Column: Equality Of Representation, Opportunity

May 28, 2018 | 2 Comments

NYC-roof Bermuda May 27 2018 thumb[Opinion column written by Karim Creary]

I would like to begin this opinion piece by stating that as a young black Bermudian male I have made a concentrated effort in my life to be aware of the injustices that black people have, and still do face in this country and in the world beyond.

I believe that here in Bermuda we continue to have an education system that doesn’t instil a sense of leadership and cultural pride in our black youth. Having attended private schooling institutions my whole life I found it hard to locate or reference my black or Bermudian culture in most curriculums.

I also believe that there is a legacy of institutional racism within this country that persists in our economic and socio-political structures.

I wanted to begin by highlighting these beliefs because I have often felt misunderstood by my own people. Perhaps due to my private school education, or how I talk, or how I choose to articulate what I believe in, I sometimes have felt un-validated.

I don’t believe that I am alone when saying being black and having a unique or uncommon mind-set or form of expression can influence others to disbelieve in your ability to understand where our community’s frustrations come from.

But through such experiences I became inspired to be more involved in my community and attempt to inspire the change I wish to see in the world. The purpose of this article is to explain my thoughts surrounding some of the patterns I’ve noticed in the black Bermudian’s fight for:

  • Equality of representation,
  • Equality of opportunity,
  • and Justice/Accountability

And whether or not the popular rhetoric and ideals surrounding our fight for equality are as much of a help as they are potentially a hindrance.

Equality of Representation

All over the world, those whom have not been able to speak for themselves previously, are speaking out. The rise of women’s rights within the Middle East is a prime example of this; a champion of the struggle for the Middle Eastern woman’s right to education and a greater quality of life, is Malala Yousafzai a 20 year old Pakistani activist. She was not initially met with praise for her efforts towards equality, rather, she was shot in the face at 15 years old by Taliban radicals for her protests. Luckily Malala survived this attack and was able to use the strength of her own story to define what being a woman means to her rather than let others define what her role in life should be.

I chose this example to be my reference for equality of representation, because here in Bermuda I see a similar struggle. I don’t wish to compare the troubles within our identity politics here, with the violence that has troubled Pakistan. But I do wish to point out that there is much more diversity to the Bermudian story than the rich-white/poor-black dichotomy which we adhere to. Much like women in the traditional sections of the middle east, we have been assigned roles; specific characteristics that we must portray in order to be recognized as members of our assigned communities. And like the example of Malala, if we stray from those definitions we are met with some resistance.

  • If we are white and Bermudian, it is assumed we must only relate to OBA politics; and due to multiple uncorrected grievances done by previous [white] governments, an OBA affiliation automatically means that you are insensitive/ignorant to the problems of the “true” Bermudian, or even racist.
  • If we are Black and Bermudian it is assumed we must only relate to PLP politics; we have to subscribe to religiously fuelled arguments and blindly follow our elders and political/religious leaders, no matter their actions. And if we find ourselves outside of these bounds we have either betrayed our roots or are misinformed/lost.

I choose to believe that on this island we have been raised to understand the diversity within this country, and that the lives and stories of all individuals have a right to be recognized and validated.

If you are a black supporter of LGBTQ rights you shouldn’t fear ostracism or hatred from your brethren, especially when they are protesting for the same equality. Or, we should give voice to the white Bermudians whom aren’t threatened by views that stray from the mainstream scripts of prosperity; such as describing America’s Cup as an event for “everyone” when there are legitimate concerns and pain being ignored.

I believe that if we seek and highlight stories that stray from the definitions we have had placed on ourselves, and allow people to define their own stories, we will be able to see that there are outliers, people whose life experiences which serve as a bridge between these ideological divisions.

Equality of Opportunity

Currently the world has witnessed an increase in political-action from children, a section of our society which is often labelled as helpless. The first few months of the New Year has already given us examples of how the younger generations aim to lead by example and help themselves.

We watched as millions of students across the U.S. took the opportunity to speak up during their campaign against gun violence. People were surprised when they saw the passion and eloquence of high school students when pleading with the American senate for gun control and condemning their blatant pandering to the NRA. And still, even though these students did all the right things and said all the right words, the politicians in power had no need to take them serious because their wealth and power has been gained through maintaining the status quo of ‘Profit Above All’.

Here in Bermuda we are witnessing the same increase of youth involvement in the criticism of society’s issues. Examples of this are: primary school students speaking out against gang violence or the creation of youth political commentary platforms [It’s That Type of Party, Generation Next] are just two examples.

The support Bermuda youth receive is wonderful and continues as long as their actions fit the script of whether they are: academic, athletic, or professional accomplishments. As long as our youth are delivering positive, yet uncontroversial news they don’t receive any backlash. But when they attempt to seize opportunities that can change whichever status quo narrative, the support dissipates.

I find it necessary here to draw the connection between equality of representation and equality of opportunity. Equality of representation, to me signifies the ability to define your own identity and set of beliefs, in addition to the ability to choose how your beliefs and actions are portrayed to the world. Equality of opportunity to me signifies not only the availability of initial opportunities to everyone, but granting the individuals with those opportunities, the strength and support to grow.

I believe the connection between the two is having the freedom to define our vision and the opportunity for that vision to be cultivated and grow without complete corruption. It is not enough to simply congratulate others on their new additions to our society such as creating a podcast, designing a clothing brand, passing a legislative bill, launching a media company etc. if they do not receive the support to maintain their vision even when it strays from what others may have desired.

Justice and Accountability

For centuries, and more noticeably over the past few decades blacks and other minorities worldwide have been demanding justice for the crimes that have been meted out against them over the years. At the centre of these cries for justice, were the demands for accountability. Perpetrators needed to be held accountable for their words and actions in order to grant closure to victims and for true healing to take place.

Similar demands have been made here in Bermuda during our discussions on race and concerns of national security. These demands have been made in protests, when certain communities felt that their concerns with decisions, decisions which would affect their quality of life [e.g. immigration], were going unaddressed.

Or we have seen other sections of our community [e.g. churches, schools, etc.] consistently ask the gangs to feel remorse for their violent actions, and for them to put down their weapons in some form of social responsibility. Both immigration protests and the anti-violence campaigns have taken place so the families and communities affected by these issues could move forward. But I wish to note that the healing or closure in these circumstances came from one section of society demanding another to listen to the concerns of others and take responsibility for their actions.

This leads me to my final point which is, the sense of justice and accountability that is created from self-criticism is missing within every population of Bermuda. The Black, White, Ex-Patriot, Domestic and other populations on this island can all benefit from a self-critical evaluation of themselves on how they can improve. I believe that self-criticism is crucial because in our modern socio-political sphere, criticisms from other sections of society are now unfortunately almost always seen as an attack or an attempt to gain some form of leverage over one another. I believe that if we can be held accountable by not only those who have some potential material gain from it, but by those whom we trust we will be able to have a holistic view of our faults and hopefully formulate our own optimal solutions.

This deficiency of self-criticism stems from an inequality of representation and opportunity. How can we receive constructive criticism from ourselves when we do not grant ourselves the opportunity to do so? Lending from ideas presented in the previous sections of this article; people must feel comfortable and validated within their own communities to seize the opportunity to present new ideas forward. The general Bermudian population wouldn’t feel as threatened by new ideas of economic development, educational structure or conflict between religious and social norms, if we didn’t fear the reaction of our brethren when these new ideas are presented.

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Comments (2)

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  1. This is important information.
    My hope is that young black Bermudians read and re-read what Karim has written. His views are valid, intelligent and should not be ignored.
    We as BLACK BERMUDIANS must embrace our talented and educated /uneducated youth.
    Karim needs to speak at functions. His article should not just be read, but utililized to the broader spectrum of a people in Bermuda.
    Bob Marley sings of a people educating themselves from mental slavery….Hey!! Let us quickly embrace and listen MORE to Karim’s message!!
    He is a truly smart and much-needed black Bermudian…..needed to speak out!!

  2. Ringmaster says:

    Good to see someone like yourself writing an insightful Opinion piece. I suggest you arrange a meting with Chris Famous MP and enlighten him to the year 2018.

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