I was working away last Saturday morning. As happens, I had the radio turned on. It was one of these sets that have a multiplicity of buttons, dials, displays, and acronyms that say everything but how to tune in to a particular station. So as I worked, I listened – as background noise – to what was happening on that day at that time with the radio program that someone else had selected.
The radio station was one of Bermuda’s newest stations. The announcer, or whatever designation is now used, seemed to be an American. Certainly this announcer’s choice of language, his inflections, and his subject matter were highly appropriate to America. Particularly black America. I think he might have been from Chicago. He might even have been broadcasting from Chicago.
Amongst other announcements, he had a ‘joke’ announcement about offering free DNA tests to ‘baby mommas’ so that they could test a few guys and so find their ‘baby daddys’. More than any other, that announcement did its work. It catapulted out of the background, caught my full attention, and made me listen much closer.
Listening closer, it became clear to me that whoever this guy was, he was broadcasting through a Bermuda radio station, that was actually operating in Bermuda, to a Bermuda listening audience. However, his ‘sell’ and style seemed aimed at a black American listener-ship from what Americans call the ‘inner city’.
You’ve probably heard of Condi Rice’s meeting with Russia’s Putin and the UK’s Tony Blair. You know who Colin Powell is. So you know that black Americans now exist at all levels of American society. Top to bottom.
You’ll certainly recall the still fresh images from Katrina’s smashing blows at New Orleans. You may know that on Sunday 16th October, thousands of black Americans reprised the all-black Million Man March of ten years ago. Even now, in 2005, black Americans acknowledge that they are still living, as Dr Martin Luther King described it in 1965, in “America’s basement.”
In 2005, black Americans – by their own admission – will still tell you that they do not feel that they have yet gotten their rightful place in American society. Black Americans will still tell you that they still think they’ve a long way to go to catch up with all the other ethnic groups that make up what American’s call their ‘melting pot’.
So on this Saturday morning, there I was, a black Bermudian who was living and working in Bermuda in 2005. I was listening to a particular American value set being foisted on me and other Bermudians. I realize that this same set of values is often transmitted through BET. It’s also transmitted – osmotically – by the general environments of the Historically Black Colleges of the USA.
As far as I can tell, these values are not transmitted by the University of the West Indies [UWI]. Nor are they transmitted by Queen’s University in Toronto. Or the University of Buckingham. Or any other university or college that operates outside the USA. Nor do these values seep through CNN or ESPN or NBC.
Here in the Bermuda that I live in, blacks, if not acknowledged as in the ascendancy, are certainly seen as equals. Black Bermudians have dominant political power. The racial disparities that still do exist can be eradicated. However, eradication cannot come through more laws. Further eradication can only come through better education, more investment, and more savings.
I’m puzzled when a black Bermudian picks up the cloak that black Americans are still forced to wear, and then casts himself [herself] into the role of racial victim. I do though have an explanation.
Some time ago, a ‘shrink’ – I think he was here on a work permit – suggested that Bermuda had a higher than normal incidence of schizophrenia. This schizophrenia must have settled, especially, in Bermuda’s black community. It results in the view, often expressed – sometimes quite forcibly – that black Bermudians are ‘racial victims’ in the same way as are black Americans.
From Bermuda’s geographic location, within Bermuda’s social setting, within Bermuda’s economic and political reality, it’s difficult – I believe impossible – to say honestly that, in Bermuda, black Bermudians are a ‘downpressed’ lot in the same way that ‘inner city blacks’ in Chicago are a downpressed lot.
Unless you’re schizophrenic.