Column: ‘Hardened The Political & Racial Divide’

March 9, 2016

[Opinion column written by MP Rolfe Commissiong]

“One side represents heavens glory; the other, ruins abyss,” - Author unknown

Certainly, the proposal to open the flood gates of immigration by Minister Fahy and his One Bermuda Alliance Government to allow unprecedented numbers of largely white long terms residents to obtain status has hardened the political and yes; racial divide that was already exacerbated by the razor thin result delivered by the electorate in 2012.

But let’s not be under any illusion, this divide has existed in our society for some time as was repeatedly mentioned during the debate in the House of Assembly on the 4th of March and in terms of the protest that unfolded on the grounds of the House earlier in the day.

Video showing some of the protest on March 4th:

The principled and moral stand taken by those Bermudians who have indulged in civil resistance and/or disobedience needs to be commended; rather than condemned, predicated as it has been upon the unquenchable quest for social, economic and racial justice in Bermuda.

Having said that it is tool that should not be burnished frivolously or else it loses its moral force. Yet, in this case, I do believe that it has met its historical moment.

The Government says that its decision to grant status thousands of long term residents is a human rights issue; yet growing numbers of Bermudians are not fooled.

They know that removing thousands of long term residents from immigration control of one sort or another means that at a time of continued economic insecurity they and their children will bear the brunt of this decision for decades to come.

And on the political front, the consequences are even more troubling.

In the House I raised the issue that throughout our modern political history whites voters who having been born overseas and having achieved status –with precious few exceptions – have voted en mass with white Bermudians firstly for the United Bermuda Party and now the OBA.

The white electorate or base of the One Bermuda Party, I believe comprises at least 85 to 90 per cent of that base although according to two former UBP leaders those figures may be too high. They contend that the white voting base of the party– as was the case in the UBP – probably represents about 80 to 85 per cent of their overall vote.

The key question which I sought to answer however was, do white voters overall in Bermuda vote as a monolith far exceeding that of black voters? And the answer is yes.

Rolfe Commissiong 160308

In terms of white voting support for the UBP and now the OBA, pre-election polls going back for a number of decades, along with proprietary data now held by both party’s do confirm that white voters do vote monolithically, with about 97 to 98 per cent of whites voters historically voting for the then UBP and now its successor party the OBA.

Since the election of 1968, which ushered in modern constitutional politics under universal adult suffrage and spanning almost a full half century, white voting behavior – save for the brave 2 to 3 per cent on average who do vote PLP – has largely not changed.

And remember, close to half of those white voters have been foreign born over the period under consideration. Census statistics support my claim.

The Government, led by Minister Fahy on this issue of course, would ask us – much like investment firms – to believe that past performance is no guarantee of future outcomes.

They are asking us to suspend belief and embrace the view that these soon to be newly minted largely white status holders [approx. 77 per cent ]will behave from a political and even economic standpoint differently than did previous waves of enfranchised white migrants, during the post WWII era.

Black Bermudians who were marginalized politically and economically by these aforementioned racist immigration trends and their small but growing number of white allies are not buying it and neither should they.

The new manta is: Caveat Emptor or buyer beware.

As previously highlighted in a self-penned op ed that was published prior to the last election, Mike Winfield, currently of the ACBDA [America’s Cup Bermuda] and former UBP campaign manager during the Sir John Swan years summed it up succinctly at a public forum which explored the connection between race and politics in Bermuda.

Winfield told the assembled then, at the Elbow Beach event that the formula for electoral success when it came to the UBP was fairly simple. Keep the whites on the political reservation [not hard to do apparently] while going after the black so-called middle class vote.

Unfortunately, decades later, the same formula is still a reality and continues to hinder our growth and thus our ability to evolve into a more mature democratic polity as I stated on Friday.

And with the rejection by the Government of MP Walton Brown’s motion to move the whole issue to a joint select committee in order to achieve a bi-partisan consensus on the issue, the prospect that the ruinous abyss looms, as I alluded to above has not been abated.

- Rolfe Commissiong


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Comments (28)

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  1. I am Bermudian says:

    Why would any person run to join or support a Party that has shown nothing but disdain and outright hatred for them?

    It is no different to the minority populations in the US who overwhelmingly vote for the Democrats as the other option is a Party full of venom and vitriol against their respective demographics.

    The PLP needs to change their political tactics and try and embrace the whole of the island’s population for a change.

    Listen to what was said at the protest on Friday by the PLP MPs (including the author above) or what they preached in the House on Monday.

    Listen to the racial epitaphs used by the former PLP administration against white people and foreigners.

    Read the Bermuda Election 2012 Facebook page (which is a prime example) and ask yourself if that is what represents the mindset of the PLP (must do as no one condemns their members/supporters remarks) why would any white Bermudian flock to the PLP?

    Below is an excerpt from a speech made by Dr. Clarence James in 1967. It seems not much has changed regarding the green team’s approach to race relations:

    “It is now clear that the P.L.P. programme of distortion of the truth is but part of a hate mongering campaign which actively seeks to divide the races. The hate attempts to cover up for the irresponsibility and incompetence of P.L.P. leaders themselves. It creates a frame of mind which would constantly distort a true assessment of what is fair and what is unfair. It breeds civil disorder, disrespect for law and order, and eventual anarchy. Already P.L.P. leaders have instructed Bermudians to break the law, and P.L.P. leaders are now asking their followers to save their money. Could they be actually planning civil disorder and disruption of the economy where there may be no jobs for the very workers they say they are representing? Make no mistake about it, in any disruption of the economy, naturally, politically, or hatefully induced, it is the working class that will suffer the most not because of any malicious intent of those who are relatively more advantaged but because of the general rule that workers have less in savings and fewer alternative job opportunities.”


    To the PLP, I am Bermudian whether you like it or not. If you want my support please try and show just a little bit of interest in me and my family’s well-being as opposed to relentlessly demonizing us because of what we look like.

  2. Rada Gast says:

    A new manta? Some sort of novel manta ray perhaps, invading our waters like the lionfish.

  3. Rada Gast says:

    “The Government says that its decision to grant status thousands of long term residents is a human rights issue”

    Please indicate where the number of eligible long-term residents is in the “thousands”.

    • LOVES BDA says:

      from the last numbers, I think around 1000 people.

      • Rada Gast says:

        “around 1000″ – was between 600 and 700 last time I read the estimate.

        So “thousands” is misleading, at the very least.

      • Nanny Pat says:

        Again, I remind you, not all of those eligible will even WANT status!

        • Full Fuulish says:

          After this display- why would they?

  4. Jolly says:

    Rolfe omits to mention that he, like many of us Bermudians, is descended from recent immigrants to Bermuda.

    • Full Fuulish says:

      Come on now- lets not get hung up on facts and logic! We must continue to make it a race issue!

    • wondering says:

      VERY TRUE!!!

      know your history Bermuda and Bermudians of all origins. some are quick to shoot the arrow but do not know the origin of the quills!!


    More hot air!!!!

  6. True Lies says:

    So because they are white and will probably vote for the OBA, that means they don’t deserve to vote? Who’s racist?

    Why would a non-black person vote for the PLP anyway, when they only seem to care about Black Bermudians?

  7. smh says:

    No one has done more to harden our racial divide than Rolfe. You should be ashamed

  8. Bullseye says:

    There they go making up numbers again. Who believes this?

    Also Rolfe answers his own question “do white voters overall in Bermuda vote as a monolith far exceeding that of black voters? And the answer is yes.” but I think he misses the point.

    Whites don’t vote for a party because it is white. The OBA does not campaign on vote for us we are white. The PLP on the other hand blatantly say vote for us black people because we are black and you are black. The OBA actually promotes a platform and a strategy. Which one of these strategies would create a “white monolith”?

    All the PLP have to do is a good job. Had they done that they would still be in power. Right now as an Opposition they are an embarrassment despite the level of their noise. That will not get you re-elected.

  9. Zaob Yob says:

    Rolf states –

    “The Government says that its decision to grant status thousands of long term residents is a human rights issue; yet growing numbers of Bermudians are not fooled.”

    Yet a quick check of the petitions currently in existence show that 2750 people support Pathways while less than half that, 1138 do not. In fact since the inception of both petitions the ratio of people in support has continued to grow over those not in support.

  10. San George says:

    Without economic power you are pissing in the wind. Only color that matters is green unfortunately.

    Quo Fata Ferunt – spoken by a man who just consumed a flask of Black Seal.

  11. ALVIN WILLIAMS says:

    The OBA government has brought this conflict to head and it is history that will condemn them for going down this path.

    • lalalalala says:

      What conflict? One with a small number of PLP supporters? Come on Alvin you can do better than that!!

  12. Crazy says:

    PLP make it absolutely impossible for me to want to even think about voting them in! look at the comments made, encouraging violence, shouldn’t be surprised to be honest!

  13. Longtail says:


  14. Bermudian says:

    The way the PLP carry on you would think all the white owned business in Bda only hire white people. Yet this is not the case is it PLP? I see Rolfe your still being kicked out of places. just like school aint it Rolfe!

  15. Noncents says:

    One one hand he uses race to play on the emotions of the PLP base, but on the other hand criticizes non-blacks for not supporting his party. If non-blacks did vote for the PLP, he wouldn’t be able to play that card anymore. The PLP dont have a credible track-record to run on, don’t have viable solutions to our current situation (see D Burt’s pitiful budget response) and have shown zero credibility as a useful opposition- their idea of bi-partisanship is do it our way or we will shut the island down.

    The race card is the only thing they’ve got.

  16. campervan. says:

    Rolfe, my family unit are some of those potential voters if the pathways to citizenship is ever enacted, as we have resided here for over 25 years.
    First off, we are not at all sure if we would take up the option of status. Several of our friends are in the same boat and feel similarly. Your numbers are way out.
    Secondly, we are a fairly socially progressive family politically and given the option, we would vote for a party that abides by those principles.
    As things currently stand, we see the Progressive labour Party as ironically, far from progressive, quite the opposite in fact.
    I truly believe that a reformed PLP that dropped the race card and got on with fresh progressive 21st century issues would win votes across the board.

  17. Talk to me says:

    Good Lord. You old timers need to stop embarrassing your children with your drama tactics.

    You know why your kids are leaving? Because they WANT to. Get with the 21st century. Humans rights and equality.

  18. Faulk says:

    Some folks rob banks…others sponge off the public purse like it is their own personal gravy train all the while spouting vitriol at those who actually create the country’s wealth… and still others do both: But who cares when it’s all somebody else’s fault because your a poor little misunderstood fellow looking for justice in an unjust world – in other words a spoiled brat with major hang-ups.

    • No Longer A Memeber says:

      This was perfectly written!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hit the nail right on the head. We should call him sponge bob, I mean sponge rolfe.