I personally didn’t hear the talkshows today, but it was said to me that in them some callers were accusing the non-mariners race that is held over the weekend as being racist. From this the discussion (there were maybe four white Bermudians, one white spouse of a Bermudian and one black Bermudian present) became one about the state of race relations in Bermuda as a whole.
It seems to be that some of the floats at the non-mariners race were political in nature, for example I read in the paper of a satire on transparent government. This is not unusual, as I understood the non-mariners race to be one of satire, and especially one of political satire. With this being a general election period, the political tension will of course lead to an even greater emphasis on political satire.
There were apparently callers to the talkshows who considered the non-mariners race to be racist, basing this perspective on both the anti-PLPness of the floats, and also on the objective fact (I have never been, so I expect to be disproved, but by word of mouth, through knowing many who particpate or who attend, and based on meida reports with pictures or video I conclude that) the event is a largely white event.
As a largely white event, in particpation and attendance, it provides a useful insight into some general tendencies within the white population. One must of course avoid generalisations, but to a degree, based on this, and its echoing in the blogs by whites as well as other media, I think certain tendencies can be observed within the white community.
Not all of these are neccesarily anti-PLP, and there is a dangerous tendency within certain segments of the pro-PLPers to view all criticism as anti-PLP/pro-UBP or even anti-black (the dualism here alone invites investigation). There are progressives within the white community who would support the PLP if it followed a more traditional labour line, as well as an environmentalist tack, and I think this was evidenced during the Sustainable Devo Roundtable. Recent events since, namely the handling of the SDRT since and the SDOs, have generally pushed this liberal environmentalist wing further towards the UBP or general apathy and this is unfortunate. It would have been better (as paradoxical as it may appear) for them to have joined the PLP and voiced criticism within.
The Non-Mariners Race in and of itself is not racist. But it does bring to light some of the insecurities of the white community. Some of these can be considered racist by some, and I don’t mean in the blacks are niggers and inferior way, but a much more subtle white-priviledged way. Unconscious even.
One of the main fears right now is that affirmative action, or black economic empowerment (BEE) as is the more usual phrase in use here, constitutes a form of reverse racism. This was voiced by many of the white Bermudians in my discussion today. They honestly believe that the opposite of racism is colour blindness. It is not. The inequalities of the past still haunt us today, and while BEE is hardly the cure-all for this, I believe it is a central part of the solution. Colour-blindess means ignoring the inequalities of the past. Colour-blindness may be the end goal, the ideal, but in order to achieve it BEE is a neccesary step. Advocating total colour-blindess today means reinforcing the inequalities, and can be constured as at least a defence of white priveledge, at most racist.
One of the other fears voiced in the white community I find is a fear that all criticism of the PLP is being shut down as racist. No-one wants to be called a racist. It connotes images of white bedsheets and lynchings. That is not the only type of racism. To a degree I think this fear is justified. There is a tendency by some to shut down all criticism as racist, and this does shoot down debate and leads us into various avoidable pitfalls. But some criticism can indeed be viewed as paternalistic, as racist. What is needed is better dialouge here at least. Blacks PLP supporters do need to understand that not all whites are familiar with white privildge and the consequences of it. Patience, however difficult, is neccessary to counter the fears of the whites, and while the government doesn’t need white support, it does, and must continue to enter into dialouge with them.
The fears of the whites, of reverse racism, of dampening free speech via the race card, are very real. I’m not saying that the PLP is employing reverse racism or shutting down free speech, but I recognise that many whites do indeed see the world in this way. These fears must be addressed. Its difficult. Its frustrating. Many whites will get defensive, will lose their tempers. But it is neccesary to engage in discussion, and attempt to explain as best we can. Many will not listen. But we must speak all the same, and some will listen.