2009-02-01

The racism question, where Bermuda's concerned

Without a doubt, Rolfe Commissiong is one of the public figures most discussed in Bermuda because of his views on race in Bermuda. By 'most discussed', I probably mean 'most polarising', particularly when it comes to the reactions that his statements evoke from whites here.

Friday's Bermuda Sun commentary contributed by him caught my interest more than usual, though. It's this particular statement:

They refuse to acknowledge the fact that black Bermudians have never practiced racism, institutionally or otherwise

where 'they' means white Bermudians. My interpretation is that he believes that (a) black Bermudians cannot and have not practiced racism (more on that soon) and (b) white Bermudians strongly disagree with it, to the point of the proverbial "being at loggerheads" with blacks when it comes to further discussing race.

The phrase "practicing racism".
What defines a racist, then?
Black people here may, for example, say, "I don't like white people," is that an example of racism?

I think this is the kind of question that gets those completely different answers in Bermuda.
As I, perhaps the last of the local bloggers to discuss race, contemplates what this all means (and I'd sure love to hear your views, if you stumble upon this post), there's this feeling in my head that solving this and getting whatever issues of semantics out of the way (i.e. racism vs. prejudice vs. discrimination vs. bigotry) is the key to ending the perennial "talking at" that goes on here and actually coming together, forgiving past hurts, getting sincere repentance where applicable and moving Bermuda forward.

In the meantime, more established blogs are out there for me to digest and try to appreciate, for example:

http://resistracism.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/white-racism-white-supremacy-white-privilege-and-the-social-construction-of-race/

http://thelittlegreenblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/wish-away-wish-away.html

as well as of course some of the good stuff posted in local circles. Besides, we likely need a Bermudian solution to this complex Bermudian problem.

5 comments:

Renaissance Man said...

Tryangle,

Clean up your HTML in those links. They have the NR email redirect included.

Secondly, the only one who has said the right thing is Morgan Freeman. If you chose not to see colour (and we are all just different shades of the same colour, like newsprint), then all that remains is character. And character is a far better yardstick by which to measure.

Be wary of those who make their money off of the concept of racism. They have a vested interest in continuing the discussion, and making it more contentious.

BTW, race is an artificial construct. It doesn't exist as a scientific term.

Tryangle said...

Thanks Renaissance Man - serves me right for copy-paste from my email client. Actually my whole HTML is jacked up. Anyway, please continue, everyone.

Uncle Elvis said...

You're absolutely on the right track.

In order to fight against it, we need to define what we mean.
If Mr. Commissiong's definition of racism doesn't include black folks as being capable of it, we need to have him define what he means by racism, because it flies in the face of pretty much all of the definitions I've heard.
However, once his definition is out there, a conversation can be had about what he's talking about, either about whether his definition is correct or whether, under that definition, black folks HAVE, in fact practiced it... or, even better, what to do about it.

Having said all that, the sad fact of the matter is that this seems to be just another "If you aren't a member of the PLP, you suck" recruitment tactic.
I personally don't understand why folks think this will work. It's like those awful Mac commercials where the message is "If you don't use a Mac, you're a socially retarded geek".
It's preaching to the choir. It's to make existing members feel better... feel righteous.

Renaissance man said...

Uncle Elvis,

I think you're right in your analogy. Quite simply, Rolfe's definition of a racist would be "anyone who disagrees with me and is of another race".

For something that doesn't actually exist as anything other than a thought or opinion, people sure do get very wound up about it.

Uncle Elvis said...

And if you're of the SAME race, you're an Uncle Tom or a sell-out...