The war of words that prompted MPs to clash in a race row that erupted in the House of Assembly on Friday, has sparked a heated response on social media this weekend.
This after One Bermuda Alliance MP Trevor Moniz, the Shadow Attorney General referred to Education Minister Diallo Rabain, as a “boy”.
Mr Moniz said: “He’s on the front bench over there, so he thinks he’s a wonderful boy.” His comment sparked instant groans from MPs, before Mr Rabain responded saying: “If that man calls me boy again, I won’t be sitting here – I’ll be right over there.”
House Speaker Dennis Lister told Mr Moniz to withdraw his remarks saying: “I was slow reacting on that. I’m going to ask you to withdraw the comment. Let’s not go to that level again,” he said. Mr Moniz retracted his statement.
But Opposition leader Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said: “When barbs are thrown at me, I have to take it. Let us not be so thin-skinned that every word that everybody says somehow creates this great big offence.” Tourism Minister Jamahl Simmons countered, and said: “My grandparents had to put up with racists – I do not. Let us rid ourselves of the mindset where it is acceptable to call a black man a boy.”
But it didn’t end there, as the heated row flared up all over again during the Motion to Adjourn, when Mr Rabain said Mr Moniz’s “sad language speaks volumes to any person of colour in Bermuda”.
“If a white member has the audacity to speak to a black member in this House in that tone, we can only imagine how he speaks about us and of black people in Bermuda in the comforts of his personal spaces,” said Mr Rabain.
His statement prompted a call for a point of order by Ms Gordon-Pamplin, but Mr Rabain said: “If that’s what she feels is necessary to gain acceptance by the white members of that side, then so be it. But this side will not bow our heads, avert our eyes, or shuck and jive to get acceptance by any white member of this society.” Ms Gordon-Pamplin replied: “Let me say without fear of contradiction, I don’t need to be accepted by anybody in my party.”
After all was said and done, Mr Rabain posted his entire response on his Facebook page after House adjourned on Friday night.
“Today we have had the eye-opening experience of Honourable Member Trevor Moniz, one of the OBA’s older white members refer to myself as a BOY,” Mr Rabain wrote.
“This utterance was predictably met with immediate protestations from this side. The fact this past middle age white male, allowed such a word to slip past his lips speaks volumes to any person of colour in our nation of Bermuda.
“This one, not so Freudian slip, from this over middle aged white member of the OBA, not only gives us a glimpse into the mind set of that member, but served to present us with even more concerning issues. Issues that if a white member has the audacity to speak to another black member in this house like that, we can only imagine how he speaks of people of colour in this island in the comforts of his personal spaces.
“A larger issue here and one of greater concern, is that the Opposition Leader, another older black woman, when presented with an opportunity to admonish the words of her fellow party member, chose instead to defend his speech. Her decision to essentially tell me to ‘toughen up and not be upset by such words’ is way more disappointing than what was said originally,” said Mr Rabain.
“Gone are the days of any black man in this country bowing their head, averting their eyes, shucking and jiving as entertainment for a white man, but yet the Opposition Leader, a Black Woman, seems to think that is what I should do in 2017 in this honourable chamber. What that white member said was racist and derogatory in tone and despite the Opposition Leader’s acceptance of such language in her world, it is not acceptable in my world.
“The Opposition Leader is dead wrong when it comes to me and my fellow colleagues on this side. If that is what she feels is necessary to be accepted by white members on her side we are proud MEN and WOMEN who will not bow our heads, avert our eyes or shuck and jive to curry favour from any WHITE MAN in this country.”
Mr Rabain’s comments sparked a host of responses on his Facebook page, including one blogger who asked: “When she (Ms Gordon-Pamplin) was referred to in a derogatory manner back on December 2nd, was she not so upset and angry that she brought the quote verbatim to the House? Was she invited to ‘toughen up and not be upset’ by such words? And if she was, would she accept it?”
Another blogger directed his comments to the former Premier, and wrote: “Here you go Michael Dunkley, you say you address racism… let’s hear from you on this. This was blatant racism and I very much doubt you stood up to correct your colleague… yet you tell me you abhor racism and will always stand up to it. Let’s see what you say or do, it anything.”
For the record, it should be noted that Mr Dunkley was not in the House of Assembly on Friday. The Speaker of the House was notified in advance, together with several other MPs who were not in attendance.