"Someone who's that far gone"

I don't want to dwell on this Tim Wise Mid Ocean interview too much, but it's worth revisiting briefly to touch on something he said which is a) hard to believe, b) incredibly inflammatory and c) at best an unreliable anecdote:

When I came here last time I had a conversation with a young black man who said he'd had a conversation with a white woman who he knew to be otherwise fairly rational. She says to him, "I'm afraid that if Dr. Brown wins and the PLP (Progressive Labour Party) wins re-election, that we're gonna become another Zimbabwe and they're going to start slaughtering white people on the lawn of Parliament, that they're just gonna start shooting us and killing us and beheading us and machete-ing us and they're just gonna kill us.".

I can say, definitively, without question, that I have never heard even the most unguarded white racist make that kind of comment about the PLP. Ever. Full stop.

That conversation as characterised is frankly, more than hard to believe. I am yet to meet any Bermudian that expressed a fear that a PLP election victory would see whites slaughtered on the lawn or Parliament, shot, beheaded or machete'd.

Just typing that sentence is an exercise in ridiculousness.

I've heard some pretty irrational fears about Dr. Brown and others in the PLP, but I've also heard some pretty rational ones - and others that have come to pass (Bermuda Cement Company, attempts to circumvent Parliament, abuse of public funds on the Friends and Family plan - Playboy Mansion). Some were founded in racism, others in reality.

For Wise to cite that example when it is completely unsubstantiated - at best second-hand - is the height of irresponsibility for a supposed academic. It only inflames and plays into simplistic and harmful stereotypes.

Later in the interview Wise returns to that story and characterises the comment as follows:

Q: The woman who thought she'd be killed by the PLP, how would you get a person like that involved?

A: I don't know that someone who's that far gone frankly, in their panic, is gonna ever come to this conversation.

How is that absurd comment, that the PLP would 'slaughter whites', any different from the now notorious statement (delivered in various iterations over a span of years) that a vote for the UBP would be a vote "back on the Plantation" (Premier Brown) or would "return the shackles to our [black Bermudians'] feet"? (PLP Candidate Lovitta Foggo).

Those comments are equally insane.

I see two possibilities: Either the the sentiments were sincere, in which case those who uttered them are equally as panicked and irrational as Wise's white woman; or the comments were delivered intentionally as highly inflammatory political rhetoric (it's beyond metaphoric) intended to play on racial fears, push buttons and stoke racial animosity, in which case the individuals who uttered them should be condemned.

But here's the kicker: Either way the election comments by political candidates are worse; they weren't delivered by some random yet powerless individual like Wise's anecdote, they were delivered by a Cabinet Minister/ Premier and an ultimately successful candidate for Parliament who have not just the bully pulpit and spotlight of political office, but the power to actually shape public policy.

If Wise thinks that the white woman who is scared of being slaughtered can't come to the [Big] Con(versation), how does he think people who've expressed the same sentiments in reverse can lead it?

| More