With details of the 2001 Census now leaching out, it’s clear, in one prime area, that there has been some change. That area? Re-balancing of our society.
In 1991, incomes in black households were 29% below incomes in white households. In 2001, it appears that incomes in black households are 22% below the incomes of white households. Anyway you look at it, that’s an improvement. A 10% improvement. Black households have done some catching up. One of the bad effects of Bermuda’s past is beginning to fade away. But at this catch-up rate it’ll be another seventy years – a whole generation – before blacks reach parity.
However, there’s a danger lurking on the sidelines. That danger stems from the difference in the return on investments made in education.
Bermuda is now an economy that relies heavily on selling its intellectual – not physical – services. Result? Bermuda needs a greater percentage of its workforce trained and educated in higher grade skills. With continuing improvements in technology and greater use of micro-chips, Bermuda needs fewer and fewer technicians and artisans. So does all the rest of the world. So, globally, there’s less of a demand for plumbers, masons, carpenters etc… Still a need. Still a demand. But less of a demand than 50 or 25 years ago.
The demand now is for ‘brain’ workers. ‘Brain’ workers tend to require education past the secondary level. ‘Brain’ workers need some kind of quality tertiary education. Maybe not university, but certainly some kind of post-secondary skills, vocational, or academic training.
In order to get a quality tertiary education, the pre-requisite is an adequate primary and secondary foundation education. It’s here that a difference shows up. The majority of white households send their children into private education. The majority of black households send their children into public education.
Bermuda’s white households invest heavily in education. The Census says that 3 out of every 4 white children are in some kind of private education. White households who use private education systems, still pay into the tax base for the public education system. For education, these white households are paying – investing – twice.
Bermuda’s black households do not invest as heavily in education. The Census says that 3 out of every 4 black children are in public education. These Black households only pay into the tax base for the public education system. For education, these black households only pay – invest – once.
Private education delivers a generally high quality education. The private education system makes sure that its students regularly qualify to international standards and regularly gain entry to first class institutes of tertiary education.
The public education system delivers a lower quality education. Its students do not regularly qualify to any recognized international standard. Its students do not usually qualify for entry into first class institutes of tertiary education unless they have some kind of remedial education.
Thus, in the absolute and unforgiving race to produce ‘brain’ workers, black households are handicapped – not by their race – but by their choice of system, and by their priority of choice. The choice made by black households results in their being handicapped by the reality that the education system that they use is inferior to the private system.
But don’t black households earn less than white households? Yes. And the Census confirms that. However education enables incomes to improve. So choice of educational process will determine whether or not a good product or an inferior is received, and thus whether or not income earning potential can or will increase. Since choice is driven by a combination of priority and affordability, it’s clear that lack of money can lead to a lack of choice – even if do priorities exist.
So richer white households find private education more affordable and place a high priority on it. Black households, with less money, may find private education less affordable – but may also place a lower priority on education.
In this national – indeed global – production race, Bermuda’s black households are further handicapped by their inability – or refusal – to change and improve their clearly inferior but extremely well-funded public education system.
In this national – and global – race for economic place, it’s possible for black households to catch up, but not if they remain handicapped by the education system that they pay for and use.
Race isn’t the problem. It’s years of inferior education that creates the molasses in the black guys and gals running track. It’s years of superior education that creates the spikes in the shoes of the guys and gals in the white lane.
It isn’t race. It’s choice. It isn’t a black and white issue. It’s a results and priority issue.
There’s little point in black folks sitting in the moaner’s pews wailing and moaning about the past. The past is past. The power has shifted. Every power, every tool, every device that’s needed to get rid of that black track molasses is in the hands of black Bermudians.
In 1972, black people in Bermuda grew big afros, wore dashikis, complained about racial discrimination, and talked about Black Power. Back then they had no power. It’s now 2002. Black Power has arrived. Real Black Power exists.
Got it! Use it!