We need real leadership

The following was published as a letter to the editor in today’s edition of The Royal Gazette, available here.

Dear Sir,

There aren’t words to describe Mr. Larry E. Smith’s recent letter to the editor dated the 8th of December. For someone who suggests that he lives in Florida, is it not surprising that he is abundantly willing to act as an authority on Bermuda’s present racial situation?

In his commentary, he asks “Why were blacks, above all other population groups, singled out for and successfully kept in slavery for such a protracted period of time?” As evidenced by the Wikipedia article on the topic of slavery, “Slavery can be traced to the earliest records, such as the Code of Hammurabi in Mesopotamia (~1800 BCE.)”. Not limited to just blacks, “The history of slavery in the ancient world was closely tied to warfare. Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Hebrew , Greek, Roman, Persian, Chinese, Mayan Aztec and Indian sources are replete with references to slavery in connection with warfare.”

Of particular interest to the enslavement of blacks is the Wikipedia article on the African Slave Trade which suggests “Slaves purchased from black slave dealers in West African regions … were sold into slavery as a result of a defeat in tribal warfare. Mighty black kings in the Bight of Biafra near modern-day Senegal and Benin sold their captives locally and later to European slave traders for goods such as metal cookware, rum, livestock, and seed grain.”

Does this imply that it was black Africans fighting amongst themselves who originally condemned our ancestors to their enslaved fate? The black president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, a descendant of generations of slave-owning African royals, said it best when he ridiculed reparations for slavery, saying “If one can claim reparations for slavery, the slaves of my ancestors or their descendants can also claim money from me”. Is it possible that you could be one of the descendants of the slaves of his ancestors that he does not wish to repay?

Mr Smith asks, “Was there something that was uniquely different about black people that caused nearly the entire world to support and profit from our enslavement?” While the entire world did not involve itself in Black enslavement, this question is also answered by the African Slave Trade article under the section entitled “Why African Slaves?” “In the late 15th century, Europeans … attempted to enslave some of the Native Americans to perform hard physical labour, but found them unaccustomed to hard agrarian labour.” “Their lack of resistance to common European diseases was another factor against their suitability for slavery.” “The African slaves proved more resistant to European diseases than indigenous Americans, familiar with a tropical climate and accustomed to agricultural work.”

Blacks were chosen as slaves because they were a strong powerful race, as evidenced by modern Black dominance of many professional sports, that could survive the tough conditions of the Americas, not because they were weak and inferior. If Blacks of the past had not fought against one another in the beginning, they may never have sold one another out and we wouldn’t be in this mess. Today, we still witness an age old battle of Black on Black sellouts. If you’re not a member of the PLP, you’re a “House Nigger”, an ‘Uncle Tom”, or a “Sambo”. Thousands of years and nothing has been learned.

Dr. Brown is using an age old strategy of divide and conquer. By pitting Blacks against one another, he might well end up like those mighty black kings. He works hard to paint Dr. Grant Gibbons as representative of “the establishment”, the one he fought hard against in the 1960s where he solidified his political views. Yet, the establishment of yesteryears is very different from the one that rules today. Today we live in an age where “the establishment” is the PLP government. Where Dr. Brown has gone from fighting “the man” to becoming it himself.

Dr. Brown could be using his new found endowment to get right to work to bring great change. Instead, he is selfish and takes the opportunity to gloat against an adversary that is no longer there. How can an individual be a “de facto leader” when he sits on the backbench? How can Dr. Gibbons represent “the establishment” when the PLP, today’s “establishment”, have reigned over Bermuda for the last 8 years? Was Dr. Brown not also a pivotal figure throughout those 8 years? Did he not have a hand in what occurred or, more critically, what didn’t?

To answer Mr. Smith’s question, “What are those conservative black UBP members conserving when black Bermudians are faced with poverty, crime, unemployment, homelessness and other social pathologies?” Could it be that they hope to conserve some kind of honesty and decency in our government? One where all Bermudians are equal and we have a true government more interested in doing what benefits the people rather than themselves. Ask yourself this: How quick has the PLP been willing to help themselves to fancy cars, expensive travel budgets, pay raises and a lot of other things they won’t even report on? Ask yourself another question. When was the last time they did something that actually helped YOU?

“One man with courage” doesn’t “make a majority”, it makes a dictatorship. Our people, all Bermudians of all colours, need to have the courage to stand up and demand real leadership, not those who are more interested in winning Oscars and settling old scores than doing what will make a real difference to us tomorrow.

We need leaders willing to stand up and unite Bermudians behind what is best for all Bermudians, not just one group over another. As long as you’re willing to settle for the excuse “the UBP did it too” as the answer to everything, we’re guaranteed to forever face poverty, crime, unemployment, homelessness and other social pathologies. Our issues of today should take the foremost of importance. We’ve got a black government, “the establishment” of yesterday is gone; we need leaders who will focus 100% of their energy on making Bermuda better for ALL Bermudians.

We shouldn’t stand for anything less.

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