a magazine. When you dig into Bermuda’s past – look at what people said at the time of (say) Emancipation, it’s amazing what you find. This is the concluding sentence in my article:

    “Struggling though they were, ‘co-operation’ is a word Blacks brought into full use and essentially sums up the response to the challenges that they faced. The establishment of Friendly Societies, educational facilities – even pension provision – lay of the heart of the upward struggle that they faced in the years that followed”.

    Aslys and I have had this conversation before where she reminds me not to concentrate of the one-off’s, the Swann’s/Brown’s et al – but to concentrate on the general population. Whilst understanding that – you have to ask the question – why some dig themselves out of the hole.

  20. Casual Observer Says:

    Martin –

    I’m not quite sure that we can really narrow down or pinpoint why some can dig themselves out of holes while others can’t. I think there are a number of variables including, but by no menas limited to environment and individual characteristics/personality traits… why is it that some people are able to use recreational drugs purely ‘recreationally’ whilst others, one hit makes them a fiend? I think it’s a combination of environmental/social factors, positive role models/images as well as personality traits.

    And yes, there is the factor of apathy as well… I think that the present generation probably would not have stood up well to the tests of the 60’s, etc… but then again, they wouldn’t be the present generation…

  21. Martin Says:

    CO…

    I am guessing, but I suspect ‘culture’ has something to do with it.

    If you take an individual out of his/her environment where they are just ‘swimming along with the tide’ and put them into a more stimulating environment – from my experience they usually do better.

    Just a thought.

  22. Uncle Elvis Says:

    But where did the culture come from? What are the roots?

    People rail against hip-hop culture (and in some cases rightly so, in others not so much), but much of what they’re yelling about comes from something very legitimate.

  23. Martin Says:

    Elvis…

    I won’t post the whole thing as it is large, but I was interested in what this guy had to say about the differences between blacks.

    Thomas Sowell is a black American economist, political writer, and commentator with a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago.

    He questioned what could explain such large disparities in demographic “representation” among various groups of blacks?

    As there have always been large disparities, even within the native black population of the U.S., and he couldn’t see any evidence that these disparities could be attributed to either race or racism.

    He also said that slavery cannot explain the difference between American blacks and West Indian blacks living in the United States because the ancestors of both were enslaved.

    When race, racism, and slavery all fail the empirical test, what was left?

    “Culture is left” was his opinion.

    Sowell argues that the culture of the people who were called “rednecks” and “crackers” was a culture that produced far lower levels of intellectual and economic achievement, as well as far higher levels of violence and sexual promiscuity. While a third of the white population of the U.S. lived within the redneck culture, more than 90% of the black population did.

    Although that culture eroded away over the generations, it did so at different rates in different places and among different people. It eroded away much faster in Britain than in the U.S. and somewhat faster among Southern whites than among Southern blacks, who had fewer opportunities for education or for the rewards that came with escape from that counterproductive culture.
    …….

    I am not able to argue it either for or against. But it is a different point of view.

  24. Lfjgcqef Says:

    GG7GOM comment5 ,


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