“What concerns me is that the problem is no longer in the back of town. You are dealing with an element that knows no borders.– Paul King (Owner of Robin des Bois)
“Bermuda still suffers from too many dysfunctional families. It must provide support to young people at risk and their parents. This would prevent people from joining gangs and not only prevent horrific tragedies such as the Robin Hood shooting, but reduce youth unemployment and the general atmosphere of desperation that plagues too many young people today.
– Editorial of the Royal Gazette
Paul King also said that if the chaos, violence and death occasionally inflicted on Robin Hood a fortnight ago, resulting in the gruesome murders of two young black men, were confined to the grounds of Court Street, Middle Town Road, Would Broom Street in Somerset or Horseshoe Road in Southampton be much more tolerable?
Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps? That if they knew their borders or, as we like to say in Bermuda, if they knew their place – they are the so-called members of black gangs – than he and countless other inhabitants of other Bermuda who are overwhelmingly whites, I might add, could continue to live their lives isolated from the reality of what has become of Bermuda’s black working-class communities from top to bottom of that island.
Was it worse than Sir John Swan’s comment “Black men are the problem” over three decades ago? Otherwise, he dubiously won the second place of all time.
To add insult to injury, condescension Gazette the editorial states that Bermuda has too many dysfunctional families. Of course, the editorial makes it clear that the exclusive reference here is to black families and young black men. And, if we accept that all of the referenced families are black, which is pretty clear, what does that say about white Bermuda families and young white males.
Let me say this, I gave an interview to this newspaper through reporter Jonathan Bell, which was in print last week and which reflected an analysis of the problem around this issue. Included were the kinds of public policies that were needed to fundamentally change the more than two-decade-long trajectory of this destructive trend that is now multigenerational. To my surprise the Gazette omitted them. Which was no more than two to three sentences. These recommendations also virtually mirrored those presented by the Social Justice Group.
On the other hand, the social justice group echoed my call to tackle the underlying causation – and included at a minimum the kinds of policies that are needed. I appreciated them for doing it.
Fundamentally, what has been behind these horrific results since the turn of this century are the extraordinarily high levels of income inequality Bermuda has endured and its impact on those at the bottom of the income distribution. income on the island, which were largely its black residents because of pre-existing racial disparities around employment, wages and social mobility at the very least. For the working poor blacks, their neighborhoods and their households in Bermuda, it has been devastating.
It was the work of former Bank of Bermuda economist Robert Stubbs that opened my eyes to the levels of income inequality that began to grow quite robustly at the turn of the 21st century. His findings will be found later in this document and have helped inform my deliberations around the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Living Wage.
What was really intriguing was how he demonstrated how the impacts of this increase in income inequality showed the same destructive effects seen in other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries in this regard. which concerns homicides. My later research would also reveal its connection to gang formation, violence, and declining social mobility.
Moreover, income inequality at these levels has its most destructive impact on those at the bottom of the income distribution. This is why the only truly sustainable and effective response, as research confirms, is to put in place public policies designed to produce more equitable outcomes for people in these low-income groups – predominantly black Bermudans in our case. – through redistributive policies.
Here are the types of public policies that I proposed last week:
• Tax restructuring to bring more fairness to the system by removing the tax burden on working poor who are predominantly black in Bermuda by guaranteeing wealthy corporations – especially in international trade and Bermuda companies such as Belco and its parent company , along with Colonial and Dunkley’s – pay their fair share.
• A living wage
• An in-depth restructuring of our health system with the implementation of a model based on some variation of a single-payer system in order to produce universal access
• A legislative affirmative action framework to ensure racial diversity and inclusion throughout our economy for qualified black Bermudans and black-owned businesses with respect to government procurement and contract contracts. investment projects. To think that after two decades of the Progressive Labor Party government this has still not been achieved, in fact, is mind boggling. If we really want to leave the race behind, it starts here with putting in place the race-based remedies needed to make it happen. This is how we begin to close this sordid chapter
• A real unemployment insurance scheme
And the main culprit for rising income inequality in Bermuda? In my opinion, the massive growth of the international business and financial services sector during the same period is indisputable. In a previous article, I explained how, on its own insurance industry website, the Bermuda Association of Insurers and Reinsurers boasts that 62% of all economic activity in Bermuda comes from its industry. In addition, 42 percent of all payroll tax revenue comes from around 18 companies in this predominantly insurance industry.
International trade is the most lucrative sector of this economy, but where blacks are a distinct minority. Has this sector brought major economic benefits to Bermuda? Of course he has. But we cannot ignore that it has also brought in its wake serious upheavals that have increasingly taken their toll.
And if I am right, it is clear that they are not paying enough taxes from afar to mitigate these impacts.
I know correlation is not causation, but if you look at the increase in gang formation in the late 1990s through the period between 2008 and 2010, two things happened: the massive growth in international trade in Bermuda after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, as well as the massive epidemic of gang killings among a subgroup of young black Bermuda men from low-income households who were historically viewed as surplus by in relation to needs.
Rolfe Commissiong was the Progressive Labor Party MP for Pembroke South East (Constituency 21) between December 2012 and August 2020, and the former chairman of the Joint Select Committee considering the establishment of a living wage.
There were other factors as well – two in particular – but the main one was the phenomenal growth in international trade during this period. And the destructive impacts of living in a country with high levels of income inequality, as most global research shows:
• Gang formation
• Gang violence
• Increase in the number of capital crimes (murders)
• Increase in poverty levels (relative and real)
• Exacerbating racial disparities, which have widened across a range of employment, income and health categories, especially for black men (a variation of Bermuda)
• Decreased social mobility
• Growth of illicit economies
Other factors that worked in tandem, underscored by the growth in international trade, were the race to the bottom of wages through the adoption by Bermuda employers of a low-cost, medium-skilled foreign workforce. , which is why a living wage is critical and should have been implemented two or three years ago if not for our Tory Prime Minister, who, along with the Wall Street banker (Finance Minister Curtis Dickinson), now has under -treated the restructuring of our economy at KPMG for possibly what will be a king’s ransom.
Another factor has been the role of technological change and the loss of jobs, including in banking and international affairs over the past two decades as well.
But why have we seen these impacts emanate only from Bermuda’s low-income black communities and households? After all, black residents make up only 56% of the population. To me, the answer is up to us for all to see and you can’t expect it. This is because white Bermuda residents have on average higher income levels and multigenerational wealth to, in effect, isolate themselves from the worst impacts of living in a country with such high levels of income inequality. .
And that will remain the reality. As long as they stay in their place …
Suggested reading / sources:
World Economic Forum – Inequalities and Crime by Hernan Winkler, Economist, Office of the Chief Economist for Europe and Central Asia World Bank.
The curse of finance: how oversized financial centers attack democracy and corrupt economies by Nicholas Shaxson and John Christensen
The bubble level: why greater equality makes societies stronger by Richard Wilkinson
• Rolfe Commissiong was the Progressive Labor Party MP for Pembroke South East (Constituency 21) between December 2012 and August 2020, and the former chairman of the Joint Select Committee considering the establishment of a living wage.