Christopher Famous

Tale of two parades – separate and unequal

  • Compare and contrast: the gay Pride parade on Saturday and the Labour Day parade two days later dominated community activity on the long weekend, but they could not be any farther apart in their differences for size and racial make-up (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Compare and contrast: the gay Pride parade on Saturday and the Labour Day parade two days later dominated community activity on the long weekend, but they could not be any farther apart in their differences for size and racial make-up (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • James Baldwin, proudly black and gay

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have” — James Baldwin

Over the past week or so, we have seen Bermuda divided yet once again, based around the Pride parade last Saturday and the deeper issues involving those of different sexual orientation.

Many have voiced their opinions for and against the parade itself and acceptance or lack of acceptance of the LGBT+ lifestyle. Meanwhile, many have stayed silent out of fear of recrimination for being LGBT+, or for supporting someone who is LGBT+. Others have said nothing out of fear of recrimination for speaking their Christian and cultural beliefs.

That people — many who are educated professionals, many who are pastors — are afraid to speak to what they truly believe says a lot about our country itself, with its legacy of blackballing, socially or economically, anyone who speaks up on issues.

I sat down and said to myself that maybe I should be quiet and watch how this plays out, as people will take what I say and attempt to twist it as a political statement associated with the Progressive Labour Party or the Bermuda Government.

Here is the thing: my views, like the views of the other eight billion people on the planet, are based on my own cultural and community upbringing, and the sentiments of those in my family and social circles.

Some may say that means I have a narrow bandwidth.

True, very true. I honestly have no idea what it means to be white or female or gay — or a Liverpool supporter.

What I do know is this: if it means no longer being a politician in order to say what my people are feeling, then no worries, I can give that up in order to speak how many feel.

So here goes.

Growing up, most of us learnt the most negative of terms for those who were not like us:

• H-word for whites

• N-words for blacks

• G-word for Portuguese

• F-word for gays

• MM-word for lesbians

Some folks fell into more than on eof these categories, so multiple hurtful terms were hurled at them.

All of us have been guilty, and are still guilty, of using that HNGFMM terminology in one way or the other. This despite having blood relatives and/or friends who fall into any one of those categories.

Unfortunately, that is the society in which we grew and normalised our negative descriptives of each other.

Fast forward, those words are no longer acceptable and in some cases can get one fired, jailed and or very seriously hurt.

OK, fair enough, simply stop using negative words.

Unfortunately, we also have many attempting to equate the negative experiences of two different groups, namely that the struggles of the LGBT+ community are equal to the centuries of suffering in the black community.

Well, no. While there may be overlaps, they are not equal.

Recently with the Pride parade, we have heard the term Intersectionality used a lot. The definition meaning “the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”.

In Bermuda, in the year 2019, we have statistics that show black Bermudians with bachelor’s, master’s and postgraduate degrees are paid significantly less than whites with the exact same degrees. A black male with a master’s degree earns on average of $106,000, while his white counterpart with the same level of degree earns on average $170,000.

The unfortunate irony is that many individuals and corporate entities who enthusiastically show public support for LGBT+ issues stay publicly silent on any issues to do with workers’ rights, and racial and economic inequality.

Why is that? Equality for some, but not for all?

If we, as a community on a whole, are truly interested in equality for all and intersectionality, there would not have been two different parades — Pride Parade and Labour Day Parade — with vastly different attendees.

No one picks their ethnicity, or mix of ethnicities, before they are born, that much is clear. According to some, no one chooses their sexual orientation, either. This particular aspect of the topic will be debated for ever.

It is wrong and pathetic to use negative terms or to castigate those who differ from us ethnically, nationally or in their sexual orientation. There are those of colour who get double doses of discrimination based on their sexual orientation and ethnicity.

Many of them, in Bermuda and worldwide, have been champions of civil rights and workers’ rights.

Here are some prime examples:

• Bernard Ruskin, a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s

• Writer James Baldwin, who cultivated the words of a cultural revolution

• Bermuda’s own Elizabeth Christopher, who has fought untold battles for legal rights, political rights and human rights, inclusive of LGBT+ rights

To those who have dedicated their lives to these pursuits, we thank you. Our world and island would not have moved forward without your sacrifices.

To those who attempt to equate negative issues/experiences based on sexual orientation with what millions of those of African descent have endured for 500 years is total and utter rubbish.

Essentially, it is an outright insult to the hundreds of millions of African descent who have and continue to suffer in one way or the other under the yoke of structured white privilege and supremacy in Bermuda and across the world.

Social, labour, economic and racial equality cannot be only for some; it must be for all.

A chart showing disparities in gross median income can be viewed in the PDF link under “Related Media”

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at cfamous@plp.bm