When I wrote the article on Libertarian Marxism, I said to myself that I bet people will not discuss the theoretical aspects of libertarian Marxism as opposed to authoritarian Marxism, rather they will latch onto the one small section of that post where I mentioned race and the UBP.
Looks like I was right.
And thats cool, I’ve been enjoying much of the discussion. But it does lead one to reflect on a few things though.
The most obvious smack-you-in-the-face issue is that while the question of class is increasingly becoming prominent in Bermuda, it is still a long way off from eclipsing the question of race. Yes, we need to address lots of other issues, be it sexism, homophobia, ageism, classism, sectarianism, authoritarianism, ecological issues, infrastructure issues, freedom of speech issues, and so on, but the one issue that seems to really get everyone in a fuss, without fail, is the question of race.
I’ve written my thoughts about race many times on this blog, both in general terms and on the more particular question of the whole UBPs approach to it. Similarly, good discussions have developed on threads that have contributed to this discussion. I haven’t gone through all of my posts in any exhaustative manner, but the following ones should be representative of much of this discourse on race:
So… As I’ve said, the above are only examples of some of this discourse. Much of what I’ve written in the above and elsewhere are variations of the same thing, and really, it does get a bit frustrating dealing with the same issue over and over and over and over and over and so on.
But its clear that we as a society have failed to exorcise the scourge of race and we’re gonna have to keep talking. Perhaps we’re talking at cross-purposes and not really understanding the others perspective. I don’t really know how to deal with that except to just keep trying to both put my position forward and to review carefully the opposing views.
This thread may become a long one. I’ll try to keep it all short, concise and broken up into smaller sections.
How do I percieve the UBP/White Bda approach to race?
*By extension I am including in very general terms under this how White Bermuda seems to approach race. I do this because it has been my personal experience that much of what the UBP says – or doesn’t say – is reflective of what White Bda seems to think. This is hardly suprising when the UBP commands near hegemonic support within White Bda, and is constituted overwhelmingly by White Bermudians – at least based on my observations of the Party and confirmation from UBPers themselves.*
I find that their approach to race is what I call a general ‘colour-blind philosophy.’ What I mean by this is that they approach everything today officially from the perspective that segregations and slavery ended XX number of years ago, and racism is a thing of the past. They continue this with affirming that they themselves are not racist.
These leads them to a general proffessed belief in meritocracy, and that there is nothing really but self-ambition to prevent ones success in life. It also leads them to view with great horror any attempts to address the very real racial inequalities that do exist today. This ranges initially from a general aversion to discussion these racial inequalities in the first place. They describe this as generally being ‘divisive.’ This progresses to near hysterical attempts to portray any attempt to practically address these inequalities as either totalitarian (as evidenced by the reaction to even assisting with developing a statistical picture of race in Bermuda, such as the CURE forms), to charges of ‘reverse racism’ and ‘Black revenge’ in the face of weak attempts of correcting institutional racism.
The Big Conversation
The approach to the ‘Big Conversation’ as a whole has been illustrative of this. The UBP and White Bermuda as a whole has been almost universal in their condemnation of this whole very small step to discussing race as divisive and by extension have sought to portray the PLP as a whole as being racially polarising. Its true that some phrases by various PLP members could have been phrased differently and have provided ammunition to this argument, but as a whole these comments have been quoted out of context or misinterpreted.
This attack has been extended to criticising the use of ‘foriegn experts’ in these discussions. These experts have been attacked on various fronts, be it that they are ‘slick snake-oil salesmen,’ to their not understanding the Bermudian situation so they have no right or ability to contribute to the discourse. This of course fails to acknowledge that many of these ‘experts’ are actually leaders in their respective fields in analysing the race issue, and acknowledge they are not experts on the particulars of Bermuda but offer their insights all the same, not as dogmatists but as contributors to the process, and learn through interaction with those that attend.
And immediately when ‘local experts’ are used they change tack and delegitimise these local experts as having ‘chips on their shoulders’ and ‘known to be divisive individuals.’ One wonders sometimes when they will stop criticising and instead volunteer names of locals who would be acceptable. It seems honestly that to them anyone who would discuss the issue is divisive by virtue of discussing the issue in itself, and this deligitmises anyone in their eyes.
They also seem to have become particularly riled by the phrasing ‘uncomfortable’ in this context. There are a number of White Bermudians who have never attended these Bermuda Race Relations Initiatives (BRRI) who have told me that they had heard, or otherwise were of the opinion that, these events were white hating events, where Whites were generally being attacked as a whole and that they had no intention of going somewhere to be verbally and even possibly physically attacked. They really thought that that was what was meant by the term uncomfortable. The correct interpretation should have been that in a discussion of institutional racism in a still White supremacist society (in the sense of institutional White supremacy and not overt KKK style White supremacy), being confronted with the facts of this insitutional racism would be uncomfortable for many. And it is. Its always difficuly when one is confronted with hard facts that question much of what you believe about the world. That was all that was meant by that phrase.
I can understand that some would misintepret the phrase. Thats okay. But there are many within the UBP and White Bermuda who knew better, who had actually attended such meetings, but for various reasons, mostly of a short-term political nature, chose not to challenge these misintepretations but instead in some cases encouraged this misperception. I could even understand that there would be a mass White misinterpration of the phrase and the Big Conversation as a whole, that would be understandable from my analysis of White Bermuda. But there still should have been an effort from those in the UBP who knew better to counter such a mistaken perception.
And when the phrase was used to in the post-election interview of Dr. Brown by the BBC Caribbean, it was meant to say that there are very clear statistical information to show that the legacy of our racial past is evident today, that institutional racism is shown by these statistics, that race still correlate with class, and it is a fact that Whites as a group are better off than Blacks, and that is a problem that needs to be dealt with. That there are some poor Whites is not dismissed, but what is confronted is the very real fact that as a group Blacks are disadvantaged via institutional racism. Again there are those within the UBP who knew better to allow the misperceptions on this issue to grow, but these were not confronted by them.
Bill Cosby Syndrome
Another factor that develops from the White Bermuda/UBP approach to race is what I call the Bill Cosby syndrome. I name this after Mr. Cosby’s rather infamous ‘Pound Cake speech’ where he launched a rather critical attack on Black America. This allowed White America to also jump on much of these criticisms, safe from feeling that they would be attacked for being racist because they could point to this Black man Bill Cosby who had said these things, and they just happened to agree with them. The speech largely failed to acknowledge the role of institutional racism in these problems that he criticised in Black America, and instead led support to the White American (which is shared by White Bermuda) perception that racism is a thing of the past and the problems of Blacks today has nothing to do with racism at all, rather its down to personal choices.
This in itself leads to the problem of how to reconcile how it is that as a group these Blacks seem to make all the wrong personal choices. This leads to statements (that, quite frankly I hear all to often in the company of White Bermuda) that Africa and the Caribbean should have stayed as colonies, because look at them now… How they do not see that as being a racist statement I still don’t understand. The White have two solutions to this dilemma. A very small minority lapse back into overt racism (I am talking here of America; while I’m sure there are some White Bermudians who share this solution, our population is too small to allow it forming any organised grouping) such as the myriad of White Power groupsucles one finds throughout the States. The majority point towards the exceptions such as the Oprah’s, the Cosby’s, Tiger Woods, Colin Powell and the like. To me these are exceptions that prove the rule of insitutional racism. To the colour-blind philosophers they are proof that merit and personal choice work today and not racism. They can do so only be ignoring the very real statistical facts of instutional racism that confront them daily.
Lately this Cosby Syndrome is needing renamed to the Obama syndrome. And indeed his rise in US politics is particularly useful for insight into Bermudian politics. It is no secret that the UBP as a group seems to be rooting for Obama. Similarly they are using the example of Obama for their own political ends in Bermuda. The PLP quite frankly has walked right into this one, and is still stuck in that trap, something they did through a combination of blind allegiance to identity politics and traditional affinity with the US Democratic Party (much of the PLP’s recent group of leaders were particularly influenced by the exampel of Clinton, that Tony Blair of the US).
You see, Obama does represent alot of what the UBP represents. They have no problem with Blacks per se. Only certain types of Blacks. Blacks who are willing to be upfront about the race problem, that acknowledge instituitional racism and say that the ending of overt bigotry was only one small step in correcting the problem of race, those types of Blacks they have a problem with. They call them confrontational, divisive. Blacks that don’t make Whites uncomfortable for the past, that serve as mouthpieces for White thought, they have no problems with that. I realise many will take offence for the term mouthpieces. I’m not saying that these Blacks don’t genuinely believe the ideology they are representing, I’m sure they do. But their ideology just happens to fit with and legitimises the White worldview, and those that question the White worldview, their philosophy of colour-blindness now, those they don’t like.
You can have a parliamentary party who’s candidates are majority Black. But as long as the Party itself is dominated by Whites and fails to confront the race question and instead continues the colour-blind now philosophy, well, to me its a White Party espousing White worldviews.
Obama is recieving so much White support precisely because he is not challenging the White worldview of colour-blindness now. His candidacy is effectively ‘racial reconciliation on the cheap’ for much of White America who can say they ar enot racist because they support a Black man for President. By this slieght of ideological hand they can ignore the fact of institutional racism.
The confusion ultimately stems from a confusion over what is meant by racism. Most Whites, and even a good number of Blacks see racism only in its overt in-you-face KKK style bigotry. That is only one form of racism. That was Jim Crowe. What we have today is institutional racism. While one can experience it subjectively, its hard to prove, they always have so many different excuses for what one experienced. It can only be proven really through statistical analysis. We have that analysis. It can and is shown that Bermuda, as well as America, has some serious problems of institutional racism of a White supremacist nature. Our racism today is covert, a more sophisticated Jim Crowe. We have James Crowe III, Esquire.
By adopting a colour-blind now philosophy one avoids dealing with the institutional racism that we do have. And by failing to confront the very real problems this approach only legitimises the system and puts obstacles in the way of dealing with it.
I am always amused at how White Bermuda, and White America as well, employs MLK. So many of them can parrot off his speech “I have a dream” and say thats what they believe, and that attempts like affirmative action are reverse racism and contrary to this ‘dream.’ This approach to MLK is a combination of ignorance and selective reading (cherry-picking if you will) of MLK. Much of this is due to the selective presentation of MLK through US media which does cherry pick MLK’s thought. Its true that MLK had a dream that one day we would achieve a colour-blind society. But what is not advertised, what one has to go and read and search out because tehy don’t advertise it, is that he also wrote about how to achieve that dream, that simply adopting a colour-blind philosophy without dealing with the inequalities of the past would not achieve that dream. MLK wrote passionately in favour of some form of affirmative action and reparations as tools with which to construct this colour-blind society.
Taking a Break
Anyway, there’s alot more that needs to be written, and I’m pretty sure much of the above will spark a bit of debate here. But quite frankly I need to go and get dinner, so I’ll let this start the discussion, and add more in the process of that discussion.
But I did want to add just a few more things though. Specific to the blogosphere.
Christian’s Politics.bm, and to a lesser extent (in the sense of posting frequency) IMHO.bm provide a rather good example of the more sophisticated approach to the race issue from White Bermuda/UBP. This is especially so in their criticism of the Big Conversation and support for Obama.
The site Bermuda Sucks is rather a free for all of discourse. But there are a few issues that need to be put on the table with that site. Vanz, who posts on this site from time to time, and posts on that site as “Tigga” (I post as “Crimson Dynamo”) has made an interesting social experiment with that site.
What I udnerstand he does there, for which he is attacked, is largely a holding up a mirror to some of it. I have disagreed with his tactics, essentially saying that two wrongs don’t make a right and that he only provides ammunition for the anti-PLP posters.
But what he does is he essentially holds a mirror up to that site, as far as I can tell inr esponse to two posters there. One of them is the character ‘Rummy’ who in his stye of writing Tigga apes. Rummy comes across as a general troll, often with nonsensical comments (I’m sur ehe’ll respond here eventually). But his bad use of dialect, well, I consider it essentially racist. the other character is Sal, who has his own blog which you will find on my blogroll as “Sal’s Blog.” Sal also posts here, and I’m sure he’ll respond as well. Sal hasn’t posted on that site for some time, but does post now on its spin-off, BIAW. Sal is about the closest thing I have come across in Bermuda as an out and out bigot.
The fact that both Sal and Rummy are barely attacked to the same degree that Tigga is speaks volumes of the psyche of many. Whiel Sal no longer seems to post there, past failure to respond to him in anywhere near the manner that Tigga has had to deal with, is intepreted along the lines of institutional racism. The same goes for Rummy. Until this situation is addressed that, and similar blogs, will be regarded as racist, even if the overwhelming number of posters there are not overtly so themselves. Its institutional racism, and Tigga’s actions have illustrated that point splendidly over there, as much as I have issue with his actions there myself.