By its very nature, covert racism is not easy to identify. It’s not impossible, but it is difficult. I’ll do my best!
Covert Personal/Ideological Racism
This form of racism is found in a variety of forms.
One of them is when statistical facts, resulting from structural/systemic racism and the subsequent racial inequalities that persist in Bermuda, are interpreted not in terms of the structural factors in question but in terms of failings on the part of members of the race most affected.
For example, if Blacks in Bermuda consistently have lowed educational attainments than White Bermudians, rather than looking at the structural factors (from social and economic capital, to the built environment, etc) that may explain these failings, these failings are instead interpreted in racial terms. ‘Blacks don’t place enough value on education’, for example. There are a number of other possible versions, such as those relating to racial interpretations concerning drug use, criminality, behaviour in general, teenage pregnancy, etc.
The failure of Whites to integrate social spheres considered ‘Black’ may also be seen in this context. In this I refer to patronage of Black businesses (such as those in north-east Hamilton) or clubs, or even trade unions or political parties, may all be considered in these terms. This may also be seen in terms of White flight from social spheres previously dominated by Whites, such as cricket or football clubs. It is not necessarily easy to identify the exact causes behind these actions (or lack of actions), and a variety of explanations may be offered, but in general terms it is hard not to conclude that there is some form of covert personal/ideological racism being involved.
One key form, and perhaps the main one, is the refusal to acknowledge structural/systemic racism, or racial inequalities, as a reality. This may be done in two main ways:
1) The refusal to identify racism in any form beyond that of overt personal/ideological racism or overt structural/systemic racism. If that is the only form of racism one accepts, then it is easy to deny that the other, covert, versions of racism even exist.
2) The refusal to accept race as a social category altogether. This is a particular phenomenon found in many White liberal reactions (in my experience). They cite the scientific findings that the concept of biological race are a myth, for example. In this they fail to acknowledge that the biological reality (or non-reality in this case) of race, is irrelevant. Race exists as a social reality, whether it was originally a manufactured social category or not is irrelevant; what is relevant is that it does exist as a social category, and that racial inequalities are measurable.
By refusing to acknowledge the reality of (covert) structural/systemic racism, by insisting on ‘colour-blindness’, one helps to perpetuate and reinforce (covert) structural/systemic racism. By refusing to adopt, or actively resisting, policies which may help dismantle (covert) structural/systemic racism, one helps to perpetuate and reinforce (covert) structural/systemic racism.
In this way, such individuals, or actors, may, arguably, be considered ‘racist’ in that their actions help maintain racial inequalities, even if they defend their actions in terms of ‘colour-blindness’.
Covert Structural/Systemic Racism
Again, this is hard to detail in terms of its mechanisms, and it is in many ways pervasive in our society. I will try to provide only a basic outline here (for sake of brevity and clarity, but with the loss of being definitive).
I don’t think anyone in Bermuda would realistically seek to deny that under the era of segregation, and even earlier, under slavery, Black Bermudians were systematically disadvantaged socially, psychologically and economically, while White Bermudians were socially, psychologically and economically empowered.
It is true that even during segregation there were individuals that may be considered more successful or more unsuccessful in both races, and that there were (and continue to be) both Black and White lower, middle and upper classes. But in general terms, Black Bermudians were actively disadvantaged while White Bermudians were actively advantaged.
As a result of this overt structural/systemic racism (of slavery and segregation), when overt structural/systemic racism was dismantled and formal segregation ended, there existed stark inequalities between Black and White Bermudians in terms of social, human and economic capital (I use these terms to encompass education, skill-sets, network connections, access to power or money, and other such ‘capitals’).
Since the end of segregation, these inequalities have not been corrected. After decades and centuries of active disempowerment of Black Bermudians (and the active empowerment of White Bermudians) to expect that these inequalities would cease to exist simply by ending overt structural/systemic racism is, quite frankly, unrealistic.
As no policies were enacted to reduce these racial inequalities, and instead the system adopted a non-racial (colour-blind) approach, these inequalities have been largely maintained, and in some instances reinforced. Racial inequalities have largely continued as a result of inertia, and in some ways have actually gotten worse. This does not deny that there have been Black successes, but in general terms racial inequalities exist as a result of inaction.
Non-intervention to reduce the racial inequalities resulting from overt structural/systemic racism leads to maintaining racial inequalities through covert structural/systemic racism, and provides the ground for covert (and even overt) personal/ideological racism.
For the sake of space I’ll end this here. I can try and expand on issues later. In my next post I’ll try to outline some steps that may help build a non-racist Bermuda.