The UBP

An overwhelmingly white UBP scares me! In February 1834, pre-empting Emancipation, Bermuda’s all white legislature raised the property vote qualification from 40 Pounds to 100 Pounds. This simple act ensured the future disenfranchisement of all the black slaves who were due to be freed on  1st August 1834.            In 1963, the three hundred forty year-old Property Vote was replaced by the Plus Vote. Bermuda’s register of voters grew from around 7,500 voters, with four white voters for every black voter; to about 15,000 voters, but now with about two black voters for every one white voter. However, in this new Plus Vote system, everybody got one vote but property owners got two votes. This ensured that ultimate political power remained in white hands.             The Plus Vote was set for repeal in 1966. White Bermudians understood that to retain power, they would have to receive all the minority white population votes plus a proportion of the majority black population votes.        In August 1964, Sir Henry Tucker helped create the United Bermuda Party. Mr Ernest Vesey, white and a UBP Cabinet Minister, describes the thinking behind the 1964 start-up of the UBP: “If blacks hadn’t joined [the UBP] would have been doomed to failure.”[*] The UBP’s sole purpose was to hold on to the political power that white Bermudians had always held.            To do this, the UBP had to get and then hold on to a guaranteed bloc of black voter support. The UBP got that black support by promising to assimilate blacks into Bermuda’s social and economic worlds and by offering to share political power.            In 1974, ten years after the UBP’s start, UBP blacks were disenchanted by the failure to deliver on the promises. They formed the UBP’s Black Caucus. Even after Sir John Swan’s 1982 accession to power, UBP blacks remained dissatisfied. Dr Newman and Dr Swain in the mid-nineties reported – to the UBP – on a clear lack of black progress. Butterfield Bank’s CEO, John Tugwell, speaking as late as 1998, spoke out – yet again – on his recognition of a lack of black progress in that business organization.             From all of that, one fact distils. The UBP was created in order to maintain the dominance of one racial group over another. From its 1964 start to 1998, despite receiving black voter support, despite having a popular black leader, despite even having a majority of elected black UBP parliamentarians; the UBP – right up to 1998 – still maintained the dominance of Bermuda’s minority racial group over Bermuda’s majority racial group.            In 1998, Bermuda’s demographic majority – as embodied in the PLP – wrenched political power from the hands of the racial minority – as embodied in the UBP.  A political party composed of people from the majority of Bermuda’s population and representing the interests of the majority of Bermuda’s population was now in power.            In 2007, it seems that Bermuda’s white voters have remained uniquely loyal to the UBP. Whites have not crossed any racial lines – as blacks did in joining the UBP – to become part of the governing party.              When I look at the UBP, I see a political party that appears overwhelmingly white. I sense and see a long whip that curls back to 1964 and flicks even further back to 1834. In 2007, the buzz-words of ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusive’ do not camouflage or conceal that whip; nor do they alter the demographics of the UBP.  I see what I’ve described.                      When I see the UBP, my subconscious sees attachments to an ugly political past. If the UBP does not stand for, or represent, a group that is seeking to re-assert white dominance; then what does the UBP stand for and how am I to believe it?            I want peace, no crime, a good education system, and a fair chance at all available opportunities. I believe that what I want is the same as any white Bermudian wants. But if white Bermudians find it necessary – or desirable – or to their advantage – to stand together but separate from me, I am alarmed.  What do they want that is different from what I want?            I – and everyone else – knows the past.  I do not want a replay of racial history. So an overwhelmingly white UBP scares me, chills me, makes me shiver!            Wayne Furbert? Maxie Burgess? Gwyneth Rawlins? The others…?              They are unfortunate human corks bobbing about on the river of Bermuda’s white history and reality. They don’t really matter. What really matters is what will white Bermudians do?

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