I’m writing this very quickly, but it is a result of a post by New Onion on his blog. New Onion, as I understand his post, finds the idea of black economic empowerment to be an inherently racist policy, and that in this post-segregation era the thing to do is to be colour blind.
I disagree. I believe that as a result of slavery, of racist legislation of the past and state-enforced segregation the black population of Bermuda has been severely handicapped, especially economically. There is a reason why our racial break-down closely mirrors the economic class break-down and that reason is precisely the legacy of past racial injustices and the inherited inequalities of such racism.
I’ll agree that fear of the old ‘white oligarchy’ of out and out racist reactionaries is long gone. I’m sure there are a few here and there, and what they represent and they themselves are dangerous, but they are certainly not dominant, especially not in modern Bermuda or in the white community itself. But there is this idea of colour-blindess that I feel a lot of the white community continues to cling to, this idea that decisions should not be made factoring race into the equation, such as affirmative action (or black economic empowerment). Often the argument will be that ‘I wasn’t involved in enslaving Africans, or supporting the segregationist state, why penalise me?’ That may be true. But I do think pretty much all whites have, and continue to, benefit from the aftereffects of this legacy, be it in real accumulated financial capital inherited over generations, access to intellectual capital or even via subtle white priveledge. And the black population is certainly still impacted by the past as well.
This isn’t to say that blacks, or working class peoples cannot get out of the lower economic class. There are very rich upper class blacks in our society. But they are definitely a minority and the class/race dynamic shows this.
I’m not saying that state-sponsored support of black entreupuenership is the sole answer to our many problems. I remain skeptical that all it will acheive is a democratisation or desegregation of the forty thieves oligarchy. But to continue to preach this false colour-blindness is to ask for trouble, to continue the status qou of racial inequality and I believe lead to greater racial problems in the future.
I support the need for reparations. I see reparations to take the form of subsidies FOR ALL for basic foodstuffs, for universal healthcare, for universal free quality education up to and including tertiary education, for affirmative action and for heavy investments into the social infrastructure. I do not see reparations as taking the form of taxing the whites and handing cheques over to blacks. This will only cause resentment and patronisation.
But I can definitely say that the opposite of racism is not colour-blindness.