Column: Changing Our ‘Culture Of Violence’

January 25, 2016

[Opinion column written by Ryan Robinson Perinchief]

I vaguely remember the first of many shootings, back in 2003. I was 7 years old. For an island that previously was accustomed to about one murder every five years, the notion of someone being killed by a gun seemed almost apocalyptic. A national tragedy, everyone was sending broadcasts over Blackberry Messenger, the community was in outrage, and it was the talk of the town for weeks. For all of us, it served as a reminder at the time of how scary Bermuda could become.

Many thought it was a ‘one off occurrence: “We don’t have gangs in Bermuda! …just crews and wannabes”, we were told. “They’re all just a bunch of little boys with guns getting way too excited.” In actuality, it was an urgent warning of what was to come. Even before the shootings, there had been many stabbings and outbreaks in violence. When the next gun murders came, that “one off occurrence” turned into a “spate of gun violence”.

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Well, here we are in 2016. Those “little boys” have grown up, and many of them have little ones of their own now. As a community, we did not adequately address the warnings of the past. Over the course of the last decade, we’ve had over 50 murders, numerous shootings, and too many acts of violence to count – with men, women and children amongst the list of casualties.

It seems that at this point, many of us have lost hope, some have become desensitized and, unfortunately, there are those who still may not care. After speaking with some of our young people about their views on the matter, the unfortunate sentiment expressed by many appears to be that we are dealing with a ‘lost generation’…that the violence won’t stop until everyone involved is either ‘out of ammunition, in prison, or dead’.

Indeed, the cold truth is that the panacea we are looking for does not exist – too much blood has been shed and too many people are hurting for us to expect the forces of ego, vengeance and insecurity to be overcome by our mere wishes for peace.

What does that mean for the rest of us? It means that we have tough battles to fight before our epidemic of violence is overcome. I choose not to believe that we have reached the point of no return in regards to violence within our community.

Regardless of whether or not we are facing a lost generation, there are drastic steps that must be taken at both institutional and individual levels to ensure that the kids growing up in today’s Bermuda do not become victims of yesterday’s mistakes. It would be remiss of me to proclaim that we should make individual and collective efforts to address this epidemic without stepping forward to provide some ideas of my own. So, ten years later and counting, what further steps can we take?

In the short term, the obvious priority must be to get the guns off the streets. This means ensuring that our police are fully supported and that gaps in our border controls are addressed to prevent the arrival of even more guns.

But looking at the long term and root causes of our current situation, there are serious issues which must be addressed at the institutional and individual level if we are to have lasting progress:

The Mincy Report of 2009 outlined various systemic setbacks that disproportionately affect our young black men in areas of education, employment, and upward social mobility. Furthermore, we know that the current economic climate will only increase the likelihood of violent crime. From a long-term perspective, it is crucial that our society takes the necessary steps to ensure that our young males are provided with equal support and access to the highest levels of the social ladder.

That means serious reform in our education and justice systems, and a willingness to ensure that the cycle of violence amongst our most vulnerable does not become a generational issue. We must also stop shying away from having serious conversations on the drug industry, and what type of impact the legalisation of marijuana could have on gang violence.

Additionally, we cannot rely solely on government policy to solve what is at its core a community issue.

While we must collectively fight to address the institutional causes of violence, many of which remain unaddressed or may even have worsened, we must also not forget our individual responsibilities to our community and to each other. We know that gun and gang violence is an issue that predominantly affects the black community – but for every young man and woman we know who has been led astray, we know ten more who are doing great things, have high aspirations and should be encouraged as positive role models in our community.

Brothers and sisters, we have a moral obligation to each do our part in developing intellectually independent black males and females who identify with each other and understand that a danger to one of us is a danger to all of us. Whether it’s in the barbershop, on the field, in the workplace or on the street, let’s talk to and root for each other. We know the phrase, each one teach one! Can you find time to mentor and encourage a young person in our community?

Furthermore, understanding that the deck is already stacked against us, it is important that we also take some time to self-reflect on our own actions or inactions which contribute to the problem at hand.

In recognising a culture of non-cooperation with the police and a negative attitude towards ‘snitching’, we must understand that our silence only perpetuates the cycle of violence within our community. What role do we play on a daily basis when we as individuals instigate drama amongst the same people we have grown up with?

Furthermore, how many of us won’t shun the perpetrators of violence when they show up to our sporting and social events and buy us drinks, but will express outrage the second someone is shot at, killed, or robbed? We must examine how our daily actions might be enabling criminality at an individual level.

Overall, in response to many who are still asking when the madness will end, the answer is this: The violence in Bermuda will stop when you, I, and all of us as concerned citizens make a conscious and collective effort to make it stop.

We must examine what role we play in enabling criminality; embrace, uplift, and mentor our young people; put continued pressure on our government to address the root causes of violence and anti-social behaviour; and above all, we must understand that our silence and lack of action serve only as a means to perpetuate the status quo.

We can change our deteriorating culture of violence – but it will not be done solely by expressing concern, praying, or hoping for change. It will require each and every one of us to get up, take meaningful action, and make it happen. This is a call to action. How will you answer it?

- Ryan Robinson Perinchief is studying law at Durham University in the UK. He graduated with honours from the Berkeley Institute where he served as Head Boy, Student Council Treasurer and a Peer Mediator. A former Youth Premier of the island’s Youth Parliament, he won the Alpha Beautillion, an Outstanding Teen Award, and the best youth submission to the SAGE Commission.

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Comments (20)

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  1. bago says:

    ya don’t no bout me. easy to say from the uk wif money

    • Sigh says:

      He’s tryna help u fam….guess you don’t see it.

    • Navin Pooty Tang Johnson says:

      I believe you just proved the young man’s point Bago….and it should be you do not know anything about me….

    • Nice article, guns have ALWAYS been in Bermuda the only difference is, back then guys used to threaten you with them and guys where a little more conscious and respectable. It started escalating out off hand when they had the disturbance a number of years ago at St. Georges Cricket Club when those dreamers attacked each other with machetes and 2×4′s. Now they’ve graduated to guns and their conscious levels are at zero and moral values are shot(no pun intended). I agree with your sentiments but violence is a part of every countries existence, and drugs will always be a part of our society and some countries are being run by it, especially those in HIGH places that protect and endorse it.
      But keep on proclaiming the positive message and hopefully some lost soul can be saved.

  2. Kim Smith says:

    Hear! Hear! A very clear message to us all. Thank you, Mr. Perinchief!

  3. Oh,I see now says:

    I’m all for it young man but we are dealing with the don’t have nothing to lose DGAF bout no-one but MYSELF generation……..sigh

  4. Stephen Thomson says:

    Well written and well thought out with concrete suggestions.
    The underlying thought is that we all need to stand up and get involved.
    I am optimistic about Bermuda’s future when I read such an insightful piece written by a young Bermudian studying abroad.
    I look forward to you returning to Bermuda, Ryan and getting involved once you have your law degree.
    Bermuda will, undoubtedly, be a better place for it.
    Well done for being willing to speak out and get involved at your young age.

  5. Mais says:

    Very good article! Many should read! Nothing will be done till everyone works together!

    Keep it up!

  6. San George says:

    He will get his rude awakening. His community has no corporate institutions. He will end-up working for the government, real estate transactions or criminal law.

    • Smh says:

      HIS community? As in the black community??? What are you referring to??

    • jt says:

      This is the mentality that creates, grows and perpetuates. Just waiting for the band leader. He’s late to the party.

  7. For Real says:

    We keep talking all this black on black. What confuses me is when Police are doing Stop and Searches on the side of the road and they search way more black people than white people, we the black community go absolutely crazy. I don’t see white people running around shooting at each other. I don’t see white people fitting the description of the gas station robbery or bank robbery.

  8. Burn the bridge I can swim says:

    Blame the parenting of the previous generation. With better guidance we wouldn’t be so lost. Tired of the old bermudians referring to their old days. Wellllllll sorry old cats you were too busy worrying bout your old days you forgot to raise you offspring properly. Now we have people getting shot and shooting that had dead beat mothers and fathers that let them do whatever. Going to be hard to break this trend sorry. It’ can be done but the doubt is high

  9. Takbir Karriem Sharrieff says:

    Congratulations Ryan Robinson.You follow and are walking in the footsteps of a long list of outspoken ‘Perinchiefs’ your message is timely ,intelligent and correct.Your education is very good and your upbringing is impeccable.Small list for the curious,Wayne Perinchief,Gary Perinchief,Phil Perinchief,Jerome Perinchief.Girls,Gaylia Perinchief,Wanda Perinchief,Donna Perinchief,Carmen Perinchief,Lauren Perinchief,Patrice Perinchief,and Siblings.Many more to come.Pembroke Park Crew from Earlston and Florence Venetia Eileen Perinchief.We got your back son.Bring it on.Peace.

  10. yes I says:

    Well written Ryan and thought out. Your suggestions hit the nail on the head and it is paramount that we support each other. Forget the blame but now it’s time to provide healing for those who are hurt. Therein lies the strength of the community.

  11. Grizz says:

    I continue to be proud of you Ryan. Your dreams of sitting in ‘the House’ and making a change are coming. I can’t wait to see you shine!!

  12. rusty says:

    Disconnected