Recently in Race Category

From the Department of Unintended Irony, Marc Bean denies use of racial rhetoric through the use of racial rhetoric.

Just to be clear, don't believe your lying eyes and ears, none of the following terms were racial rhetoric:

  • "Uncle Tom's"
  • "House N**gers"
  • "They want to lock us all up"
  • "Back to the Plantation"
  • "We must hasten to employ measures which ensure that our people and our children know that a UBP vote is a vote back to the plantation. It is a vote that will return the shackles to our feet!"
  • "The Auditor General's behaviour indicates that he shares the all-too-common belief that people of African descent are illiterate and chained in darkness, and for them to have any type of success, they must be duly humble and suitably subservient," said Mr. Burgess.
  • "I wouldn't call the member a racist dog because I can see he's not a dog."

Clearly not racial rhetoric.

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Derrick Burgess responded to the Report of the Auditor General on the Misuse of Public Funds:

"The Auditor General's behaviour indicates that he shares the all-too-common belief that people of African descent are illiterate and chained in darkness, and for them to have any type of success, they must be duly humble and suitably subservient," said Mr. Burgess.

Sorry. Rookie mistake. That was from the white Auditor General rebuttal file in 2002.

Here's today's black Auditor General rebuttal:

"For the Auditor General to think that she is above the law is shameful. It seems as if Ms Matthews is on a personal witch hunt and to suggest that any wrong doing took place is outrageous and clearly an attempt to malign the integrity of those implicated in her report."

Same audit conclusions. Similarly cynical responses, tailored for the race of the Auditor.

This is why the PLP have no credibility on good governance...and race.

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A pretty good political rule of thumb is that if you are genuinely interested in attracting political support from a certain demographic you don't do it by repeatedly calling the entire demographic racist for not voting for you thus far.

Just saying.

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Wow. Zane Desilva uses an anti-semitic slur on the floor of Parliament - which he wisely withdrew when asked - and the Speaker of the House says it wasn't out of order?

Health Minister Zane DeSilva raised a point of order, pointing out Mr Richards had also said rent prices are falling, and accusing the Shadow Minister of "Jewing down".

Mr DeSilva withdrew that comment at the request of Mr Richards, who said it was offensive to Jews; Speaker Stanley Lowe accepted the withdrawal but said he didn't think the remark was out of order.

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The short article today entitled "OECD plans could be death penalty for Bermuda" raises an issue that I'm surprised hasn't been raised locally in any meaningful way.

The PLP proudly boast about the number of Tax Information Exhange Agreements that Paula Cox has signed as if the total signed are equal to points on a scoreboard, and how we're doing everything and anything asked for under the European Solvency II regime, as evidence of the PLP's fiscal prowess.

While these are complex issues that help certain aspects of our international business (large global (re)insurers in particular), they are also hugely damaging to other areas of international business (non-class 4 (re)insurers, capitives for example).

The Premier and Finance Minister continually claims her total capitulation on these fronts as huge accomplishments.

But they are really house-keeping and issues that should be negotiated down to do as little damage as possible while achieving the minimal level of compliance.

The main intent of the OECD and European regulators is to try and help their uncompetitive failing financial centres by rendering Bermuda and others less competitive, not some altruistic campaign for global financial transparency.

Simply being led around by European bureaucrats, doing their bidding, as the Premier and Bermuda Monetary Authority look from the outside to be, is a gift these bloated uncompetitive high tax jurisdiction surely can't believe keeps on giving.

The TIEA's signed are overwhelmingly one sided and aren't doing Bermuda any favours. Simply racking up as many as you can as quickly as you can is an abdication of your duty to protect and further Bermuda's competitiveness.

Signing these TIEAs, and doing what the EU says we should do, does not constitute an economic vision for Bermuda. It is, as Mr. Mitchell from the Cato Institute says:

"Basically ...the death penalty for Bermuda and other jurisdictions," he said.

"Whether they get to their final goal in five, 10 or 15 years depends on how much each jurisdiction fights it."

So far there has been no fight in the Cox Government or Finance Ministry, just capitulation.

I'm surprised the Opposition haven't seized more on this, although it is a bit of a wonky topic. But if broached correctly it is an important topic to a community pretty plugged into international business issues who get the need to continue to innovate and increase our competitive edge, not just become some watered down has-been international finance centre; a shadow of our former self.

If this were sports, and Paula Cox were the coach of a basketball team for example, the other coach would be screaming that her players were all too fit, tall and accurate shooters.

Her response?

She'd be canceling practice, feeding them donuts before every game and benching her stars for the 4th quarter and claiming victory.

When I read press releases such as the last two from the PLP entitled "PLP Government Implementing Global Financial Standards" and today's gushing "Bermuda: Our Star is Shining on the International Stage" that are so devoid of substance and understanding of what created Bermuda's economic miracle, it's shocking. And scary.

Bermuda succeeded because we were different; a good place to do business.

All this foreign driven regulation and anti-competitive political pressure is designed to turn that on its head.

Stop boasting about the TIEAs and Bermuda's compliance with old world financial jurisdictions and start articulating the vision to grow Bermuda's economy and sharpen our focus.

So far it's clear that Paula Cox and her colleagues don't have a clue how to stop Bermuda's economic contraction and are completely banking on a global economic recovery to bail them out.

But the real challenge for Bermuda is not just stopping the bleeding, but getting back the competitive edge that the PLP blew.

Today's Bermuda Sun article presents a huge opportunity for the OBA to go right at the PLP's cluelessness:

The economy is another potential problem area for the PLP but party activists believe people will accept that Bermuda's problem is part of a wider global picture and will trust the PLP to protect Bermudian jobs.

If Bermuda's problems are part of a wider global picture, why then, are Bermuda's companies moving to Ireland - which has far greater economic problems than Bermuda (for now)? That claim doesn't hold up to the least amount of scrutiny. The PLP haven't protected jobs but chased them away.

Why would you trust the party that presided over unprecedented job losses, and continues to now in education and at public golf courses, with protecting jobs? It's a ridiculous assertion.

But the PLP have to say it, because the alternative is to acknowledge that their dogma is diametrically opposed to Bermuda's economic and social well being. The PLP's policies are incompatible with economic prosperity and the social progress and safety net that funds.

The PLP insider said:

"Everything the Opposition wants to do is connected with money and business. However many times they want to change their name it is still the Barritts, the Dunkleys and the Gibbons's.

"How can you fight price rises in the supermarkets when you profit from those price rises? How can you complain about insurance costs for seniors when you own an insurance company?

"When push comes to shove, who do people think will look out for them? The PLP or the Oppostion?"

Not a bad way to redirect from Paula Cox's horrendous economy, one characterised by previously unknown issues to Bermuda like unemployment and foreclosures.

The Opposition, who are conspicuously silent since they launched and missing a huge opportunity to make a strong first impression, should quickly reframe it for what it is.

Everything the Opposition wants to do is about jobs and prosperity for all Bermudians. It's been done before and it can be done again. Just not by the PLP.

That's the connection more and more Bermudians are making. Ask those 30 paraprofessionals just laid off due to Paula Cox and her colleagues' economic mismanagement.

The OBA should be labeling this as "Paula Cox's recession", or "The PLP recession". And "Paula Cox's lay offs" for example. The language is quite simple.

Make the connection for people in a way they can relate to.

And, most importantly, prior to the election. The OBA should be reminding people of what the PLP's last election campaign claimed and did.

They claimed with an admirable poker face that: crime was declining, tourism was up and the economy was bullet-proof.

What are Bermudians experiencing daily? The PLP unwinding their own policies quietly (the latest being the 90 day yacht stay policy), crime continuing to spiral out of control, and the PLP's policy rollbacks a tacit admission that they cannot afford their own election promises.

If they lied to the electorate last time, why should the electorate believe any of their claims, promises and demagoguery this time?

The OBA have to plant that seed now. Today. Not in 2 months in the height of an election campaign when people's buttons are being pushed relentlessly and fear-mongering is in full effect.

We've just witnessed independence raised. There's no way the PLP want to run on Independence as an election issue. No way. It's a colossal loser.

So why raise it then?

Independence is a convenient stalking horse to introduce race during the soft launch of the election period of course. Independence will be quickly dropped, but the racial button pushing will persist.

We've done this dance before. The OBA have to remind the public of what went down in 2007, and what happened in its wake, so that they recognize it for what it is as it unfolds again according to the script.

Then of course it looks contrived and insincere, which of course it is.

As that connection is made they should then ask the voters if they want 5 more years like the last 5; a half decade which ushered in economic and social pain previously unheard of in Bermuda, and overseen by a party too proud and/or blind to stop and reverse it?

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I stopped reading and writing much about race in the past year out of sheer exhaustion and disillusionment with Bermuda's inability to conduct a nuanced and intelligent discussion on the island (yes Big Con(versation) that's you) - and because race has become a proxy argument to achieve a political outcome not improve social outcomes.

However, I recently finished reading a book called Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century which I read as a result of a book review in The New Republic which seemed to provide an alternative view to the untouchable conventional wisdom on remedies (which is what interests me, not re-litigating the past).

The book raised ideas that keep resurfacing in my head, and this review really captures the core and compelling case of the book.

This book is depressing because it is so persuasive. There is a school of thought in America which argues that the government must be the main force that provides help to the black community. This shibboleth is predicated upon another one: that such government efforts will make a serious difference in disparities between blacks and whites. Amy Wax not only argues that such efforts have failed, she also suggests that such efforts cannot bring equality, and therefore must be abandoned. Wax identifies the illusion that mars American thinking on this subject as the myth of reverse causation--that if racism was the cause of a problem, then eliminating racism will solve it. If only this were true. But it isn't true: racism can set in motion cultural patterns that take on a life of their own.

Wax appeals to a parable in which a pedestrian is run over by a truck and must learn to walk again. The truck driver pays the pedestrian's medical bills, but the only way the pedestrian will walk again is through his own efforts. The pedestrian may insist that the driver do more, that justice has not occurred until the driver has himself made the pedestrian learn to walk again. But the sad fact is that justice, under this analysis, is impossible. The legal theory about remedies, Wax points out, grapples with this inconvenience--and the history of the descendants of African slaves, no matter how horrific, cannot upend its implacable logic. As she puts it, "That blacks did not, in an important sense, cause their current predicament does not preclude charging them with alleviating it if nothing else will work."

The author goes on to highlight an inconvenient and in Bermuda I suspect unpopular statistical truth, and I would argue is where the solution really rests, not with ineffective Government programs and politically orchestrated conversations:

One of the most sobering observations made by Wax comes in the form of a disarmingly simple calculus presented first by Isabel Sawhill and Christopher Jencks. If you finish high school and keep a job without having children before marriage, you will almost certainly not be poor. Period. I have repeatedly felt the air go out of the room upon putting this to black audiences. No one of any political stripe can deny it. It is human truth on view. In 2004, the poverty rate among blacks who followed that formula was less than 6 percent, as opposed to the overall rate of 24.7 percent. Even after hearing the earnest musings about employers who are less interested in people with names like Tomika, no one can gainsay the simple truth of that advice. Crucially, neither bigotry nor even structural racism can explain why an individual does not live up to it.

Read the complete review, and also the book (I had to special order it). It's a tough read at times because it really challenges in an uncompromising way well established conventional wisdom; the very same conventional wisdom that has been imported here and misused to advance a political agenda at the expense of advancing a historically disadvantaged segment of the population.

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Well the protest achieved exactly what it was always most likely to achieve: the complete opposite outcome the organisers and protesters hoped for. The downside risk to these is always greater than the upside potential.

May I suggest a moratorium on Parliamentary marches against the PLP; they are counter-productive.

If the intent is to publicly vent or feel like you're doing something, then keep marching. If you actually want to be strategic and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome, then accept that the PLP thrive on rancor and extreme partisanship and don't help them out.

The ill-advised antics of one or perhaps two protesters was as predictable as the PLP's disingenuous exaggeration and misrepresentation of what occurred - identical to the Uighur protest.

Zane DeSilva's claim of racism after he was jeered is amusingly bizarre - a smallish group of predominantly elderly white demonstrators demonstrating against a white MP is a new brand of white on white racism one can only conclude. (The PLP's race strategists may want to look up Jump the Shark - or in this case the Jumping the Great White Shark).

Apart from that, the moment the Corporation scheduled a protest is the moment they lost control of the message. All it takes is one person to act stupidly, as the guy who blocked Zane DeSilva's car did (although no-one surrounded it and 'banged on it' - check the video, there was a light tap as one does to signal a driver to pull away - ask garbage collectors), all it takes is one dumb placard and the PLP spin-doctors will get to work mis-characterising things as widespread uncontrolled "anger, rage and racism".

People do dumb things when in crowds. It's a widely researched phenomenon known as collective effervescence.

This stuff is so predictable you can script it. In fact, I pretty much did script it:

...successfully able to pivot and portray the protest as some angry white mob (which it was not). He even dragged his wife out as a prop in front of the crowd, hoping to create a scene.

Note that Zane DeSilva also dragged his wife and son out and immediately condemned the protest as racist. The goal is to create a self-perpetuating theme that all anti-PLP protests are racist.

Marches like this are a key component that the PLP need to get their backbenchers etc. back in line. People should stop helping them.

There is no greater sin for the PLP than one of their MPs publicly siding with a group of predominantly white Bermudians. As soon as they can boil an issue down to "privilege", or today's catchphrase of "unearned privilege", then the PLP MPs fall back in line.

One MP describes this dynamic, particularly during elections, as the 'racial afterburners' - the last two weeks of an election campaign where buttons are pushed, tensions are raised, loyalties are tested and undecideds break disproportionately against the UBP.

Yes, a double standard exists when it comes to protesting in Bermuda. Yes, the PLP can march, rally and attack their opponents with racially loaded offensive language ("House Negroes", "Confused Negroes", "Uncle Toms", intimidate employees and employers etc.) without much condemnation. A different set of rules apply to others, and I for one would rather conduct myself by those rules.

People need to just accept it. For now. This dynamic is an outcome of history. I understand it. I don't see it as a problem. It's just the way it is. So, no more marches and Cabinet lawn protests please.

The irony of course is that the PLP continue to describe Bermuda's social, economic and political environment as one where whites continue to hold the power.

If that were the case these protests wouldn't be happening. These protests only occur because the only power these same - mostly elderly and mostly white - Bermudians hold is that of speaking out. And it has the completely opposite effect than intended, so it isn't even powerful.

The thought process seems to be that we have to do something, so let's protest. Because that's just what you do (and what the PLP did so well historically).

But it's not transferable. This has to be a battle of ideas, not emotions and not partisan loyalties. The path to a more issue driven, rational political environment is to lower the volume, lower the rancor, eliminate the environment where all sides get taken over by their reptilian brains and fall back into historical tribal camps.

People can complain that this is unjust (race - or more accurately history - has a factor in how your protest is perceived or portrayed), or you can accept the reality and take a different approach.

As I wrote prior to the protest, groups of mostly white protesters will box in fence-sitting PLP MPs, however right they are or think they are on the point.

Black Bermudians are still not comfortable coming out in large numbers to march against the PLP, however much they may agree with an issue, and certainly not when led by organisations historically linked/identified as white (Corp. of Ham, UBP). The same dynamic can be seen with black Bermudian driven protests and light white turnout. This cuts both ways. Much of it is about history, and class defining different priorities, but it's there for us all to see.

We've seen a few examples with the Bermuda Union of Teachers, and Friday with the BPSU who notably came out publicly for more dialogue - I suspect because they've had first hand experience with the PLP Government's sincerity around issues such as this.

The Corporation touts the 80% disapproval of the takeover in their poll. However getting a racial cross section of 80% of the population in a poll to agree with you in relative anonymity, and who comes out to visibly demonstrate are not at all connected.

White Bermudians don't lose anything by protesting against the PLP because they are continually vilified and demagogued. The PLP reminds white Bermudians regularly that they don't need their support, although they keep trying to guilt trip people into offering it rather than genuinely asking for it.

What the PLP fail to acknowledge in their complaints about their lack of white support is that by demonizing whites continually they are pushing away white voters.

You can't ask for someone's vote by saying in effect 'You white devils owe us your vote'.

It's insincere. And offensive. The ensuing complaints about lack of white support ring hollow. The tactic is designed to drive whites and blacks into separate camps, not broaden the PLP's white support. Courting demographics in politics are a long established fact of life. Race, age, gender, class, income. I doubt they'll go away.

So please, no more protests. Lower the emotion. Be strategic. Be tactical. Stay focused on the ideas. Debate the merits. Don't take the bait. Play the long game.

Change takes time. Today's status quo is as entrenched now as it was in the 70s and 80s.

I remain convinced that Bermuda's future is worth fighting for. The right way.

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Today's article where the PLP is called out for not making progress on racial inequities and holding it back through their regressive political tactics is a great example of the following quote which someone sent me a week ago:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Upton Sinclair

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As hard as it is to believe, the predictably ridiculous PLP website has outdone itself. I know, you didn't think it possible. Neither did I. But this one is pretty funny.

In a desperate attempt to try to deny the BDA and UBP credit for yet again addressing poorly crafted legislation, this time on gun crime, the PLP website attempted to pull one quote from Mark Pettingill's speech in Parliament to somehow cast him as racially insensitive.

This was also by the way on the back of a similarly despicable post accusing the UBP and BDA - except the PLP refuses to call them the BDA (who responded by amusingly referring to the PLP as the "Labour Government") - of "delaying and dithering" on gun crime by requesting the customary two weeks notice before passing legislation. (Legislation that the PLP ultimately conceded was flawed in Parliament by accepting amendments.)

But on the Pettingill post, two things are going on here by my read.

The first is the reflexive PLP PR strategy of racial word association. The sum total of most of their political strategy is to attack opponents by simply constructing sentences with as many words as they can that they think have perceived negative racial connotations.

The idea being that as soon as you invoke racism, or racial insensitivity, rational discussion is impossible and all people hear is someone's name and "racist".

So in this case, the communication genius(es) over there said: "Hmmm, he invoked Desmond Tutu. Desmond Tutu is South African. South Africa had apartheid. South Africa had a Democratic Alliance post apartheid. Bermuda has a Democratic Alliance. Mark Pettingill is white. White South African's engaged in apartheid. We can associate Mark Pettingill's comments with apartheid".

Bingo! (Except the PLP doesn't support gambling, except on their website which is more pro-gambling than the Las Vegas Gaming Association.) But I digress.

So let's start over. Bingo! We can put out a press release with the words South Africa, apartheid, Pettingill, Bermuda Democratic Alliance and it must mean bad things, even if it is an absurd stretch.

We've seen this before many times. Too many to bother recounting here.

Secondly, and just as importantly, the PLP hate it, hate it, when anyone else invokes anything to do with race to support their arguments, especially one directly against the PLP. They absolutely can't tolerate this. It undermines their whole identity as the sole authority/positive association on race.

So they lash out. Always. They do this all the time, but this one was particularly in-artful and absurd.

It's not surprising, it just suggests that they really are coming apart at the seams because this one was real amateur hour. They succeeded in drawing more attention to the UBP and BDA's Parliamentary victory over the PLP's latest hasty and badly crafted legislation and demonstrate that it is indeed the PLP themselves who are trivialising apartheid.

By making the argument that they do, that Mr. Pettingill in referring to Apartheid era laws, is somehow trivialising Apartheid SA, can actually be turned against the PLP itself. An argument can be made that it is indeed the PLP that is now trivialising Apartheid and using it to play political football.

Plus, and I'm surprised no-one has mentioned this, the PLP's proposal to hold people for a month without charge amounts to preventative detention. You may recall that in 2007 the PLP accused the UBP's version of this as being "draconian, and "neo-fascist".

So, it all comes full circle, with the PLP as the inept "draconian" "neo-fascists" who "want to lock everyone up".

You've got to love the absurd desperation of it all.

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In light of Marc Bean's attempted smackdown of Michael Dunkley as ignorant and arrogant I thought I'd highlight Dr. Brown opining on arrogance.

He continued: "What happens when black men in particular are confident and have a few dollars? The confidence is called arrogance and the dollars are called elitism.

"You will never hear (former Opposition Leader) Grant Gibbons referred to as arrogant or elitist yet those labels might more accurately be applied to him.

Well, (former Opposition Leader) Michael Dunkley was just referred to as arrogant by one of Dr. Brown's disciples.

How do we reconcile this? Ignorance, elitism and arrogance are not constrained by race, and the double standards and fabrications around political language (see political eunuch) fall apart quickly when only a little bit of pressure is applied.

It's all just politics.

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The Onion (satirical newspaper), publishes a very funny piece yesterday entitled "America Needs To Have A Superficial Conversation About Race".

The content is obviously North American, but it's uncannily on point for our own government sponsored Big Con(versation):

The people of America need to put aside their differences and come together on common ground. Especially at this crucial moment in our history. How better, I ask, to achieve this goal than to engage in an inconclusive, protracted, ignorant, and superficial examination of the issue of race?

The time for vagueness is now.

Over the past 20 years, our country has become intensely polarized. The gap between rich and poor has grown ever more vast. Voters on both sides are desperate for alternatives. If we ever hope to move into a new era of enlightened multicultural exchange, we must foster, on a national scale, a second-grade-level look into the most painful and difficult issue in America's cultural history.

Black, white, yellow, green, or brown— we can all be callously summed up in a trite statement of unity.

Like it or not, the U.S. needs a stupid conversation on the issue of race relations. Perhaps more importantly, we need this stupid dialogue to be couched in the most self-righteous, know-it-all attitudes on the part of those involved, as if they have no idea whatsoever of how much more complicated the issue is, and how little their one-dimensional approach to it brings to the table.

[Thanks to the reader who sent it on for a laugh.]

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Recently, in the Wall Street Journal, guest columnist Shelby Steele wrote a very incisive commentary entitled "Why Jesse Jackson Hates Obama".

Steele articulates in the American context exactly what I've always considered the problem with the PLP's approach to race but have never been able to express well (emphasis mine):

Mr. Jackson was always a challenger. He confronted American institutions (especially wealthy corporations) with the shame of America's racist past and demanded redress. He could have taken up the mantle of the early Martin Luther King (he famously smeared himself with the great man's blood after King was shot), and argued for equality out of a faith in the imagination and drive of his own people. Instead -- and tragically -- he and the entire civil rights establishment pursued equality through the manipulation of white guilt.

Their faith was in the easy moral leverage over white America that the civil rights victories of the 1960s had suddenly bestowed on them. So Mr. Jackson and his generation of black leaders made keeping whites "on the hook" the most sacred article of the post-'60s black identity.

They ushered in an extortionist era of civil rights, in which they said to American institutions: Your shame must now become our advantage. To argue differently -- that black development, for example, might be a more enduring road to black equality -- took whites "off the hook" and was therefore an unpardonable heresy. For this generation, an Uncle Tom was not a black who betrayed his race; it was a black who betrayed the group's bounty of moral leverage over whites. And now comes Mr. Obama, who became the first viable black presidential candidate precisely by giving up his moral leverage over whites.

Mr. Obama's great political ingenuity was very simple: to trade moral leverage for gratitude. Give up moral leverage over whites, refuse to shame them with America's racist past, and the gratitude they show you will constitute a new form of black power. They will love you for the faith you show in them.

Read the whole thing, it's well worth it, but that section is very relevant to Bermuda.

The Big Con(versation) in Bermuda is an official exercise in the manipulation and amplification of white guilt. Ewart Brown said as much in the contentious post-election interview with BBC Caribbean:

EB: This discomfort is part of the healing.

NN: But but it could also make the problem worse…

EB: I don’t think so. We take the risk of healing the country. It’s a risk you have to take.

NN: But you see, you see Premier, the first thing you are doing is reaching out to your black electorate. You haven’t said anything as of yet about reaching out to the white part of your population and that …

EB: That’s because you didn’t raise it.

The PLP forged both their ideology and identity during the tumultuous times of the 1960s and 1970s. Ewart Brown in particular spent his formative years in the US Civil Rights movement not Bermuda's. It should not come as a surprise then that his politics are precisely those of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Steele's comments on Uncle Toms are incredibly relevant to Bermuda as well; they explain why the PLP attack non-PLP blacks as sell-outs, house n*ggers and white apologists:

For this generation, an Uncle Tom was not a black who betrayed his race; it was a black who betrayed the group's bounty of moral leverage over whites.

Black UBP candidates know precisely what this is all about; being black and not in the PLP is the ultimate sin.

Blacks who join the UBP have made a decision to pursue a partnership which cannot exist with a continued focus on exploiting white guilt and demand that blacks fall in lockstep with the sole legitimate black political ideology of the PLP.

Stan Ratteray (who I had the honour of spending time with for a few years before he passed away) for example fought as a key member of the Progressive Group with the Theatre Boycott to end segregation and then became a UBP MP.

You can't argue that he didn't support civil rights, but he did eschew manipulating white guilt as a political strategy.

Politicians across both parties in Bermuda admire and dare I say envy Obama. One of Obama's challenges is that many people are trying to latch onto his popularity, but - at the risk of appearing to be one of those - substantively and temperamently, the politics of the PLP are the antithesis of Obama's.

As Steele so well demonstrates, Obama expressly rejects the identity politics that the PLP thrive on and that the US Republicans and Jesse Jackson style black-Democrats have used to great success.

Obama has translated this into incredible cross over appeal, creating a not insignificant conservative support base, even though he's a Democrat.

Without a doubt he is also a very savvy political operator, he is not the Messiah by any means, as demonstrated in Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker's excellent essay over almost a month ago (the essay of which seemed to get lost in controversy over the cover cartoon).

The irony of course is that while Obama has been embraced by the PLP (and envied by the UBP), his political circumstances and philosophy is much more UBP than PLP.

His language is conciliatory; he is an incrementalist not a revolutionary; he is a coalition builder; he seeks to bring people together and bridge differences.

I think these traits are part of who he is as an individual (coupled with extraordinary charisma, intelligence and rhetorical skills), but you can't ignore the fact that he has to be these things because he is in the demographic minority in the US.

As are the UBP in Bermuda.

Obama's campaign knows that it has to address race, but avoids it as a central issue as much as it can.

If he is pigeon-holed as "The Black Candidate" he loses. During the Primaries the Clinton campaign tried unsuccessfully (and delicately) to make this stick, but the intent was clear.

What's the parallel in Bermuda? It's obvious. The PLP's primary objective is to make sure that the UBP are "The White Party".

While the UBP tries to generally avoid race, the PLP make sure it's injected into every press release - both implicitly and explicitly. The UBP try and build a coalition, but it's a delicate one that has suffered from them ceding their branding to the PLP for at least a decade. (Obama's branding on the other hand is masterful.)

I don't want to go too far off into Obama-land, but like Steele demonstrates in his column, what is causing such tension in Bermuda now is the full-court press on white guilt.

Because while the PLP often point out that whites vote overwhelmingly for the UBP as proof of racism, what doesn't get said is that the PLP's explicit appeals to black racial solidarity and identity, coupled with language which is exclusionary not inclusive, has the equal and opposite effect of driving white support away.

The PLP's appeal to whites to join the party is based on white guilt: "You're a racist if you don't join us." Not the most welcoming invitation is it.

This is an easy win win for their identity politics driven approach as they're in the demographic majority. Sadly demographics are a crude fact of life in politics.

For the PLP they're also a political luxury, one that Obama doesn't have in the US, but also something that he may not need.

The UBP had better be taking notes.

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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?

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If you haven't read Tim Wise in the Mid Ocean interview today you should, if only to realise how uninformed he is.

The statement below should clarify just how inapplicable this guy's theories are to Bermuda:

"But the reality is the white people who aren't rich - is their mortgage in the hands of a black banker. Is their job in the hands of a black employer. Is their child's education in the hands of a black teacher."

Yes. Yes. And yes in many cases.

He gives himself a little wiggle room as an escape hatch, but it's all for naught wrapped up in consultant-speak:

"If so, then at least theoretically they could have a point although we'd still have to excavate the practicality."

Excavate the practicality? Huh? Consultant mumbo-jumbo. Perhaps we need to find some 'synergies' so that we can determine his 'value added' 'going forward'.

If he wasn't being thrust to the fore as the authoritative voice on race by the political spin doctors and Bermuda's equivalents of Lenin's soviet sympathisers - rather harshly termed his "Useful Idiots" (those who are lapping the Big Con up) - it would serve as an entertaining diversion.

Larry Burchall in the Bermuda Sun today calls him a 'snake oil salesman'. That's a little harsh; he's simply a businessman. One literally in the business of race.

He knows who his audience is and has carved a nice living off this issue.

Anyone with a clue about Bermuda knows that probably over half of Bermuda's mortgages are held with a 'black banker', namely Phillip Butterfield, CEO of the Bank of Bermuda and the brother of the Premier (a scenario that is eerily similar to the old Front St. oligarchy with Bank CEOs with close ties to the political leadership).

Someone might also like to inform him that all Bermudian children - regardless of race - have been, and will continue to be, educated by black teachers, despite his prejudicial and uninformed statement to the contrary about how many white parents will have their children educated by black teachers.

I'd say all at some point in their lives.

Same goes for black employers and business owners with white employees.


Maybe in America he can make these arguments, but not here. He's clearly clueless here (hence why he was hired: easily manipulated to the political agenda).

Wise applies his US-centric view, where blacks are a demographic minority (~12%), to Bermuda where they are in fact a majority (~ 70%). Of course they could practice racial discrimination if they so desired.

That's not a controversial statement. It's a fact.

He is an American who was intentionally selected because his angle meshes well with a political agenda and he'll happily give his stump speeches to a new audience. He's been imported to peddle those inapplicable arguments here at probably pretty good rates.

This is the same North American view that Ewart Brown experienced living outside of Bermuda and is his context when talking about Bermuda (Back to the plantation talk for example), so it plays right into his hand.

Whether discrimination does occur in fact is an entirely different argument; but it's not helpful for this so-called expert to be given a pedestal to peddle his product in a place he clearly knows so little about.

This is a business for him, and Consulting 101 tells you to maximise your profit margins by reusing your work. So from that perspective I'm not surprised.

I'd suggest he spend more time listening and less time talking about a place and a history he clearly knows little to nothing about.

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