Tim Wise: ‘Makes his money pandering to a bunch of strangely anguished white Bermudians and inveterate black Bermudian race-moaners.’ *File photo
Tim Wise: ‘Makes his money pandering to a bunch of strangely anguished white Bermudians and inveterate black Bermudian race-moaners.’ *File photo
"I understand Mr. Burchall's opinion piece was directed at empowering black Bermudians from his perspective to no longer stand in "victimhood" but what concerns me are his words, "Get over it! Get out of the past!"

Unfortunately, coming from a black Bermudian, it validates a widely-held white view that black people should "move on", that racism "is in the past".

Understandably this viewpoint is something many white people would prefer, because then they would not have to do anything about the current social inequality. "After all", the implication would be, "if it's all in the past the reason for the failure of black people to progress today is due to their own personal failings."



That was part of Lynne Winfield's response to my recent column. Given that she also declares herself a Tim Wise fan, I thought I'd deal with her letter.

In my autobiography "FINE AS WINE"*, on page 46 when I was twenty-three, I wrote that I came to terms with matters of race, racism, and racial legacy. I lived and wrote on for a further 196 pages.

I got over it. I got out of the past. I got into today. Now I work into tomorrow and next year and the next decade. But I haven't forgotten what happened before page 46.

I ended "FINE AS WINE" on page 242. If I were still writing about my life, I'd easily be on page 275 or something. I have moved on. I am not stuck on page 46. But page 46 is there and page 46 will never go away.

Staying with the idea of 'page 46' - if on page 46 I was illiterate and unskilled; and if by page 200 I had taken no actions to correct my individual situation and was still bottom of the social and economic heap; I could hardly blame the white Bermudian next to me - or the Asian guy imported as a cook - or the West Indian brought in as an accountant - or.....

Bermuda's walls of lawful segregation fell in 1960 - figuratively on page 46. That fall provided equal, or relatively equal, access to the playing field that lay behind those walls. Once on that playing field and now playing equally - or near equally - with every other player, I needed the playing skills that they had.

I had two choices. I could sit on the playing field and moan about the past - thus staying on page 46. Or, I could get the skills, get the knowledge, get whatever else it took, then get that ball and start making my own plays - thus moving off page 46.

My choice was no different from the choice that faced every black person who - like me - was born into segregation. The only sensible choice was the choice that I made.

Does it matter - to me - what white Bermudians think and feel about the past? No! Does it matter - to me - that white Bermudians haven't apologized about the past? No! Do I need to see white Bermudians walking around in sack-clothes and ashes, wailing and gnashing their teeth about their past behaviour? No!

In 2008, does it matter - to me - that any person, white or black, practices discrimination? Yes! Yes! Yes!

In 2008, Bermuda is bedeviled by a national problem of under-educated, under-prepared, and under-skilled black males. This looks like a racial problem. It isn't. It's an individual and fixable national problem whose 2008 solution is NOT limited by what happened before 1960 - before page 46.

There are many black Bermudians who have prepared themselves and have put their hands, their feet, and everything else on the 'ball'. They're off and running fast with that 'ball'. In 1936, Jesse Owens didn't moan. Instead, Jesse ran so fast that all his white competitors saw was his black butt disappearing in the distance. On Saturday, July 5, two skilled and disciplined black 'sisters' beat everybody else at Wimbledon. But here, in 2008 at 32N64W, there are still too many black Bermudians spending too much time sitting and moaning about the past and being distracted and conned into 'big conversations'.

I grabbed my ball on page 46. Almost two hundred pages later, I've still got that ball - and I'm not putting it down! I don't cry and I don't moan. I won't stop if I smash down some old or new segregationist who gets in my way.

Tim Wise came to Bermuda to make money. Tim Wise makes his money pandering to a bunch of strangely anguished white Bermudians and inveterate black Bermudian race-moaners.

There are thousands of words in the English language. I choose a word because it precisely expresses the view that I want to convey.

Tim Wise is an American. I selected the American idiom that best expresses my view. For me, Tim Wise is behaving like a snake oil salesman.

* 'FINE AS WINE from coloured boy to BERMUDIAN MAN' - at all bookstores.

lburchall@gmail.com