Making a difference: Cummings Zuill says blacks and whites are struggling with race.
Making a difference: Cummings Zuill says blacks and whites are struggling with race.

Cummings Zuill came of age in segregated Bermuda and in an era when white men ruled the roost, but he’s been quietly working on healing racial divisions for nearly 15 years.
He had no opportunities to mingle with black Bermudians during his youth, but he now counts blacks among his friends.
Working across the racial divide, he said, has made him a better person, “more open, fair and caring.”
“I’m not a banner burner,” he said. “I ’m not going to march up and down Front Street, and picket the House of Assembly, but I’m willing to do something.
“Because there are not a lot of white people that I know who do this, that are interested in doing what I do, I feel that’s an area where I think I can contribute.
“Just to help open some minds, and get people to be thoughtful about their opinions, their actions and their behaviours.”
Mr. Zuill, 68, who studied religion and philosophy in college, worked at the Bank of Bermuda for 38 years, retiring seven years ago.
Outside of work, his interest had been mostly in volunteering and philanthropy, and the “need for everyone to focus on other people and not on themselves.”
In 1995, he attended the first in a series of diversity workshops at the Bermuda College. The bank then started its own in-house diversity training programmes, for which he became a co-facilitator. He went on to help found the Diversity Institute at the Bermuda College.
He said his realization of the role that race plays in Bermuda was a gradual one.
“There wasn’t an epiphany when I thought, ‘Gosh this is awful, I’ve got to do something about it’. It was a gradual process.
“Once I got involved in the mid-‘90s, I became much more serious and attentive and I’ve focused on my own personal development, which I think is the first step.”

He said blacks and whites are both struggling with race — “blacks from the point of views of being marginalized, and of being discriminated against, and whites from just the advantages they’ve had and perhaps don’t realize, and the feelings of perhaps ‘this is the way it should be’, which I think is understandable because the western world, the world we live in and deal with, the developed world, has been dominated by white people for hundreds of years. It’s conditioned us, white people, to view the world in a certain way. Our way is the way it is in our world.
“It’s sadly also conditioned black people to question their own abilities. The residual effects of segregation and slavery are still evident.”
Mr. Zuill, who has taken part in The Big Conversation, which was part of Government’s Race Relations Initiative, said feelings of superiority and inferiority are both very difficult to overcome, but need to be addressed.
“That’s what I am trying to understand in my journey,” he said. “And if I can help with some training, with some dialogue to help, as I have said publicly, people who look like me, people that I went to school with that I worked with, I’d be more than happy to do that. That’s a contribution I think I could make.”
He says many whites are uncomfortable under a PLP government, but on the other hand, the last election was “horrible from both sides” and has stimulated people to think about what they can do to help.
But public meetings are not everyone’s cup of tea —people who come out to the racism workshops, whether black or white, tend to be the same.  
There are other ways people can help — volunteering with mentoring organizations such as Mirrors and Youth Net will “open minds to some of the issues.”
Mr. Zuill is not certain that in an ideal Bermuda “we all go around with our arms around each other.”
But we should all be working towards more open discussion, a greater tolerance for differences of opinion and an understanding of the other person’s viewpoint.
“The challenge is: ‘How do we get people who have these things they hold on to, which from a racial point of view could be some biased, stereotyped pictures of others, how do we get them to be more open, and see through those, how silly they are being and closed-minded they are being?
“How do we get them to want to be able to be open and objective and thoughtful and intelligent about their choices?
“ If we could get there, I think it could be an ideal Bermuda.”