Six decades ago, I was born into a Bermuda that, because I was black, consigned me into the bottom half of Bermuda society. Six decades later, no person in Bermuda is consigned in the same way. Now, birth to a single parent or into a dysfunctional family unit are the primary consigners of place.
Bermuda probably has more black millionaires per thousand of population than every other place on this earth. Admittedly, counting a Bermuda millionaire may mean just counting a homeowner, but that doesn’t change the dollar reality. Bermuda, with a white minority population, has a black majority government. There are no white faces occupying the government front bench.
Still there are calls for some kind of reconciliation or rapprochement between blacks and whites. But is that necessary? Is it important? Does it matter?
Does it really matter that there are places in Bermuda where pockets of people of like kinds gather? Does it matter that ‘Docksiders’ is considered a white expat hangout; that the ‘Rec’ is a black club; that the AME Church is probably 99% black; that the congregations of Bermuda’s Lutheran Church may be 95% white; that ‘horse-racing’ is white and ‘motor-cross’ is black? Does it matter?
I have little in common with a profane [I prefer clean language], beer-swilling [I prefer wine, and red wine, at that], inarticulate [I prefer intelligent conversation] person whose only interest is yesterday’s ‘game’. No matter what colour or who that person is, I will not encourage his proximate presence.
I, and all other Bermudians, have emerged from the separated worlds into which we were consigned at birth to one world where the people who traipse through my life – and through whose lives I traipse – are both black and white. If I tell you that my niece has a son – you cannot tell if I’m describing a white or black person. The people who regularly turn up on my doorstep are of either race.
In the recent past, in various public utterances, a few people – a tiny few – have looked back at Bermuda’s past and at past global history. They’ve brought forward issues of the past. They talk of both reconciliation and revenge in a time where most young Bermudians have achieved a high degree of togetherness and are happily mixing and sharing their slightly different cultures and significantly different histories. These vocal few need to move on and let go of those elements of the past that are no longer relevant.
Certainly, I know my racial history. Certainly, I know that my black history is different from white history. My thirteen years of writing and two books will tell you that. I don’t hide it. I’ve never hidden it. But I do not flaunt it like some tattered flag.
Proclaiming that they’re from America’s black ‘ghettos’, black American Rap stars, have revived the use of the word ‘nigger’. They demean themselves. They demean themselves to help them get more dollars for more ‘bling’. They’re at the other end of the spectrum from Robeson, Malcolm X, Cosby, Colin, Oprah….
Here in Bermuda, we’ve had the American speaker and writer, Tim Wise, try to get white Bermudians to do something or other – I’m not quite sure what – to achieve some kind of better rapprochement between black and white Bermudians.
I don’t believe there is any need for that. We’ve achieved racial parity. There are no statutory barriers barring anyone from anything on the grounds of race. The only barriers left are barriers against gender and sexual orientation. For any barrier that still exists, if the will of the people is that the barrier should be removed, then the barrier can be removed in the two seconds that it takes to put an ‘X’ on a ballot paper.
For either side in Bermuda, waving the race flag in today’s Bermuda is like having the Ku Klux Klan riding around in their pointy hats while wearing red, gold, and green robes – or Louis Farrakhan’s Muslims sporting White Aryan Race insignia.
Racial pasts are past. The present and future lie in the kind of ordinary interchanges that I find so ordinary in my ordinary daily life.
I’m black. I’m proud. I know my black history. I live my Bermuda life in a Bermuda that’s freer than it ever used to be. I live, today, by looking and thinking and acting and working forward. Not past.