Lest we forget: A black man and his friend walk away from the water jeered and cursed by white people on the beach prior to being arrested by local police on July 14, 1963 at Savannah Beach in the US. Black Bermudians endured their own share of public humiliations during the grim era of segregation — but is it necessary and/or ­beneficial to continually hark back to the past?  *AFP photo
Lest we forget: A black man and his friend walk away from the water jeered and cursed by white people on the beach prior to being arrested by local police on July 14, 1963 at Savannah Beach in the US. Black Bermudians endured their own share of public humiliations during the grim era of segregation — but is it necessary and/or ­beneficial to continually hark back to the past?  *AFP photo

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16: Throughout Bermuda, visible yet invisible, there is a large group of black unblack Bermudians. Bermudians who, when they look in their mirrors, see a person whose epidermis may range from ebony to imperceptible tan.

These are Bermudians that people like Dr Eva Hodgson, Commissiong, Burgess, and Burch call black; or in angrier moods, use descriptions both impolite and offensive.

Whatever they’re called, however described — they exist. Untroubled by a last desperate attempt to inject race into a rational national debate, on December 17, 2012, they voted. They made a critical difference.

Dr Hodgson, Rolfe, Derrick, and David have been crying like pterodactyls. They cry into the winds of change that have been blowing, and blowing steadily, all over this world as well as here in Bermuda.

Those winds have blown away British, French, and Dutch Empires. Blown away the ruthless and powerful Apartheid regime in South Africa. Blown away the massive Communist bloc that once reddened all of eastern Europe. Blown away the values that once kept the White House the preserve of Old White Guys.

Globally, change, change, change. But here on our 13,000 acre coral atoll at 32N64W, racial pterodactyls still exist. Still cry about the past. Still looking and flying backwards.

Bermuda has changed. A Government that was eighty percent white in 1960 is now eighty percent black. Only four of Bermuda’s eleven Premiers and one Government Leader have been white. The UBP dragon has flamed out. The old Bank of Bermuda and NT Butterfield nexus has been demolished. Can’t find any Triminghams or Trotts or Tuckers stalking the halls of power anymore. All round this island, black faces populate the corridors of power.

Bermuda has changed. No matter who holds, wants, or seeks  political power, that power-seeking entity must actively consider the views, wishes, hopes, and day-to-day feelings of Bermuda’s black unblacks.

I am one of those black unblacks. Black and proud of it but not weighed down by an overly regurgitated past. Instead, buoyed and energized by the changes I’ve made and helped to make; and by a present and future that is so much brighter than the dark and darker past that I know of and that is a part of me.

I was born into a deeply racially segregated Bermuda. In the Bermuda Regiment, I played my part in the fight for racial progression by breaking through racial and national barriers. Between 1993 and 1998, I worked with and within the PLP to help dismantle what I saw as the last racial barrier. As co-Chairman of the PLP Campaign Committee, from September 1996 to November 1998, with my cousin Calvin Smith, I helped bring the PLP to full political power.

Once in power I expected and required one thing and one thing only. I expected and required the men and women of the PLP to manage and govern Bermuda for the benefit of Bermuda and all Bermudians. Until 2008, I was happy with that.

From some moment in early 2008, I began growing unhappy. I became uncomfortable with what I thought, sensed, and felt. By 2009 I was dissatisfied. By January 2010, my dissatisfaction was absolute and public.

I saw the PLP moving in two undesirable directions. One, they were tramping down a path that was re-dividing Bermuda’s races. Two, they were demonstrating fiscal irresponsibility. Neither was acceptable. Both were wrong. I rejected them because they were no longer operating as I expected and required.

The Bermuda that I had been born into had changed. Born into deep racial segregation and racial discrimination, I was now part of a blended family. Through blood and marriage, my family embraced black and white Bermuda, UK, Uganda, USA, Barbados, Austria, and Korea.  Acquaintances came from even wider spheres. All round me I saw young and younger Bermudians flowing into the blended world that I recognized and lived in.

Bermuda still has some “all white” and “all black” caves. As time passes, the black and white pterodactyls and cave-dwellers grow fewer but seemingly louder.

I and all other black unblacks live in Bermuda.  We look in our mirrors. The man who looks back at me has mahogany skin.  That man is a Bermudian named Larry Burchall.

If you look at me and see anything other than Larry Burchall, if you can only see my colour, then whoever you are, you have a problem.

To help you, here are eight lines written 70 years ago by Langston Hughes, and that provide the opening lines of my autobiography, “FINE as WINE. From coloured boy to BERMUDIAN MAN”:

 

‘My old mule,

He’s got a grin on his face.

He’s been a mule so long

He’s forgot about his race.

 

I’m like that old mule -

Black — and don’t give a damn!

You got to take me

Like I am.’