A White Woman's Awakening
Six years ago I began to write in the local press about racism in my country. I was fearful but knew the words needed to be said. I questioned why White Bermudians were so reluctant to face the reality of the economic disparity that existed.
Why do Whites persist in holding to their perceptions that racism does not exist, even when Blacks have stood up and given examples and shared their experience? Why can’t we put aside white perceptions and stereotypes, and really listen to what our fellow Black Bermudians are trying to tell us? Why is there this collective ‘head in the sand’ attitude when it comes to discussing race problems? There is statistical evidence to back up what our fellow Black Bermudians have been trying to say for years, but despite this Whites cling to their inherited perceptions, and refuse to believe what their fellow Black Bermudians tell them about their racial experiences. As Whites we must question what is it we fear, why we are reluctant to listen to our fellow Black Bermudians about their experience with racism?
Whites can no longer look through ‘rose-tinted glasses’ and say things like “I have black friends so I can’t be racist”, or “I’ve never witnessed any ‘overt’ racism”, or “I’ve never owned any slaves, so why blame me”, or “this is all in the past its different nowadays”, because this does not bear any resemblance to the real world. Yes it makes us feel better, justifies the way we think, and provides us with a security blanket but it cannot explain the Black experience, and only defines the narrow White perception.
This ability to deny non-white reality is what we must overcome. How can we say that racism does not exist in our country when over one-third of the population are baby boomers and either experienced the degradation, injustice and humiliation of segregation or as Whites participated in it, witnessed it and remained silent? We must be willing to participate in the dialogue on race, listen, and believe what our fellow Black Bermudians tell us about their experiences. Our very denial of the Black Bermudian reality is in and of itself a form of racism. Through dialogue there will be a freeing-up of the fear, a sharing of experiences, a realization of each other’s humanity, and a journey to reconciliation.