The anti-racism charity CURB has endorsed the recent speech by Opposition Leader David Burt on social issues in the ‘Two Bermudas’.

Mr Burt was the keynote speaker at the Hamilton Rotary Club luncheon on May 16th, where he spoke on the country’s economic divide, ongoing inequality, and the divisions that are present in the community.

CURB President Lynne Winfield said: “The speech resonates with CURB’s mission and philosophy around the need to address the divisions around race, and impoverished; with this division predominantly along racial lines largely built on the back of generational inequities of a system built off the back of slavery and segregation.

“There is a great need to address matters of racial justice and the need for change. James Baldwin, one of the 20th century’s greatest writers, said ‘You cannot Fix what you will not Face’. His groundbreaking literary work on the exploration of racial and social issues is today as important and as relevant as it was in the middle of the 20th century,” Ms Winfield said.

“To address these issues head on resonates with Baldwin’s adage. As a society we must be willing to face the truth of our past and its ongoing resultant inequalities. This work must be done not only at an individual level, but at a systemic level across political, economic, business, cultural, social and community organization,” she added.

She also pointed up “the lack of numbers at the luncheon” as a clear indication that “there were those who chose not to attend the presentation, an organization that is supposed to put ‘service above self”.

“The action taken by those members gives implicit support to the structural racism policies that gave rise to the Two Bermudas, and by default makes their stance far more political than the actual speech, which focused on social issues, collaboration and community.

“This action goes against Rotary International’s stance that Rotarians be involved in their communities, be civic-minded, and engaged in public improvement; and to keep under review political developments in their own communities and to seek reliable information through balanced programs and discussion so that members can reach their own conclusions.”

She also expressed the hope that the Hamilton Rotary Club “will be inspired to follow the lead of the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, which has taken steps through their ‘Theory of Change’ to tackle the conditions that gave rise to the Two Bermudas”.

“CURB welcomes the Foundation’s foresight and willingness to lead on this front,” she said. “Race continues to be a strong force in determining how opportunity is distributed in Bermudian society. It influences important decisions made in people’s personal, professional and social lives, including how we vote, what social programs we volunteer for, what cultural events we attend, and who we hire.”

The anti-racism charity also took issue with legislation passed to facilitate the upcoming America’s Cup.

“We also recognize the subtle forces of racism,” said Ms Winfield. “We view the America’s Cup Restricted Marketing Order, 2017, while protecting the rights and brands of participants and sponsors of AC35, as restricting the rights of less-well-off Bermudians in particular.

“A common practice of legally selling goods on the streets has been curtailed by this Order, save for Bermuda Day,” she said. “An event which has been billed as one that will benefit all of Bermuda now restricts those most in need. To avoid the appearance of economic and cultural apartheid, we call on the Government to immediately restore the street-selling rights of ordinary Bermudians outside of America’s Cup Village.

“By talking about race we have the opportunity to explore, examine and challenge these attitudes. If we do not talk about race, it remains unchallenged and by default continues and worsens ongoing inequality in our society,” said Ms Winfield.

“To that end as a community seeking to move forward and resolve the continuing inequality, we must be willing to face, to examine and to work towards eliminating barriers to opportunity by fashioning programmes, legislation and policies that support and enable social and economic opportunity.”