I agree with Mr. Roker's statement:
"We need to take back our Islands with self-respect and pride, with honesty and integrity for our fellow Virgin Islanders, with dignity and understanding toward our fellow Virgin Islanders."
Self respect and pride would be enhanced by living on an Island that held its Carnival to celebrate the end of the enslavement of its people (July 3), rather than celebrating the Declaration of Independence, which states that "All men are created equal " but does not consider Africans and their descendants to be men, and permits their enslavement for another four score and seven years.
By celebrating the American aspects of the St. John culture and not celebrating our unique local history we diminish sources of pride for the native born population.
We also make it more difficult for newcomers to understand that are living in a place that must be respected as it exists with differences as obvious and insignificant as complexion and as complex as the feelings of a population that in less than a generation has gone from living on an island that is theirs completely, to an island where they are ignored by a large percentage of the population.
The government of the Virgin Islands has been negligent in protecting and promoting the cultural heritage of these islands. The government has failed to plan for growth that would benefit the native people of St John, St. Thomas and St Croix.
If the government cared at all about the people of St. John, our recourse would be to approach our government to take steps to protect its citizens from exposure to racists.
As we have seen, petitions from citizens and pleas from our administrator and our legislators are routinely ignored by the governor. Even recent atrocities haven't gotten his attention.
We who live on St. John are the only ones who can solve the problem of racism on St. John.
We have to do it in many small steps. We have to raise our consciousness. We have to realize that grumpy or rude people come in all ethnicities. If a person of a different race is rude to you, it doesn't mean he is a racist. If you instantly assume he is, then you are the one that is being racist.
White people are always complaining about West Indians sucking their teeth at them and think that's racism. People have been sucking there teeth around here long before there were so many white people, and black on black tooth sucking is still commonplace.
If we go into a store and see that native employees are friendlier to other native customers than you and assume it is racism, you are being racist. If you went into any small town store, people that have lived in the town for generations and have shared friendships, family and experience, would be friendlier with each other even if you were the same race as them.
When we use expressions like " driving while white" (a common refrain among continentals who feel they are unjustly stopped), we are promoting racism by promoting the 'us vs them' mentality.
We have to realize that the only way we can succeed on St. John is if all segments of the community succeed. Business people have to include St. Johnians as they build their business, or we will end up with a deteriorating tourism product and we all loose.
We all have a responsibility to confront people who make comments that are divisive with innuendo, as well as outright racist. If we tolerate racists, we are part of the problem, not part of the solution, and the problem will only get worse.
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