News Release: Hamilton, Bermuda, March 29, 2019 – Deputy Speaker Mr Derrick Burgess recently stated in the House that he hoped the next DPP is a Black, born Bermudian. This preference of the Deputy Leader is understandable, given that he felt the indignity of Segregation, witnessed and experienced the gross inequities that continued in Bermuda post Segregation, and is aware of the many inequities that continue today. He recognizes that one of the ways we can repair the harm of the past is to proactively ensure that moving forward there is a more appropriate recognition of Black Bermudians’ value and expertise when it comes to positions of power and authority within our society. So he seeks fairness, a re-balance of the inequities of the past, and so voices that hope.
Some have called this racist, and from online blogs and Facebook it appears his statement has offended a great many people of European descent, with many saying, “It shouldn’t matter what color or gender the person is as long as the person is qualified and good at that job” or “It should be the person best suited for the job, not dependent on their colour/race/creed/sex.” These statements are valid and fit into what the CURB mission states “A Bermuda where skin colours favours no-one.” However we recognise this is an ideal that we aim for, but in reality the Census statistics clearly show the continuing inequities in the work and hiring environment, with the gap widening every year.
Most of us intellectually and emotionally support these statements of fair and equal access, after all we’re good people and we realise this is the way it should be. However, the reality is we are not there yet, and for many Black Bermudians this is not their reality and from their perspective they ask where have the voices of Whites been when these inequities continue to be visited on people of colour.
Just like Black Lives Matter activists are accused of reverse racism for asking not to be murdered by police; so are activists in Bermuda called racists for pointing out race and its inequities and asking for greater equality or access to opportunities. This is not about flipping the script and giving Black Bermudians access over Whites, instead it is about fairness, access and opportunities that have been denied and continue to be denied to Black Bermudians.
For hundreds of years in Bermuda the edge, the advantages, access and the opportunities were primarily given to whites. Current day Census results continue to demonstrate these racial inequities. Now when there is a call for equal access and fairness, it is viewed as reverse racism by whites. It is not reverse racism, it is merely competition on a level playing field. For those who have always had access it feels like reverse racism.
Black Bermudians continue to be passed over for employment opportunities, offered less compensation or are simply not hired despite having the requisite qualifications. What is clear is that the facts show a much greater preference for the appointment of foreigners or Bermudians of European descent to positions of power or seniority both within our criminal justice system, and the broader work environment. This despite the fact that Black Bermudians are both highly educated and capable of being appointed to such positions and at 70% numerically make up the majority of the Bermudian population.
So as a society we must ask why is it that this imbalance continues? What is it that makes people again, and again, pass over Bermudians of African descent? How do we reconcile this reality with the statement on the Royal Gazette Facebook page that, “We just need to appoint the best person for the job no matter their skin color.” We must ask ourselves what are we willing to do to repair the inequity that continues to harm our Black community today? How can we ensure that stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination does not continue to influence decisions about who should be hired, promoted or gain access to opportunities?
The denial of race is a central narrative in the perpetuation of racism, and those who make claims of post-racialism, or who insist that to see race is to participate in racism only contribute to a growing divide. We must acknowledge the past has left our society damaged and divided, recognize the need to repair the harm, and take action to ensure the imbalance and inequities do not continue.