FRIDAY, DEC. 14: You can divide a political party’s election effort into three departments.

Part one is demonizing the opponent. Part two is praising its own magnificent record.

Part three is making wonderful promises about a future with them in charge — and the nightmare that ensues if the opponent wins the vote.

Slip the issue of race into this three-part formula, and you have the potential — no, the certainty — of causing real damage.

Because nothing undermines racial progress as effectively as raising false expectations, promising quick-and-easy fixes, and accusing the other half of Bermuda’s leadership of having a hidden agenda of racial domination.

I often worry that race would be best handled around election time if it wasn’t handled at all, at least not by anybody looking for votes.

Lack of racial harmony

Which is a pity because there isn’t much that’s more important for all of us — and our elected leaders especially — to deal with. We need to grab every gain it can get, and cling dearly to it.

What I mean by race here is, quite simply, overcoming racial inequality and lack of racial harmony.

By inequality, I’m thinking of the huge gaps between whites and blacks that still exist in wealth, income, education, job positions, and a whole lot of related areas.

By harmony I mean our ability and willingness to genuinely know, respect and care for each other as friends, colleagues and fellow-citizens.

I know this sounds like a 1960s Age of Aquarius kind of grooviness but its hard to see how we can be a happy and productive community if so many of us live in mistrust and isolation.

When the subject turns to Bermuda’s racial problems at election time, what we really need to hear is what our political parties propose doing about it.

I’m not interested in mealy-mouthed platitudes, coded insinuations that the “other guys” are racists, attacks, defenses, or tiny initiatives that are nothing more than nibbling about the edges.

I’m looking for good ideas, that are big and practical too. I’m looking for specific plans that have a realistic chance of reducing racial inequity, and improving racial harmony, in the months and years ahead.

I think there are three big areas that voters really ought to pay attention to when it comes to race — this is a three-part election strategy that I like the look of.

The first is education.

As long as most black Bermudians are receiving an education that is inferior to that received by most white Bermudians, then Bermuda’s huge inequalities in wealth and income will not only remain but get worse.

Therefore, the political party that can do the best job at improving the quality of education that most black Bermudians receive is almost certainly the political party that can do the most to create a more equal society in the years ahead.

The second big area is the economy.

Unless the economy is expanding, in ways that benefit ordinary Bermudians benefit substantially, our efforts to reduce inequality are doomed to fail.

It is close to impossible to raise up the “have-nots” when an economy is shrinking. Indeed, the wealth gap between whites and blacks — already a distressing 10-to-1 ratio before the “Great Recession” began — has now doubled to 20-to-1.

There’s no reason to think the trend is any different in Bermuda — though as CURB has succinctly pointed out in recent weeks, Bermuda doesn’t have the race-based wealth data it needs to measure improvements or deterioration of inequality in Bermuda.

This is a shameful omission, that makes it impossible to assess the success or failure of our efforts — and makes it too easy for politicians to claim whatever they want us to hear.

Too often, the “exciting” economic opportunity initiatives proposed in political campaigns and Throne Speeches have been minor and mundane.

Modest-sized economic empowerment zones, job fairs, small business development — this is the kind of stuff that ought to be routine from any government with half a brain and half a heart.

But does anybody realistically expect this kind of stuff to bring about the kinds of changes we need anytime in the near future?

The third big area of focus I’m looking for, after education and the economy, the important but nebulous area of setting the right tone for racial equality.

While pushing for change, our leaders need to continually ensure that change looks and feels attractive. People have to want it.

For most black Bermudians, the benefits of greater equality need no -explanation.

For many white Bermudians, guest workers, and business leaders of all description and international business in general, the need for change is less apparent. Handled clumsily, the needed push for equality easily becomes a threat.

It is unfair, of course, to expect our leaders to dance gracefully with anybody half-hearted about correcting racial injustice.

But it is hard to see how, in real life, in our divided but interdependent little island, we can make rapid progress without buy-in from all these groups.

In fact, racial equality is one of the greatest opportunities available to Bermuda.

The question is, are our politicians prepared to think big, and act big, and turn opportunity into reality?