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School Violence May Have its Roots in Social Injustice

Dec. 13, 2005 — Throughout Virgin Islands and American history, acts of violence often occur when there is an issue not properly addressed. The historic St. John Slave Revolt of 1733 is an example of what happens when people are oppressed and ignored by the free population. The slaves revolted out of desperation and all who participated met a bloody end. In 1967, when blacks rioted in Detroit, violence and mayhem roamed unchecked and eventually led to the destruction of a city, community, and moral fabric of one of the most "American" cities in the nation. The 1992 Los Angeles race riots are another example of when a certain portion of the population feels that injustice has occurred and the only source of retribution is through acts of violence. This pattern of violent behavior may seem malicious in nature, yet there are underlying issues that society does not wish to address — race, poverty, ethnic friction, and the class struggle in our society.
Many Virgin Islanders are quick to blame the students for their violent acts, yet fail to recognize the larger issues that may be the cause of their actions. Riots are grotesque occurrences that force change. Civil rights, the Revolutionary War, and the previously citied incidents are examples of this phenomenon. Acts of violence seem to force society into addressing issues that are not comfortable to discuss.
I am not excusing the students for what has transpired; yet I feel that our community should feel somewhat accountable for what occurred. The students feel lost, betrayed, and hurt by the very organism that was supposed to nurture them.
The government and society have turned a blind eye to the future of the Virgin Islands. Yes, that's right, The Future. Does every middle-aged employee of the Virgin Islands government, businessmen, judge, senator, and policemen expect to live forever?
Who do you believe will replace you when you are no longer able to perform your duties? The answer is the thousands of students who you deem violent and unpredictable. If we do not educate our youth and prepare them for the future, then our islands are doomed.
The territory has tried to ignore multiple problems faced by its children. The nativism, prejudice, and exploitation experienced by Virgin Islanders whose parents hail from other eastern Caribbean islands, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is rampant in our society. We have all heard the words "Gasso" and "Santo." We have heard people insult the speech patterns and culture of these groups. With this blatant disregard for people's feelings, it is not surprising to me that violent incidents occur. How is a child, who was born in The Virgin Islands, supposed to react when he sees his parents working for low wages, and then observes people insulting his heritage? How is a child supposed to react when society deems him a lost cause? And finally, how is a child supposed to react when he observes a small portion of the population living comfortably while turning a blind eye to his suffering?
Many outlets for children to safely express their outrage in a healthy manner have been exhausted. How is a child supposed to express himself when his school has not adequately prepared him to do so? The answer is he cannot. The only outlet that seems to spark a reaction, in the minds of many Virgin Islands children, is violence. The only time people seem to pay attention to these children is when they are stabbing each other. This is not acceptable. I am not pretending to have a solution to our problems, yet I feel that if we understand the source of a problem then the solution will become evident. We, as a community, owe our children a chance at a future with promise, not a future that is riddled violence, moral decay, and death.

Editor's note: Whitney Alexander McFarlane is a 2004 graduate of Antilles School. He is currently a sophomore at Dickinson College majoring in political science. We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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