On matters of race, class

The May 2009 elections in George Town demonstrated too many of us that race/class considerations rather than Party record and ideology played the important role in determining the results.

The PPM, which was founded as a party while in opposition tried when it won power in May 2005, to include and involve the merchant and corporate elites in their decision making process, but maintained a closeness with their grass root supporters mainly by way of the intense efforts of Lucille Seymour, Alfonzo Wright and a few foot soldiers, like David and Christopher White.

During their time in government, the PPM’s conduct was much like that of an opposition party. They tried to be consultative with the economic elite but never too close to them to be branded as corrupt or under so and so power. Their four years in power did not seem to change the mindset of most of their leaders and the PPM perhaps retained a more democratic structure and practices than can be said of the UDP, which was formed as a party while in government.

The question is, therefore: was the PPM defeated in 2009 in George Town as a party because of its record or were individual PPM representatives defeated because of their class and race. It strikes me as challenging to work out exactly why the two main players in the PPM would be two of the persons elected in May 2009; one being the then-Leader of Government Business, if the PPM was defeated because of its record.

If the UDP had proven its case that the PPM was a bad government not worthy of another term then why in God’s name would George Town voters punish the PPM’s two backbenchers and reward the two persons that had led this unworthy administration; making the leader of that administration the first elected member of that district.

In Cayman we do not talk publicly about race and class as important factors in elections and we therefore misunderstand much about our politics. But race and class considerations have always been made in my political strategies in Caymanian politics even if public debates and discussions of such strategies remain tabooed.

It is my understanding that persons who consider themselves white will more likely vote for a white candidate than will persons considered black vote for a black candidate. And most Caymanians even with dark skin do not consider themselves black; therefore a black candidate is at more of a disadvantage in George Town elections than his white counterpart. I think that Mr. Linford Pierson and I have been the only two black politicians to have won in modern competitive politics two consecutive terms as representatives for that district.

It is just amazing to me that race and class are not considered to be important in our public political considerations when in private political conversations the race and class or ‘respectability’ of a particular candidate is so often a topic of discussion. I know some will again be upset with me for speaking my mind on this topic, but how else are we to understand the defeat of Lucille Seymour and Alfonso Wright and the victory of Kurt Tibbetts and Alden McLaughlin. Certainly, Alfonso Wright’s presentations and speeches during the campaign were some of the most intelligent and persuasive and if Kurt and Alden did enough to be re-elected so did he as a member of their party.

Mike Adams who is a newcomer to politics almost beat Tibbett to become the first elected member for George Town, demonstrating the point that both of these white candidates from opposing parties got votes from the same whites more often than they and their non white teammates. I imagine that the results of the polls if they are examined with these considerations will support my hypostasis and we will see that people voting for Kurt Tibbetts were also voting for Mike Adams and vice versa but did not vote for Lucille or Alfonso.

In May 2009, George Town voters did not vote out the PPM, but black George Towner’s with the assistance of the Jamaican voting population punished the PPM’s two black George Town representatives they claimed had done nothing for them in four years. This action may be seen by the untrained mind to be motivated by self interest but I think it points to the uneven levels of race/class consciousness and solidarity among Caymanians of different race/ class backgrounds. The UDP therefore did not win the May 2009 elections in George Town; race and class did and the strength of party and ideology is still to be tested in our district.

Frank McField