Good Black, Bad Black – More on ‘Post-Racial USA’

I was thinking overnight more about the issues of race in the USA, in their ‘post-racial’ age ushered in by the election of Mr. Obama. I recalled a story I read earlier the month in passing and decided to follow it up a little.

It involved a case of about 70 African-American children at a summer camp in Philidelphia whose camp had arranged to use a private pool once a week for the summer. The private pool had decided to advertise for just such situations, and, as I understand it made similar arrangements with two other summer camps. However when this group of African-American children arrived for their first day, at this mostly White private pool, the parents of the White children pulled them out of the pool, complaints were made to management about the pool being ‘overcrowded’, and the camp was refunded their money and told not to come back. The camp was originally not given any explanation, but the manager, a Mr. Duesler, stated that “there was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club”.

It’s at that point that I’m sure many readers will be saying ‘WTF?’ – I certainly was.

Now, the mostly White membership of the pool have come out and said that there has been a misunderstanding, that this has nothing to do with race. They claim that it’s all about the pool being overcrowded and that they weren’t consulted about opening up the pool to summer camps.

What strikes me as surprising is why they didn’t kick up a fuss earlier when the two mostly White summer camps came by to use the pool. For example, twelve days before this situation 80 mostly White children (there were two non-Whites) used the pool. No problem apparently. What is even more disturbing is some of the comments left on the various sites of the NBP Philadelphia site that has written on this issue.

I think it is important to just mention that the pools manager is a Democrat and a big supporter of President Obama (see this on his community blood-banking drive for Obama‘s inauguration for example).

To me this kind of links in to some of the recent criticism that has been levelled at President Obama for his comments on the arrest of Professor Gates, and even beyond that in his campaigns frantic effort to distance itself from his former Pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

At this point I think it’s necessary for me to repeat once again that this blog did not support Mr. Obama’s campaign. I criticised him for avoiding the race question that haunts the USA, and furthermore as being little more than a superficial change and nothing more when it comes to US imperialism and ‘business as usual’. I still stand by that position.

Having said that, as mentioned, one of my key concerns with Mr. Obama’s election, reflected so much in Bermuda’s blogs, and echoed by comments from US citizens studying here with me, was that his election marked for them a post-racial age in the USA. Afterall, how can one claim that the USA is still inherently racist when they could elect a Black man? After his election I grew sick of seeing people patting themselves on the back for proving that the US had beaten racism, and then parroting Bill Cosby’s pound-cake speech about the need for African-Americans to stop blaming the system for their failings. This of course has since been amplified by statements from the new US Attorney General, Mr. Holder, and extended to the problems of Africa with President Obama’s speeches there.

I need to make it clear that I do not dispute that agency, in as much as this means personal responsibility, is A factor in seeking change, both in the context of institutional racism and systematic international dependency. However agency can only do so much and it is a mistake to focus on it to the exclusion of the structure within which agency is both shaped and operates within (even as agency affects the structure as well).

President Obama’s election saw the rise (even in Bermuda’s blogs) of people drawing a line between an ‘angry Black Old Guard’ (a la Jeremiah Wright) and the ‘intelligent, educated Black New Guard’ (a la Barack Obama). The difference between the two is basically that the ‘Good Black’ is someone who sidesteps the question of race, who doesn’t bring it up, and, what is more, is almost indistinguishable from middle and upper class White America in values, education and bearing. In other words, White, but with Black skin. The ‘Bad Blacks’ however, they keep talking about the institutional racism that haunts the US and how we need to talk about it, bring it into the open, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to do so, because that is the only way to really tackle the problem.

In other words, the Good Blacks don’t threaten the comfort of White America – they let White America pat themselves on their backs and say, ‘see, we’re not racists – I like Oprah/Obama/Cosby’. Bad Blacks do the opposite. They challenge this White American fiction that racism ended with the end of segregation, that electing a Black man to the presidency proves that the USA is no ‘post-racial’.

Whenever President Obama ignores the issue of race in the USA he is lauded by Whites as a promoting unity, of being positive, of rebuilding the USA. He is a ‘Good Black’. Whenever he touches on race, no matter how lightly, he is attacked for being negative, for being divisive. He becomes a ‘Bad Black’.

37 thoughts on “Good Black, Bad Black – More on ‘Post-Racial USA’

  1. It is important to recognize why there are differences between the two. For “the good blacks” there seems to be a feeling of complacency about where they are now and from where they have come. For “the bad blacks” there is seemingly a sense of… “we’re not there yet”. One side is struggling to assimilate to a pre-defined system, while the other is saying that it is not our system and I’m not going to assimilate to that system simply because it doesn’t represent me.

    I’m going to argue that there is a difference. I sincerely believe that most blacks recognize that racism still exists in most aspects of society, but there are those who are willing to try and forgive, those who may be wanting to move on and there are those who won’t, those who can’t. There are those who want inclusion and equality, and there are those who want more. Those who have assimilated and those who refuse to assimilate.

    Obama provides a social quandary for most. Whites see the first black man in the white house, and blacks are not so sure. A black man that is the product of a system that is seen as racist is not a true leader, more of a figurehead. The problem lies in what do blacks truly want? The list varies depending on who you speak to. Most voted for Obama because he was clearly and obviously a lot better than the alternative, and with no defined goal, no defined target, better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

    In Bermuda, we seek something more. blacks are the majority thus have the perceived “power”. Still, that is ok for some, not so ok for others. The evolution of our society is such that while political power is held by a black party, some still seek to challenge a white power base that is more economic than social/political. They seek a level of power that has not been attained by blacks anywhere else in the world, and thus believe that racism is the only thing holding them back from their true destiny.

    It will be important for both the U.S. and Bermuda to continue their growth. Blacks should look beyond the “white world” for their growth. Whites have obviously moved on from the horrors of slavery, and blacks should accept that while some whites will be willing to help heal the wounds of the past, most whites have disconnected and are beyond it. Blacks who continue to be held down because of the white man are not doing themselves any favors.

    Last but not least we need to give our kids a better chance. We need to demand that an inclusive and more diversified education is offered to all, and that they are given a bigger view of the world than what has been given the past several hundred years.

  2. sparxx…

    What does the group that says, the system doesn’t represent me – do?

    Create another system that sits in tandem with the exisitng one – or – create a system that dominates the existing one?

    Nice response by the way.

    On the question of Obama, I suspect that the President of the USA is in the classic quandry – damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

  3. “In Bermuda, we seek something more. Blacks are the majority thus have the perceived “power”. Still, that is ok for some, not so ok for others. The evolution of our society is such that while political power is held by a black party, some still seek to challenge a white power base that is more economic than social/political. They seek a level of power that has not been attained by blacks anywhere else in the world, and thus believe that racism is the only thing holding them back from their true destiny.”

    It’s here that we need to look. The US black is in the minority and will never be the majority. He will always have to conform to the majority norm and that norm will always be non-black. So the US black will always and forever have this dilemma.

    Does he stay ‘black’ and live entirely within his own black culture and black world, or does he cross into the bigger world and learn to live with and within the different cultures that surround him? Every black American has to consider and then answer that question.

    If – Obama-like – he crosses, he must learn to live with the sensitivities and slights that will always happen. But he will be able to aspire to any top – including the Oval Office.

    If – Jesse Jackson-like – he remains within his black culture, he will have to learn to live in that more limited world and he cannot realistically set his sights on the Oval Office or even many corner offices in most business corporations.

    These are the simple but cruelly real facts of life and they won’t change.

    In Bermuda, blacks don’t provide the capital that underpins the Hotel Industry and International Business. Whoever owns that capital calls the shots and sets the parameters. Whites own that capital, so whites call the shots.

    Black Bermudians are beginning to acquire and own some capital assets in real estate and in small business ventures. In these areas, black Bermudians can call the shots and set parameters.

    Until black Bermudians have built up capital assets, black Bermudians will remain as holders of political power and setters of most social standards; but blacks will not hold much economic power. Through the buildup of financial power through savings and investments, and through investing in good education, black Bermudians can begin acquiring greater economic power.

    However, as long as Bermuda is a business platform for companies who ‘start-up’ with capital counted in $100m chunks, Bermudians generally, and black Bermudians particularly, will probably never match the total economic power that will usually be employed and deployed in Bermuda.

    But there is nothing new in that. Even when the ‘Forty Thieves’ ran things in Bermuda, that is the way it was for them. The ‘Forty’ were minority wielders of local economic power. The bigger real power was always held by foreign investors. That is the way that it has been since 1920. It is unlikely to change significantly.

    Black Bermudians hold political power. Black Americans will never and can never hold political power in the same way. Black Bermudians, as the majority population, set Bermuda’s social norms. Black Americans, as the minority population, must either conform to the white American majority model or must live in the cocoon of their black American culture.

    These are the differences between “us” in Bermuda and “them” in America.

    Black Bermudians are not black Americans. Sometimes commentators seem to forget that and write as if we are one and the same. We are different. We should recognize and never forget that.

    And, yes, moving on is what’s required. Don’t forget the past; but don’t hang on to it and bring it up in every conversation and use it as the reason for each setback. Move on…move on…always get back up and move on again. In the end it’s the guy who moved just one more time who wins.

  4. Jonathan,

    There are many of us who never believed that Barack Obama’s election “ushered in” in a “post-racial” age” in the U.S.A., in spite of of what your posters write on this blog.

    I have no idea who Sparxx is, but he is out of touch with reality, as are most of the people who post on your blog.

  5. Ms Furbert

    I don’t think anyone has said that Obama “ushered in a post racial age” – other than a few guys that Jonathan knows.

    Maybe you could re-read it instead of jumping to conclusions; only a suggestion.

  6. Hi LaVerne, I should have been more specific; I was referring to what I see as a dominant trend within White America and its echoes – asI see it – in White Bermuda.

    We may not agree with Sparxx sentiments, but I do think he has quite eloquently expressed what I feel to be a trend of thought within our community, and it is important for us to recognise that for what – and why – it is, and engage in dialogue for our mutual understanding.

  7. “… is almost indistinguishable from middle and upper class White America in values, education and bearing. In other words, White, but with Black skin. ”

    I’m not sure I understand this thought- but unless I’m missing some code words in “values” or “bearing”, what if those values, education and bearing are America- not White America or Black America- what if it simply represents society?

    Clearly, the swimming pool story contains repugnant and destructive behavior. But while American society is far from perfect, why does assimilation in this instance have to be equated to capitulation to “White America”?

  8. Hi Larry, I enjoyed reading your comments.

    I have always thought that South Africa was a much better model to look at for Bermudian politics than the USA. Of course there are significant differences, but I still think they are much more useful and stimulating a model to look at. I guess in a way our system is a hybrid one between that of SA and the USA – and of course the Bahamas model is illuminating as well.

    We do have the potential to forge a new direction though, learning from the failures of (narrow based) Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and Growth Employment And Redistribution (GEAR). The recent redesign of BEE into ‘Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) is something that I feel we may find useful in this regards.

    The inequalities actively developed in our formally racist past continue to haunt us, and I strongly believe we need to actively address these inequalities. At the same time our social structure remains colonial in nature, even to the extent that many, otherwise committed to the ideals of the liberation struggle, have internalised a colonial mentality based on hierrachy and crass materialism. The structure of our society remains highly influenced by Whiteness, and this is reinforced and internalised by the dominance of US media that saturates our island.

    I feel that this is a huge obstacle in the development of a truly creole society. Bermudianess cannot, and should not, be defined by Whiteness or Blackness but as a creation of a multiplicity of different elements where no one element holds primacy over the others, but at the same time not destroying them as unique parts.

    I feel sometimes that the Whites are afraid of embracing this unity in diversity, while the Blacks are reacting (understandably so) to the suppression of Blackness which still continues in our present time. Our objective should not be a ‘black and white’ choice between assimilationism or Blackness (identity politics I guess is the best term), but instead the forging of a truly authentic creole culture – which also means resisting US cultural assimilation as much as it meant resisting UK cultural assimilation.

  9. I gather Mr. Starling that Ms. Furbert would fall into your “bad black” idea?

    I will try not to take offense at her perception of me simply because I understand that she has a reputation of being somewhat confrontational and that I fear is not in the best interest of open dialogue.

    I wonder if Ms. Furbert, who feels that I am out of touch with reality, might enlighten me with her thoughts as to why she feels that way? Maybe you might enlighten me as well since I fear you might also feel the same way?

    I look forward to both of your thoughts.

  10. Hi AVP, I think your question about when values and bearing are simply those of America or society lead to some interesting questions of their own.

    To me you are touching on ideas of cultural hegemony and dominance. In the US the White middle class is the dominant social class and the values and so on of this class are taken as the universal values, etc. of the USA as a whole. This includes notions of race, gender, moral and cultural norms. This leads to what may be called a cultural cringe, or the cultural alienation of those outside of this dominant class. This leads to either an inferiority complex amongst the dominated (assimilationism), or a militant reaction to this dominance (‘Blackness’ for example).

  11. Hi Sparxx, in my thinking it is not the person that self-identifies as a ‘bad black’ or a ‘good black’, rather that person is percieved by others in these categories. I do think that most of White Bermuda would categorise Ms. Furbert as a ‘bad black’ in as much as they see her as refusing to ‘move on’ when it comes to race.

    My reading of your comment was that you seem to be advocating for ‘good Blacks’ who are willing to stop talking about race – I see you as being pro-assimilationist and negating the structural problems relating to race. You seem to be placing most of the problem as one of personal responsibility (agency) as a burden on the victims. Perhaps I am mistaken, but that is how I interpret your comment. Perhaps Ms. Furbert interpreted it similarly?

    In particular I interpreted the above from this passage:

    “Whites have obviously moved on from the horrors of slavery, and blacks should accept that while some whites will be willing to help heal the wounds of the past, most whites have disconnected and are beyond it. Blacks who continue to be held down because of the white man are not doing themselves any favors.”

    I hope that this is helpful for you understanding my comments.

  12. Surely there’s a third category, as long as we’re labelling people… Those that appear to be stuck in the past, but are actually using this justifiable anger and outrage for their own personal gain, be it political, financial or personal…

  13. Martin,

    These are Jonathan’s words, not mine “I was thinking overnight more about the issues of race in the USA, in their ‘post-racial’ age ushered in by the election of Mr. Obama”. Obviously he believes (or believed) that Obama ushered in a “post-racial” age, hence my comments.

    Sparxx, it really matters not to me whether Jonathan or anyone else for that matter considers me a “bad black” or a “good black” as I am who I am. While I respect what Jonathan, is trying to do via this blog, I also except that he is limited in understanding the reality of “being black in Bermuda”.

    You say that you “understand that I have a reputation of being somewhat confrontational”, you should also understand that I also have a reputation of speaking the truth, which some perceive as being confrontational.

    By the way, I have no idea what Jonathan is trying to say in his post beginning “Hi AVP, I think your question about when values and . . . .” The fact of the matter is that racism is alive and well in Bermuda, South Africa and the U.S.A. As Farrakan said to me “America has a black President, but nothing really has changed for Black Americans; Nelson Mandela was released after spending 27 years in prison, but nothing really has changed for Black South Africans”. In Bermuda we have had several black premiers/government leaders (Alex Scott, Jennifer Smith, Pamela Gordon, John Swan, E.T. Richards) but racism is very much alive and well.

    Why is that?

  14. Hi LaVerne, again, I want to stress that I never thought that the election of Mr. Obama ushered in a ‘post-racial age’ for the USA. On the contrary I have long criticised what I see as liberal White America’s idea that his election did just that.

    You are completely correct that I have a limited “understanding [of] the reality of “being black in Bermuda”. As far as I am aware I have never claimed otherwise. I self-identify as White, 99% of people outside and inside of Bermuda identify me as White, and I fully recognise I have more in common (culturally at least) with White Bermuda. My perceptions and such are fully conditioned by this, though I do seek to question what I see as White complicity in maintaining an institutionally racist system.

  15. Mr. Starling…

    You would like to see Bermudian politics styled after a South African system? How does that happen in an environment that has no political/social or economical similarities to SA? Our island model (whether racist or not) has evolved to a point where deconstruction/reconstruction of that model would not be easy. I don’t know what happens in SA, but I have not seen much support from them (or anyone in the ANC) in the removal of Sudan President Bashir, which has been ordered by the world court.

    Back to our reality… I try to find a defined goal, A position where blacks would ultimately be happy. I try to seek understanding and a POV that educates me, so that I may educate my children. It is difficult for me to describe a black “Camelot” because there are very few models for which to use as an example. I can not draw on the Bahamas or SA for experience, because I am unsure of their model’s success.

    You seemingly have a world of knowledge and ideas. Thoughts of a “creole” nation that embraces both blacks and whites, but I wonder is that truly what most blacks want? Would a loss of “membership” finally allow for peace of mind? Is a loss of “membership” truly required? To be honest, I think blacks should be proud of who they are, and continue their path with or without whites.

    The success models are many. Blacks in Bermuda have a chance to define history. With each passing day we see more and more blacks empowered, forging their path, removing obstacles and becoming all those things that they have been deprived of. As we clearly see racism as a problem in our society, we can continue to find clear methods to defeat it.

    Yes, we still have a long way to go.

  16. Hi Sparxx – I wasn’t saying that the SA model and Bermuda were identical. Not by a long shot. My intention was rather to stress that there were similarities that we could look at as regards demographics, politics and social justice. Similarly there are major differences as a result of geographic, cultural, economic and historical factors.

    Also, my comments on the need to develop a creole culture were not to say the individual constituents should lose themselves in the process. Not at all. We would still have Whites and Blacks and other sub-cultures. My focus was on the emphasis shifting from White supremacy and Black Power (thesis and antithesis) towards the construction of creolisation (synthesis).

  17. Ms Furbert…

    “Why is that”?

    I guess the answer to that depends on what indicators you expect to see that suggest racism is no longer as rampant.

    If, for example, economic control is your goal, then Larry’s post above may answer your point, i.e.

    “However, as long as Bermuda is a business platform for companies who ‘start-up’ with capital counted in $100m chunks, Bermudians generally, and black Bermudians particularly, will probably never match the total economic power that will usually be employed and deployed in Bermuda”.

    As he said, you have political power, but the economic power is denied you.

    With regards to President Obama, I would have been surprised if black America had seen much of a change at this stage. Maybe Obama can never be true to his roots and his history? There again, maybe in time he will bring about change. There are, after all, many ways of skinning a cat.

    I suspect if you were honest, you would admit that life since 1998 has improved your own situation and that the racism you talk of is not as prevalent as it was?

    You are outspoken it’s true. But, as you say, you tell it as it is and as you see it. The difficulty that many have with you is that (in my memory of blogging) other than on one occassion, i.e. overseas education, rarely have we been able to find a consensus with you.

    There is so rarely a meeting of the minds with you.

  18. Mr. Starling:

    My meaning in that statement was this:

    Most whites have disconnected when it comes to accepting responsibility for the horrors of slavery. I am not advocating this stance at all. It’s a fact. We know that most whites will not feel guilt for what they perceive are sins that are ” guilt by association”.

    I am also not advocating a “good-black/ bad-black” scenario at all. I am stating MY observation that some blacks have become complacent through assimilation and some haven’t and that they should NOT be defined as either “good” or “bad”.

    I am not advocating assimilation at all, I am advocating education and a defined vision of what blacks really want. Blacks have suffered through many generations of assimilation and as such if there is a better way, an enlightened path, please, please, please… enlighten the rest of us!

    My intent was to define that whites are in denial and that blacks shouldn’t sit around and wait for that apology.

    Ms. Furbert:

    I’m glad you choose to speak your truth. It makes it easier for me to understand your meaning. Still you have accused myself and now Jonathan of not having a grasp on the reality of Bermuda, so if I may ask you (ever so politely), what is the truth? What is the reality of racism in Bermuda?

  19. “To me you are touching on ideas of cultural hegemony and dominance. In the US the White middle class is the dominant social class and the values and so on of this class are taken as the universal values, etc. of the USA as a whole. This includes notions of race, gender, moral and cultural norms. This leads to what may be called a cultural cringe, or the cultural alienation of those outside of this dominant class. This leads to either an inferiority complex amongst the dominated (assimilationism), or a militant reaction to this dominance (’Blackness’ for example).”

    Aye, Jonathan, you’ve got a lot of mighty big words in that, and I be but a simple poster. 😉
    (Intended solely for Mr. Starling, with apologies to Geoffrey Rush).

    Not sure about the hegemony concept; I am not trying to apply US societal norms to other countries. I’m also not sure, if the values of the American middle class (of any race) are rejected as unfair or insufficiently inclusive out of hand, then what alternatives exist? What is the point of the militant reaction? To deprive the middle class of what it has achieved? To impose one society on another? Doesn’t sound like advancement, or a better society. And I would take VERY strong issue if an argument was made that a value of the US middle class was the oppression of people of color. The US has its share of supremists, racists and other fringe groups, hardly mainstream society, that are an embarrassment to most US citizens.

    American society is flawed in many ways, but has its strengths as well. But I struggle with a characterization that takes it solely as a White society, and again note that defining the issue in terms of White society and Black assimilation on its face introduces a winners/losers concept that is not constructive. And in the process, also trivializes the effort of whites, both formally and informally, to create an inclusive society in the US.

    As to cultural alienation, I’m not sure exactly either what that means, or how it gets cured. But I am happy to be educated.

  20. LaVerne Furbert wrote:
    “…you should also understand that I also have a reputation of speaking the truth…”

    Ms. Furbert, You have often been quick to call people out when you think they are in error; in fairness you should have the same treatment. So to your quote above, it would be more correct for you to say that you have a reputation of CLAIMING to speak the truth. I can think of at least three instances where what you have said or written supports more a reputation of NOT speaking the truth. I’ll go into details if you wish…

  21. LOL – well, I am supposed to be devoting the next day or two to my work, so I don’t have the time to respond fully on this one. I’ll write a piece later in the week to bring these concepts into our discourse better. In the mean time Wikipedia gives an intro into them which is sufficient:

    Cultural cringe –

    Cultural alienation –

    Colonial mentality –


    In brief, as a response to AVP and Sparxx – I am not saying that one dominant schema (Whiteness) should be replaced by another (Blackness). As far as I’m concerned ‘Blackness’ is a reaction and reconstruction (though superficially opposite) of the very problems of Whiteness that Blackness critiques. It is an understandable reaction, I guess you could call it an anti-racist racism as Foucalt does, but what is needed is a new synthesis where neither is dominant. This is where my idea of creolisation as opposed to hegemonic domination comes into play.

    I take the point that many White’s do not feel that they are connected to the past racism, but the fact is that they continue to benefit from privilege, and what is more declaring equality without addressing the systematic inequalities of the past is not equality. It just freezes the inequalities as they were, and continues them through inertia.

    Whites may very well be in denial, and Blacks should not waste their time wanting an apology. Fair enough. But we (all sides) do need to engage in critical thought about our society and why it is how it is, while at the same time taking practical action to address these inequalities (in the economic, political and cultural senses). I don’t claim to have any enlightened blueprint for doing this. I do feel that dialogue – that is critical reflection is probably a good starting point. And to a degree that is what this discussion and others attempts to do. It’s not enough, and we need to take it from verbalisms to actual practical applications. But it seems a good start.

    What are the values of the US White middle class – which by extension become the dominant ideology of the USA and then that of the world through US cultural imperialism?

    I would say, as a sketch, that they include:

    – A commitment to ‘family values’ with the nuclear family as the norm (as the essentiall ethical and moral unity of society).

    – A commitment to ‘hard work and personal responsibility’ with a blindness to structural inequalities, in particular how this relates to race, gender and class.

    – An emphasis on education as a means of betterment (this is truly part of the prior point though).

    – Commitment to consumerist lifestyles.

    Of course there is great diversity and all that, but I feel the above are a good abstraction all the same. I should also note that it is a mistake to give primacy to either AGENCY or STRUCTURE. Rather it is important to note that both are important, but that agency itself is shaped by the structure, and in turn can shape the structure. Dialectically like.

  22. “but what is needed is a new synthesis where neither is dominant”.

    Isn’t there a step before that? Don’t we need a meeting of the minds that this new common ground is where blacks and whites want to be?

    Little point in rowing up the river if we are in different boats and going in different directions.

  23. Perhaps the whole over-simplification of “good-black” and “bad-black”, or for that matter, even “good-white” and “bad-white”, is at the root of the problem.

    Personally I eschew labels as they are too limiting, and always inaccurate.

    If anyone is going to move beyond the very sad state of things as they are now, then they all have to shut up and just listen. No recrimination, no finger pointing. It’s not the 60s, hell most of us weren’t even born then. And the one thing that we should have taken to heart from those turbulent times was MLK’s statement:

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    Works both ways, you know. The pendulum has swung over, it needs to find equilibrium.

    Bermuda is possibly the most egalitarian place on earth. Success stories abound, and have for some time. If someone is willing to do the work necessary to get ahead, they will. But most are taking the bitching and moaning route, when all that’s needed is a little introspection on their part, and toning down their rampant consumerism.

  24. Martin,

    I’m not sure there is a “common ground” for blacks and whites. However, there would be some blacks and some whites who could have a meeting of the minds, very few of whom have been vocal about it. To extend your analogy, different boats going in different directions (hugging one bank or the other, or staying in midstream, or…) could still move us all upstream.

  25. I’m sorry, but I have to reject the entire thesis, this “either/or” thing.

    Black folks are either militant or submissive?

    This is just “House vs Field” all over again. Look how well THAT worked out!

    From what I can understand from reading this, “Bad Blacks” are preferable because they “keep it real” or whatever? Is that right?

    There’s no “either/or” about it and to label one side of this in a negative way isn’t helping, nor is it moving us forward.

    Why not change the labels to “Sell outs, REAL blackness”?
    or “Uncle Toms, Proud, vibrant nubian royalty”?

    I reject the concept that there’s only one side of this or the other, and I reject that, if there ARE only two sides, that only one of them are working, which is what seems to be seeping through as we go on.

  26. Hi UE – your alternative names would be more or less legitimate/interchangeable, yes.

    I agree that its not possible to ‘pigeon-hole’ these things, and that is not my intention. The terms refer to abstract concepts more than literal manifestations. I guess sort of like the concepts relating to male/female, or even black/white – there are certainly a range between these abstract polar opposites if we are honest about it.

  27. Stuart

    Maybe there are times in the affairs of man when certain conversations are simply destined to not bear fruit.

    That said, I take the point about all being further up stream.

  28. Um… the things you describe, male/female, black/white, are pretty defined, aren’t they?
    Penis/vagina, shared heritage and ancestry?

    Yes, in the black and white one, there are arguments that there’s more shades of gray, but I think you’ll agree that, because of our racist heritage, even a lick makes you black, or allows you to identify as black… at least in Bermuda.

    However, with this essay, you’re basically only allotting two boxes, one good, one bad (and, funnily enough, presenting them as the opposite of their labels). The problem is, the vast majority of people (and, as always, this is only my opinion…) don’t fall into either of them. In fact, they way these have been defined, with the “Bad Blacks” appearing as noble crusaders against all injustice (that’s my own hyperbole) and militant in their stance and the “good blacks” appearing as milquetoast sell-outs and submissive in THEIR stance, you’ve pretty much put the majority into the negative category, which, to me, makes this essay seem less of an observation and more of a call to arms. Or, at the very least, a denunciation of “good blacks”.

    The problem is, for me, that certain… vocal citizens… would certainly be categorized as “Bad Blacks” and are NOT, in fact, helping the cause in any way and ARE, in fact, using their “Bad Black” status as a weapon to force their twisted, racist message through.

    On another note, Jeremiah Wright is certainly a very good example of the sort of “Bad Black” that exemplifies the group you describe. A man with passion preaching a very valid message. Unpalatable to some, if not most, whites? Maybe. But that doesn’t make it invalid. The controversial sermon that caused such a stink was actually quite amazing and did, in fact, sum up my feelings on the matter.

    And, finally, I understand what you were trying to say with the use of quotes around “Ushered in a post-racial world” or whatever, and I agree. That whole concept is complete and utter bullshit… but one that certain people believe in the face of all contrary evidence.
    I’m not sure if you remember the thread on Sucks about “Racism is dead”, but there was certainly a fight on our hands regarding this very thing.
    So, for the record, I just want to say…

    Racism isn’t dead. It’s alive and well… and growing.

  29. On the contrary UE I think you will find that while we have clear definitions there exist large variety in them – and especially when we move from the purely biological categories of sex to those of gender. As for purely physical features while there are definitely ‘Manly men’ there are also effeminate men (in purely physical features), likewise for women, and then you get the whole issue of hermaphrodites like the Hijra in India.

    On race, surely you are well aware of how in Bermuda there exist a whole range of skin colours, facial features and hair textures?

    Either way my essay was far less a ‘call to arms’ rather than a look at White American reactions to the race question.

    This passage of yours:

    “The problem is, for me, that certain… vocal citizens… would certainly be categorized as “Bad Blacks” and are NOT, in fact, helping the cause in any way and ARE, in fact, using their “Bad Black” status as a weapon to force their twisted, racist message through.”

    At what point does one draw a line between someone articulating their views on institutionalised racism and someone using it as a ‘weapon to force their twisted, racist message through’? My point is that White America accepts and encourages those who it sees as ‘progressive and working to build bridges’ and hates on those it sees as challenging the comfortable worldview of White America – that dares to articulate the problems of structural racism and steps to correct that problem.

    Just look at Martin Luther King Jnr as an example here. I’ve mentioned this several times on this blog. Any number of White Americans (and they have their counterparts in Bermuda) passionately quote (and no doubt honestly believe) the speeches of ‘I have a dream’ about howone day people shouldn’t be judged by the colour of their skin. That part of MLK’s legacy is amplified by White America in its media. But MLK explicitly argued that formal desegration was not the end of the struggle but the beginning – that it needed to be followed by issues of reparations and affirmative action to reverse the systematic inequalities of racial oppression. And yet this aspect of MLK – by far the more substantial – is routinely ommitted by White America.

    I think that kind of gets to the heart of the issue here. White America is all very much opposed to Jim Crow. But it totally fails to even recognise Jim Crow’s descendat, James Crowe, Esquire – a far more sophisticated and prevalent problem.

    As you say, racism isn’t dead, it’s alive and well. How do we tackle it?

  30. We have had the issue of sweeping generalisationns on many an occasion, and the dangers of them.

    Can someone (anyone) please open up the expression…”racism is alive and well (in Bermuda)”…into tangible chunks that can be examined and addressed?

  31. “How do we tackle it”………

    Get rid of the hook. Drop the bait and extend that hand that is always offered but shunned because of the past.

    A mirror is a reflection….a window is what you dream………..

    Rummy…circa….5400 BC…………………………..

  32. Jon, the answer is quite simple on how we tackle racism.

    First step is to NOT get caught up in the parallels with the US. We are poles apart, despite what the prevailing opinion may be. Ask yourself this question: Would you rather be a black man in Bermuda, or a black man in the US? Give that some thought. Personally, I’d take Bermuda any day. Mind you, I choose to not identify as either. I’m at a loss to see why it matters in the first place, but that’s the view of the dinosaurs, and they are so vocal.

    The next thing to tackle is the blame game. It’s as ridiculous to blame people under 50 for wrongs that their ancestors might have done, or some perceived benefit they might have currently. Similarly, white people must acknowledge that wrongs were done, and make strides towards reverting those wrongs. The only effective and fair way to do that is with educational initiatives and mentoring. Any monetary thing will fail, because there’s no possible way to estimate the value, and there is no follow-on system. The whole give a man to fish, teach him how to fish allegory. Plus, who pays?

    The next thing to do is denounce any and everyone who choses to treat someone differently due to their ethnicity as a racist. I’m sure you are well aware of the pernicious anti-asian sentiment here, which has been around a long time before the Uighurs. Everyone has to be held to the same standards.

    There comes a time when everyone has to take responsibility for one’s own actions. This is something that I’ve stressed to every young man I’ve mentored. It’s amazing to see what that does for them.

    FWIW, all of the pundits on this thorny subject haven’t done a damn thing other than offer opinions. If they were truly interested in improving things, bringing everyone up to the same level, they would push for education reform, mentor the disadvantaged, and do charity work. No, political parties do not qualify as charity work. Al that’s gone on is a lot of hot air and wasted electrons.

    Good black/bad black. That simple pigeonholing is an insult to all. By their deeds you shall know them. That’s all you need to know.

  33. Martin, I would again point to the issues illustrated by the CURE statistics. I think we are all well aware of how statistics can be played with, but the raw data is available, and it looks to me that no matter how it is looked at, there is significant evidence of institutional racism in as much as this is reflected in economic, social (profession privilege) and intellectual (education) capital in Bermuda’s races.

    However entrenched economic inequalities and the like are only one aspect of institutional racism that we need to tackle. There is also the ingrained unconscious racism or colonial mentality of Black inferiority and White superiority. This White supremacist (and no doubt unconscious) ideology runs through pretty much every aspect of society like a white thread. And even if we in Bermuda were to get busy on correcting the economic issues of institutional racism we will still have to keep up a constant battle to this colonial inferiority/superiority issue in as much as we are saturated with US media with its underlying message of White supremacy (again, albeit unconscious).

  34. RenMan – Again, I am not pigeon-holing people, I am merely expressing what I see as the reaction of White America when it comes to the issue of race in the USA. Assimilation in White America (or simply not questioning the structural inequalities) is seen as ‘progressive and constructive’ on the issue of race, while those who point out the structural/institutional racism are portrayed as divisive, making excuses or even reverse racists.

    And while you are correct that we should not get caught up with US parrallels (I myself think it is more instructive to balance this with a study of both South Africa and either Bahamas or Barbados), we can not ignore the relevance that the African-American discourse has in Bermuda. This is partly due to our proximity to the USA but much more to do with our saturation with US cultural media (television and cinema in particular). I should also stress once more that this thread was my observations of White America in reaction to Black America – I never said direct comparisons could be made with Bermuda.

    Again I don’t think anyone here is arguing that reparations should be some sort of taxation of all Whites and cheques cut out to all Blacks. That’s very much in my opinion a bogeyman argument. I personally see reparations in the form of a systematic redistribution or resources in the form of free and high quality medical care, education and building community and quality neighbourhoods/living conditions.

    Recognising that there is institutional racism, and that there is White privilege, or rather an inferiority/superiority situation is part of this process. It may not be practical action to deconstruct institutional racism, but it at least lays the foundation for doing such.

  35. Jon, please don’t feel that I’m being harsh on you. You and I are mostly in agreement on this issue. But your initial statements are just going to bring out the usual sycophants who’ll go on their bashing away (and that’s both sides).

    I was going to bring up SA, Bahamas, and Barbados as better examples too. Nice. Much better parallels to here, although SA was a bit extreme on the apartheid side. Certainly better examples on how to progress after the fact.

    The biggest problem is that no-one who is calling for a solution is offering one. When Dr. Hodgson herself said that the wrongs last for seven generations, there’s no hope for moving forward. It’s all about affixing blame, so to speak.

    I think that much of institutional racism, for want of a better term, is an ingrained bias. And whatever is said in the CURE stats is skewed by the expat component. I have consulted for over 400 local companies. Only in three did I ever see anything approaching racism. Needless to say, I stopped working with them immediately. But then, perhaps, I could miss certain subtleties that more sensitive types would not.

    You yourself have been maligned because of your ethnicity. You can qualify it all you want, but that doesn’t make it right. That’s the point I’m trying to make. It’s like the Janet Jackson song, “What have you done for me lately?” When does it end?

    Apparently, the million dollars I have raised for charity over the past 20 years, the many youngsters I’ve mentored and taught, the educational initiatives I have pushed time and time again, sports I have coached, charities I have built and support, community outreach programs, building restorations, all account for naught because I’m too light of a billy-boy to be accepted. Evidently I have to keep on “proving” myself, and then the “proof” is immediately forgotten and I’m somehow a bad bastard again.

    I don’t want praise or acclamation for these things, I did them because I was taught to give back to the community. Life has been good to me, I was able to be moderately successful despite not having a penny to my name after my undergrad graduation. I still don’t have money, but I have knowledge, and that’s infinitely more valuable.

    As for inferiority/superiority complexes, each individual has to address their own. No amount of systemic analysis will deal with that. If we could identify places that were institutionally racist, then it would be easy. What everyone deserves is the same opportunity. Then they can make of that what they will. But they have to take that opportunity. And a decent education is the best way, in fact the only way, to give them that opportunity.

  36. Thanks Ren. I was having a reflective moment yesterday. And your absolutely correct about ‘being a black man in America’.

    The black and even mixed man in Bermuda has a much easier time. Most if not all are from hardworking families that have support from relatives and friends. There is always bad apples wherever you go/live. Just look around you at the black man on the street, the bussinesses they run, the participation in sports, the premises they own and take pride in.

    Life is a pisser everywhere now but I know than many on the island are thankful and greatful to be there. Every country has had it share of turmoil. Bermuda is small enough to contain it if they put their heads together rather than up their butts.

    Lets start more hand shaking and hugging then embrace the conversation. Recognise the past and lets move on.

    We have been at sea for 400 years and like I have mentioned many times, we have never had major disasters, famine, floods, et al. Just some bumps in the road and we should be grateful.

    We were doing great things during the 1600’s and 1700’s whilst other countries fought amongst themselves and had wars et al. And yes there was discrimination here for a long time. I can attest too that because I was subject too it.

    Every parish should have a “PWD” association. The People Works Department and let their actions shine. I know we have vestry’s and Lions, and Rotary. I like the ‘rotary’ part…..we just keep going around in circles.

    Lets get together people for the sake of the children and theirs.


    Going for a walk and hopefully I won’t slip in the stream this time after being startled by a fox. Damn St. Davids islanders………….

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