Kate Rake's "Open Forum" letter discussing her "Chance conversation" with the two ladies within the Education Dept in regards to their personal experiences with Lynn Spampinato is incredibly telling and frankly also honestly "painful".
There is much "tip toeing" around the subject of "outsiders" who attempt to offer help in bettering our Virgin Islands. I, too, still feel like an "outsider" having lived on St. John for almost 25 years. I have had many years to deeply reflect on this issue; have actively found every book both locally written as well as historically researched to help educate myself on the root of this issue. I have also established meaningful relationships with many born-here natives-always asking questions; seeking to bring a deeper understanding and even compassion to why this is.
I believe that historically there is much that we must face that impacts our present day politics as well as general social and emotional fabric. The past and it's brutality of slavery as well as the colonization of these Islands by so many other European countries-seeded much of what we must face today. This cannot be ignored.
This presented many opportunities for "greed" to take hold by those who could make a deal in their best individual interests. If we "fast forward" to the present we are faced, understandably, with a major "trust issues". There apparently was no racism issue here in the Islands until the US Navy came under rule. Virgin Islanders became fearful that "America and it's racism" would affect their society. I know first hand-that numerous Virgin Islanders went to the southern States and were in shock at having to go to the back door of restaurants because they were black! How could this not have an emotional impact? Our native Virgin Islanders have proudly faced their African ancestry-and the injustices done through slavery. "Know your History" has been an important focus for our society-and rightly so.
An oppressed society must both acknowledge and express their anger- a healthy and necessary part of the healing process. As a born Canadian I find myself wondering if the assassination in America of the great Martin Luther King somehow emotionally impacted the entire Nation thus numbing us all and destroying our courage to face the issue of racism in America? This event had to affect our Islands deeply. Trust- the base of all relationships-was greatly impacted. This distrust of most "outsiders" -especially those from America- has grown. Couple that with the influx of "down Islanders" as the VI economy grew; the impact that it had on the economy with Native Virgin Islanders feeling that they were losing control and missing out on their own opportunities- as created a "we and dem" division. Infrastructures like our overcrowded schools and government services were greatly impacted. The great need to identify the "bahn har' " individuals as an endangered population who were not getting what they were entitled to especially after the deep suffering of their grandparents and great grandparents is understandable. It is also carries with it- number of deep seated problems.
This "we and dem" kind of thinking is greatly hurting all of us today. It is divisive and a major problem that must be identified and openly discussed. Kate Rake has opened up this subject- as painful as it may be. There is a lot of truth there that must be deeply reflected on. How can we heal this? Our VI's is in a major crossroads in it's political evolution. Governor deJongh is the first Governor that understands that people working together as a Team can accomplish so much! The old system of Autocratic-Authoritarian leadership-actually left over from Colonial days- must be retired. Whether conscious of it or not- some of our Senators operate in this manner.
Gov. John deJongh's "Together We Can" slogan is much much more than that. Those three words hold the key to our Virgin Islands moving forward as a unified people of all races and cultural backgrounds. What is required is that every citizen go deep within their own being and find a way to be more inclusive to the goodwill and help of others-to better the place that we all call "Home". Unfortunately-Dr. Spampinato's rejection by The Senate speaks volumes about our fear of "outsiders". We must change and "heal" this attitude if we are truly to better our way of life here in our Virgin Islands.
Editor's note: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.