05 September 2008

"Am I Being Used?"

In last week's BRRI session on race and politics, Gwyneth Rawlins made reference to Dr. Clarence James's 1967 speech, "Am I Being Used?". She was talking about her experience in the UBP, by whom she felt used and abused, and quoted the title of Dr. James's speech to highlight her point of blacks being used.

In fact, however, Dr. James's speech describes why he left the PLP for the UBP. He makes quite clear his point that the PLP leaders were using blacks: "...coloured people may choose to be used by the power hungry leaders of the P.L.P. They may climb aboard the hate train of the P.L.P., run by irresponsible and unscrupulous leaders..."

Much of his speech might apply today, although quite a bit of it will also seem over the top. You can download the speech here from my online library, and I've also reproduced it below.

A brief historical note: the speech mentions Geoffrey Bing, the former Attorney-General of Ghana. Bing served as a "constitutional advisor" to the PLP for the 1966 Constitutional Conference in London. He was a controversial figure as he had been blamed when things unraveled in Ghana. (From Lois: Bermuda's Grande Dame of Politics, by J. Randolf Williams, pp. 126-127).

Speech by Dr. Clarence James at the City Hall on 11th October 1967.

My Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:

My appearance here tonight stems from a longstanding interest in race relations which began in 1948 when I first went abroad. At that time I was clearly a product of a rigid dual system of education. This segregated system was even developed to the point of granting scholarships under different names. There was the Bermuda Scholarship and the Rhodes Scholarship for white children. There was the Bermuda technical education scholarship for coloured children which I received.

Once abroad, I suffered through a period of adjustment to an integrated educational environment at McGill University. This adjustment took real effort on my part for the first year or two. I also became keenly interested in the problems of racial discrimination in general and especially those problems as they affected Bermuda, my home. Dr. Gordon, and others, made Bermudians aware that the root of the problem was the lack of universal franchise, which particularly affected the coloured segment of the population. This I believed, and still believe, to be an accurate appraisal of the basic cause as far as Bermuda is concerned. So, I followed with interest the events which led up to the mixed land and universal franchise used in the 1963 elections. I returned home just prior to these elections. I actually joined the P.L.P. at that time because I felt the party was sincere and completely in support of racial integration in Bermuda. I vigorously supported the protest against the lack of true universal franchise and the gerrymandering of the electoral districts.

But during the succeeding years, I sadly noticed in the P.L.P. a growing movement to abandon their early claim to foster racial integration. They developed an increasing and persistent dissociation from all sincere efforts to promote racial integration in such a way as to produce results. The P.L.P. trend has proceeded in recent months to the point of a virtual hate campaign. The hate campaign, if allowed to gather steam, will eventually lead to a division of the races and to destruction of Bermuda. Of course, I left the P.L.P. when I found they were bound in this direction.

In the past two years I have also observed increasingly sincere efforts made in support of meaningful integration. These efforts have been made by a group of men, led by Sir Henry Tucker, known as the United Bermuda Party. And the U.B.P. is supported by a large group of liberal white and coloured non parliamentary members, some of whom are former members of the P.L.P. In the early days of the United Bermuda Party I cannot fail to admit that I looked upon the party as a white party, with token coloured support - too weak to be effective in the area of race relations. Subsequent events indicate that the U.B.P. was, indeed, sincerely responsive to the strong public opinion built up by the early P.L.P. and by several other organizations before it.

The most important event was the development of our new constitution. In the face of aroused public opinion, in spite of public right-wing opposition and while in command of a majority in the house, the U.B.P. did what was right in the matter of franchise. They adopted the present universal suffrage of 21 years of age, with no extra advantage for land owners, by abolishing the plus vote and by reducing the voting age from 25 years to 21 years. I dare suggest to Bermudians that the real enemies of progress in race relations are those members of the legislature, and that segment of the population they represent, who voted against this measure.

Then came the constitutional conference during which the true position and intent of the U.B.P. was consistently distorted by the P.L.P. with the help of Mr. Geoffrey Bing, a proven distorter of human rights in Ghana. The U.B.P. has been branded as racialist and most recently the Governor has been branded as a racist and white supremacist because he, too, signed the majority report of the constitutional conference.

What does this constitution actually provide that is so racially inbalanced? It provides for 26 seats in the constituencies where there is a clear coloured majority, and 14 seats in constituencies which have a white majority. How then can the U.B.P. or the Governor be seriously considered to be promoting white supremacy?

The members of St. Paul’s A.M.E. church (with which I am associated) have had the Governor as guest visitor on numerous occasions. I am quite certain that they do not agree with the disrespect heaped on the Governor of these Islands by the certain P.L.P. leaders. This disrespect was obviously condoned by the rest of the P.L.P. oligarchy at the time, at least until they observed the broad and general opposition in Bermuda to this sort of distortion and mud-slinging.

It is now clear that the P.L.P. programme of distortion of the truth is but part of a hate mongering campaign which actively seeks to divide the races. The hate attempts to cover up for the irresponsibility and incompetence of P.L.P. leaders themselves. It creates a frame of mind which would constantly distort a true assessment of what is fair and what is unfair. It breeds civil disorder, disrespect for law and order, and eventual anarchy. Already P.L.P. leaders have instructed Bermudians to break the law, and P.L.P. leaders are now asking their followers to save their money. Could they be actually planning civil disorder and disruption of the economy where there may be no jobs for the very workers they say they are representing? Make no mistake about it, in any disruption of the economy, naturally, politically, or hatefully induced, it is the working class that will suffer the most not because of any malicious intent of those who are relatively more advantaged but because of the general rule that workers have less in savings and fewer alternative job opportunities. Furthermore, the close association of the P.L.P. leaders with their Communist-minded friends during the constitutional conference last November in London leaves little doubt of their alliance with Communist dictatorial policies. These dictatorial policies will usurp the rights of workers for the P.L.P. leaders’ own selfish ends. The P.L.P. thus becomes a power loving party at the expense of the very people which they are supposed to be helping. Independence is just an assurance that they would not be disturbed in carrying out their conspiracy. They want to cut themselves off from any outside democratic influence the same that Ian Smith and his gang have done with their unilateral declaration of independence in Southern Rhodesia.

In this regard, I view the recent close P.L.P. - B.I.U. association as a betrayal of the unsuspecting union members by the B.I.U. leaders who openly flirt with irresponsible and undemocratic leaders of the P.L.P.

The membership of the B.I.U. will be more wise and cautious than their leaders. They will know that a crushing blow was dealt the trade unions in Ghana. Nkrumah at the height of his political power outlawed trade unions and the man who drafted the laws was Mr. Geoffrey Bing. Bermudian workers will not be used by unscrupulous people to grasp political power - a power which P.L.P. leaders will employ to suppress the freedom of trade unions as was done in Ghana.

At this point, one might ask "can the U.B.P. really represent the workers?" My answer is, "yes". And we can represent their genuine interests far better than any other party! Firstly, the U.B.P. and only the U.B.P. will have a fully integrated team of capable men and women who will have that necessary experience and skill in government, commerce and finance to see that this Island is well run. We are for, and we can ensure, a rising per capita income, together with a better distribution of that income that will result from our commitment to build cohesion between the races. As we accomplish these objectives, who benefits most? Obviously the workers will. All our plans for forward-looking social legislation are entirely dependent upon sound government, and a united and prosperous Bermuda. The United Bermuda Party is dedicated to preserving democratic principles and practices which will ensure that there are no abridgements of human rights and freedoms as we work together to build a better Bermuda. There is a growing representation of workers in the highest councils of our party. These workers are full and equal members of our party. Their presence and their contribution within our party ensures that the point of view of labour will be capably and effectively represented.

Another major area of distortion in race relations is in educational policy. Disputes between the teachers’ union and the board of education have been highlighted by prominent P.L.P. members in an attempt to overshadow a major contribution by the U.B.P. - a contribution which has far-reaching effects in fostering racial integration. That development is the embodiment in the education act of the rule that no government funds can be allotted to a school unless it is integrated. This rule is quite similar to a federal law in the United States which is used to effect integration in the southern United States. Why would the U.B.P. pass such a law if it was a racists’ party? It is noteworthy that the schools which are more than tokenly integrated are those schools which have trustee chairmen who are prominent members of the U.B.P. I refer to the Whitney Institute of which Sir Henry Vesey is chairman, and the Warwick Academy of which the Hon. John Plowman is chairman.

It is also noteworthy that the Bermuda High School could not accept government funds because its building and grounds are largely those which were given the school in a bequest for white children only. The U.B.P. will invalidate this racial designation in future pending legislation, making it possible for that school to proceed to integrate.

It has been said that race will be a major issue in the next general election. I think this is true. The coloured people in these islands will have a clear choice - they may choose to participate wholeheartedly in the establishment of racial harmony and integration and in the elimination of every vestitage of racial discrimination by supporting the U.B.P., understanding that the leaders of the U.B.P. are sincere in this regard, and understanding that they are to participate wholeheartedly, not in any token manner, but in proportion to their numbers.

Alternately, coloured people may choose to be used by the power hungry leaders of the P.L.P. They may climb aboard the hate train of the P.L.P., run by irresponsible and unscrupulous leaders towards the destination of self destruction of the economy of the island and, therefore, of themselves. And when they arrive at their destination, they will find Mr. Bing there to trap them like he trapped the people of Ghana. Where there can be no escape without bloodshed.

The white people of Bermuda also have a choice. They can either solidly support the United Bermuda Party and their fair dealing with the race problem or live in the past and support the racist independent. If they support such independents they will be stoking the fires of the P.L.P. hate train to faster destruction of the economy and, therefore, of themselves. Incidentally, an independent seat in the next house will not be worth two cents in Chinese money.

One may ask, "what about the B.D.P.?" It is clearly imperative for the future of these islands to find a solution to our race problem. The U.B.P. has moved, and moved sincerely, to resolve the problem. The P.L.P. has moved, and moved deceitfully and with hatred, to confuse the problem. The B.D.P. has not moved. No Bermudian can afford to waste his vote to support a party which is not working hard to resolve this vital issue.

Coloured Bermudians who support the U.B.P. are often attacked as Uncle Toms. It is claimed by the drivers of the hate-train that we are being used. This claim is ridiculous. The U.B.P. urges and welcomes coloured Bermudians to participate wholeheartedly, as full and equal members of the party. Not in any token manner, but in proportion to their numbers - numbers which have already been recognized in the U.B.P.-supported constitution: 26 to 14. Now I ask you, "are we being used", to maintain a racist government - with a franchise so fairly weighted in favour of the coloured community. I think not.

Most Bermudians would agree that many of the improvements in race relations were the results of pressures of one sort or another. But to say that the improvements are just concessions is to suggest that one is thinking in woolly retrogressive manner in two ways. Firstly, one wishes there were no concessions so that civil disorder and ultimate violence may be justified. Secondly, one constantly bemoans the fact that the improvements were not spontaneously initiated years ago. Both attitudes are quite non-productive. What is most effective is to apply pressures in such a way as to harness and fully utilise responsiveness under the terms of the new franchise towards the development of a truly united and prosperous Bermuda. This is best done by vigorously supporting the United Bermuda Party.

I, like many other Bermudians, am prepared to devote my life in serving the people of Bermuda because I love Bermuda, it is my home. I feel compelled to portray a frank, undistorted picture of race relations as I see them. By doing so, I sincerely hope that I can assist in saving Bermuda from self-destruction due to racial strife. I have no other motivation. Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.

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