Premier: ‘Racism Is A Stain On Modern Society’

June 2, 2020

“In the midst of the global fight against Covid-19, the world has been reminded of an enemy that seems harder to defeat and a battle that has been waged over centuries,” Premier David Burt said, adding that “systemic and institutionalized racism is a stain on modern society.”

Speaking at last night’s [June 1] press briefing, Premier Burt said, “I know this press conference is focused on our continuing work related to Covid-19, but please permit me to offer these words about the news that has dominated global headlines over the past few days and has taken the coronavirus from the headlines.


“In the midst of the global fight against Covid-19, the world has been reminded of an enemy that seems harder to defeat and a battle that has been waged over centuries. Systemic and institutionalized racism is a stain on modern society.

“We profess greatness as a generation when we celebrate conquering space or seeing leaders of colour in positions of authority. Both, however, ring hollow when neither accomplishment has succeeded in tearing down the system that makes what happened in Minneapolis a week ago possible in 2020.

“A black man was murdered by a police officer in the United States. Far from being a surprise, it is the imagery that has provoked international outrage.

“George Floyd lost his life to this system and his is only one name that we know. There are countless others in that country and many others who suffer similar fates daily. Black and brown people are under siege every day by a system designed to ensure that they start with a presumption of guilt and spend the rest of their lives trying, often in vain, to be respected.

“Here at home, our unity has kept us focused and in an excellent position to be an example to the world of how to deal with COVID-19 and yet there remains an undercurrent of racial tension that comes to the fore the moment we assert the rights of our people in their own land.

“How can we pretend to be outraged by systemic racism everywhere else except here at home? Our future depends on our ability to confront and deal with our past.

“We must never forget or diminish the people who live amongst us who have experienced firsthand discriminatory laws, policies and practices stating where they should go, where they could live, what they could own, or what they could do and what they could aspire to achieve.

“Too often Bermudians have been told in their own country, ‘we can’t address race right now, our clients don’t feel comfortable talking about it.’ ‘We can’t mandate our membership dismantle racism in their organizations. We can only guide them.’

“Then we hear statements like, ‘Oh, we can’t address racism right now, we have to leave that for our children so they can fix it in twenty or thirty years.’

“Addressing the issue of systemic and institutionalized racism is holding us back from reaching our full potential. It is causing capable, qualified Bermudians to be excluded from opportunities in their own country. Time and time again, research shows that when you have a diverse workforce, profits and profitability increases.

“As a father of two young children, I always think about how this is going to impact them. And the conversations in my household this week, with a wife who is American, reminded us of the dangers of which persons of colour continue to face. From Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner to Michael Brown to Sarah Reed to D-Andre Campbell and yes, George Floyd.

“I think, in 10, 20, or 30 years, that could be my child. They could be doing nothing wrong and yet they could still die by state-sponsored murder.

“My Bermudian family, it is important to remember this is not just an American issue. This is a global issue. And, that’s why you’re seeing protests all around the world.

“We must also not forget our recent history. 2 December 2016, still weighs heavily on my heart and my soul. I need not remind people of the story, because the images are forever imprinted in our collective consciousness as a people.

“As many of you know, but some might not – by order of our Constitution, the Government of Bermuda does not have operational control over the Bermuda Police Service. That power is vested in the Governor as Bermuda still is a colony of the United Kingdom. However, this government has taken several steps to build a more equitable society. Bermuda’s Attorney- General, the Hon. Kathy-Lynn Simmons will be doing a Facebook live discussion this weekend to expound on some of those initiatives which have already been approved by the Cabinet, and also to give her thoughts on legal reform in Bermuda.

“It is ironic that on a weekend when the world has been forced to confront these complex and challenging issues, we lost one of Bermuda’s greatest advocates for confronting racism; Dr. Eva Hodgson. She believed and taught that Bermuda’s cultural affinity towards sweeping the issue of race under the carpet was unhealthy and creating a festering cancer, rotting away at the core of our island.

“She believed that if we did not confront the issue of race, we would never be able to overcome the inherent destructiveness of racism and discrimination and she fought tirelessly to get us all to understand that racism doesn’t go away if you just don’t talk about it. She pushed and challenged all of us to do better on race in spite of the abuse, discrimination and disrespect she was subjected to over the years.

“Dr. Hodgson reminded us that most people don’t want to talk about race, but, that we must talk about race. We must know our history and know that there is pain and hurt in that history and there was a struggle that got us to where we are today.

“Dr. Eva Hodgson is the very embodiment of a freedom fighter, and as we mourn her passing, we must commit to seeing her work continue. No more second-class citizens; only first class men and women.”

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Comments (8)

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  1. For Real says:

    Bernews thank you for your fair and consistent coverage of local news. Thank you for betraying our Premier in a dignified manner. As I browse the other media on the island I constantly question why they use the most unflattering images of the Premier. As a photographer I know we shoot a multitude of images on one subject but they consistently choose images of him which simply attempt to vilify him.
    The problem with systemic racism within the media is they attempt to covertly portray blacks as monsters, or something to be despised! This problem has persisted throughout time and is so underlying that most people overlook it.
    You are a leader in fairness and truth. Thank you!

  2. sandgrownan says:

    You we’re doing well. Right up to the point when you mentioned 2 December 2016. An unlawful protest, preventing people going about their lawful business.

    We all know the Police could have handled it better but you bring shame on yourself by putting civil disobedience over a local policy matter in the same sentence as a genuine human rights issue. Not withstanding that the combined opposition of union, PLP and Tweed’s rabble rousers were actually lying about the core points of the proposed legislation.

    Ironically, some of that economic activity would be useful right now wouldn’t it?

  3. Full of crap says:

    It was only a matter of time before Premier destroys his excellent track record with COVID-19 and jumps back into the racist rhetoric party line! Must be time to rally the troops for an election and he can’t make them happy about the economy so he deflects and misdirects to fear and racist dialogue! Vote OBA or this madness will continue to erode our IB confidence!

  4. Same as says:

    I’m so sorry Premier Burt, if you want to address racism you need to come out of the cocoon you are so strongly attached to. If the majority of Bermudians fully understand the past, then you need to start a discussion going forward from today.

  5. wahoo says:

    I think that what holds many back is a lack of access to good public education not racism. But you cannot have a government condemn itself for poorly performing in education can you? Much better to blame a group of systemic racism and keep us divided. When we go to the polls the last thing on our minds will be whether our government has spent our money wisely and conducted themselves in a manner befitting the titles that they give themselves. When we go to the polls we will forget about the massive “overspends” we forget about giant debt that our children will inherit and our children will be so poorly educated that they won’t understand anything anyway.

  6. Rotten Onion says:

    Try again Burt. Your party has had 18 years to fix the problem and all you have done is make your people even poorer.

  7. Delaey Robinson says:

    I very much look forward to the revelation of the PLP’s renewed commitment to the elimination of racism in Bermuda and most importantly to seeing the actions taken to address the glaring imbalances in wealth, control of the means of production, and in the delivery of justice which continues to incarcerate males from the majority race way out of proportion to their representation in the general population.

  8. FYI says:

    Systemic Racism
    Why do we not want a knee on George Floyd’s neck? Not only because it’s wrong, but because we don’t want one on ours. If we want our rights respected, we must respect – and protect – the rights of others. Unfortunately, in too many cases when people say they want an open and honest discussion about race in America, what they mean is they want an open and honest discussion only about what they say is wrong with people who aren’t them. When people talk about the need to deal with systemic racism, if they’re not willing to talk about the systems run – often for generations by the political party or politicians they support – they aren’t interested in an open and honest conversation; instead, they want only to use the issue as a club against people who aren’t them. If that’s the case, we’re condemned to never get off this tragedy of a merry-go-round. GEORGE KORDA | KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL | 7:19 pm EDT June 4, 2020