28 August 2008

BRRI Panel & Discussion: Race and Politics

The Bermuda Race Relation Initiative (BRRI) is having its next panel discussion tomorrow night (Friday the 29th), on Race and Politics. It's at 7pm in the Bermuda College North Hall Lecture Theatre. Panelists are David Commissiong (politician from Barbados), Gwyneth Rawlins, and Zane DeSilva. On Saturday, there will be a follow-up discussion at the BPSU building from 3-5pm (note this location has changed from the Leopard's Club).

Let me start by getting the major problem with this particular panel out of the way. Tomorrow night's discussion is obviously a setup -- and I say this while at the same time being committed to engaging in constructive dialogue on the topic of race.

First of all, no-one at the UBP was invited to sit on this panel. How can you have a constructive conversation with a one-sided panel?

I don't know anything about David Commissiong -- perhaps he is related to Rolfe Commissiong? You can see a bit about him on the web here and here.

We know that Gwyneth Rawlins has an axe to grind against the UBP -- not only did she quit the party after serving as the Party Chairman, but she then signed up to support the PLP via YouTube, where she explains how she is bitter because she did not get a Senate seat.

Finally, that brings me to Zane DeSilva. This is a whole another blog post. I have nothing against whites in the PLP. I respect those such as Jonathan Starling and others who join out of true belief. I personally think they are misguided, but at least they are acting on their principles. But Zane DeSilva and Jane Correia? Do you think there is any coincidence that the only whites willing to run for the PLP happen to be the two biggest recipients of our "labour" Government construction contracts? Whose firms, by the way, are not unionized. Perhaps I have a closed mind, but I find it impossible to view them as sincere.

The point is: what good can come of this discussion? Those who are doubtful about the BRRI are having their fears and prejudices confirmed just by looking at the make-up of the panel, and those who are already solid supporters of the BRRI are going to be the choir tomorrow night. I'll personally be there, if only to make sure the points above are heard, and because I am an optimist; you never know what can happen.

Finally, I am disappointed because from attending quite a few of the BRRI panels and discussions this year, I was at least mildly positive about them: they seemed to be avoiding (at least a little bit) the partisan trap into which they fell last year. But tomorrow night's panel has caused me to doubt the sincerity of the BRRI, which I have been trying to sell to many of my UBP colleagues and supporters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Douglas,

I understand your concerns about the panel, but what were your impressions of the actual discussions on those two evenings? Do you think they were helpful in getting people to discuss race in a productive way - a way that encourages them to understand the different perspectives (between blacks and whites) and to consider and challenge their own prejudices and stereotypes?

I am also interested in knowing how diverse the audience has been at these meetings. Has there been a good balance of blacks and whites? Is it the same faces in attendance - the "choir" - or is it catching the attention of new people?

Also, do you know if there is any official report of progress on the BRRI/Big Conversation to-date? I have checked online and can't seem to find anything current. I am very interested in knowing the progress of the project and how any progress is actually being measured.

Stay committed to attending and participating in the "conversation", even if you don't agree with the format of the meetings, etc. The more feedback and suggestions the organisers receive, then perhaps the more effective the meetings and overall work of the BRRI will be...

(And thanks for helping me out with my questions.)


Carol Simmons