Bigotry Is Not Representative of the Virgin Islands Community

There is no denying that the impact of two Category 5 hurricanes, one right after the other, and the resulting aftermath have been difficult for us all.  It has tested us in so many ways, but at the same time made us stronger. Our community has had to come together in so many ways to give each other a helping hand, provide comfort, and, sometimes, just lend an ear to listen. It has been a time of unity. 

So, you can imagine our surprise when on a Facebook page we witnessed narrow mindedness and bigotry that is not representative of our community.  We recognize that social media is a vehicle for free expression and thoughts, and these last couple of weeks have been trying and worthy of many posts. However, to have one of our elected representatives, Senator Janelle K Sarauw, write thinly veiled words of contempt aimed at groups within our territory is shameful, hurtful and beneath those holding public office. Our elected officials are to be held to a higher standard and should focus on finding ways to bring us together, not foster the divide that can so easily tear us apart.

In a stream of Facebook posts, Senator Sarauw displayed to us her true feelings with her “random observations” about various ethnic groups in the Virgin Islands. She stated, “I may not be politically correct on this, but there are certain ethnic groups who move here in droves and make these islands their home. They live and profit from their inhabitance here, yet they do absolutely nothing to integrate themselves into our society.”  

Then, in response to another post that states “and they control our food and gas,” she writes “and your jewelry.” She then goes a step further and states, “They remain closed off, they rarely give back, they sponsor no youth groups or civic organizations and I could go on.”

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Which ethnic groups are you profiling? Let’s be frank and honest that these thinly veiled words are singling out the Arab and Indian communities. Why the personal attacks and why the use of words that only foster hate?  It is obvious that Senator Sarauw fails to acknowledge that the Indian community is comprised of Virgin Islanders that felt the same pain and anguish of what hit us over the last several weeks, have the same challenges that living in the Virgin Islands bring, and the same pride of being a Virgin Islander and making a difference. Every nationality and ethnicity in the Virgin Islands contributes to our community.  It’s what makes it a thriving and special place to live.

Members of the Indian community sit on boards and committees (such has CFVI, Schneider Hospital, the Historic Preservation Commission, and the All Saints Cathedral School Campaign Committee) and financially support organizations that assist others (such as the Family Resource Center, Miracle Babies, Catholic Charities and Red Cross).

The India Association, a 501c3 non-profit organization, has also provided nursing scholarships to UVI students, financial support to the Cancer Center and provided funding to Charlotte Amalie High School for a computer lab. The Indian community has openly embraced living in the Virgin Islands, and with few exceptions, the Virgin Islands has embraced us back.   

I could go on, but I should not have to, as our community involvement and individual contributions come from a place of caring and wanting to ensure all Virgin Islanders have a strong foundation. We don’t do it for the publicity.
Your “random observations” should shame and embarrass you. As a senator elected to represent all in our community your comments are alarming. You obviously hold some narrow-minded opinions in your thoughts that aren’t helpful to the people of the Virgin Islands.

You also stated you live by a single motto. “When you give, give and when you learn, teach.” Prove it. Now is the time for you to be willing to learn. Learn about people of your community and the facts, do not just spout poorly researched and racially charged statements that incite and foster hate. Your lack of awareness of what various ethnic groups are doing in our community is a failure which rests squarely on your shoulders. Reach out to us, and everyone for that matter, and learn more.  The more you try to divide us the more we will unite together to seek responsible public officials who are committed to being informed stewards and policymakers for all Virgin Islanders.

Editor’s note: Pash Daswani is the president of the India Association of the Virgin Islands. In 1992, he opened Lucky Jewelers on Main Street. He has been a member of the St. Thomas community for more than 30 years.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for bringing this to the public’s attention, Mr. Daswani. I am so sorry for the hurt that reading her words has caused you and other valuable members of our community.

  2. There has been huge diversity amongst neighbors helping one another, amongst volunteers, amongst businesses donating supplies. For shame, Senator Sarauw. You clearly misrepresented yourself as a candidate – because when we need leadership most from our elected leaders in terms of collaboration, coordination and commitment, you are instead focused on providing hate-filled innuendos.

  3. Senator Sarauw, your choice of motto is great. You might want to read some more of Maya Angelou so that you would know that “in diversity there is beauty and there is strength”, that ““prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible,” and that “hate has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” Senator Sarauw, you can make this right and show “you’ve] learned that [you] still have a lot to learn” — otherwise voters should heed Maya Angelou’s advice: “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

  4. Powerful message Mr. Daswani…. we have to be so careful of the statements that emerge from our mouths, especially when So many people have given you the opportunity to be where you are today.
    As a “leader” in our community, Ms. Sarrauw should in her capacity recant her choice of words or apologize to the people of the Virgin Islands.

    • Apologize for what? He should be apologizing to the people of the Virgin Islands. It’s a slap in the face to be thought of second to cruise ships. It’s funny how people put senators in a catagoty of “non human ” she has feelings. She was upset by his actions. As lots of locals are.

  5. Pash Daswani, first because of the jewelry stores like Lucky Jewelers the state side visitors is going down Island to buy their jewels because you guys stopped selling items less than state side. The price for jewelry in the Virgin Islands is triple what it cost in the states and down Island. It seems greed made you and others rise prices and made our visitors shop at other Islands to save money. St. Thomas is suppose to be a free port of call. Do you and other merchants that sell jewelry here still recognize this law. Now as far as giving back to the community just because you serve on a broad of your choice do not mean you are giving back, especially when you keep rising prices for the visitors and locals. I am a Virgin Islander who came back home to strange people telling me how I and my fellow Virgin Islanders should act, and you don’t want us to be yourself and enjoy our Islands. Senator Surauw is a young true Virgin Islander that want to improve the Virgin Islands and if it calls for her to tell the truth on how we the locals is living while every one other then us run business,She is not a bigot, she is trying to point out what is wrong in the VI and fix it. Now if you or any one that want to keep abusing the local people of the Virgin Islands, just maybe you need to leave and let us the citizens that want to rebuild a better Virgin Islands do our jobs. It seems you are the problem not her. Its time for our young generation to step up with Senator Saruaw and stop the silent bigotry that’s being going on here in the Virgin Islands for years???.

  6. It will clearly be difficult to overcome the culture of entitlement when it intersects with global realities like supply and demand. Somehow, the V.I. is “mine,” while moving to the mainland, voting for president, and enjoying all the benefits of mainland prosperity, for the most part, doesn’t come with the same localized entitlement attitude held against those not “bahn dey.” Maybe the V.I. should become an independent sovereign and break away from the U.S. We’ll see how that works out.

  7. Y’all funny as hell especially when the truth hurts!! Don’t be butt hurt because the Senator pointed out the blatant truth! Some of these families have been there for generations but REFUSE to immerse themselves in, understand, or respect the culture and the people of the Virgin Islands. Being an employer and paying a pittance while selling overpriced, fake jewelry, and nasty outdated food does not make you better than anyone else. I would seriously like to know where the folks of the India Association shop for groceries because I refuse to give my hard earned money to Plaza or Pueblo because it is not well kept and smells and looks nasty when you walk in there. That doesn’t show a great deal of respect for your customers to have unhealthy, rotting, and outdated foods selling.

    She’s is right, it is not about race, it is about wealth, or lack thereof. Their main source of revenue has been affected, but they forgot that THEY are not the only ones whose incomes were affected. So get off your high horses and look around and stop being so damn self-righteous. People are living in shelters. People are still without power which means they cannot shop and put a hot, healthy meal on their table. The people that were struggling before, guess what, it’s even worse now. So cry me a friggin river about the boards that you sit on.

  8. Pash she simply called you out on your one track mind. You were concerned for cruise ships after 2 cat 5 hurricanes? Which means you were concerned with money. You were not concerned with others well being. You were not concerned about the safety of our tourists. You were concerned about money. Not about the suffering of our island and our neighbors. But about your pocket. You should be ashamed of yourself for this write up trying to bring her down in this manner. Your threats and your words as well as this poorly written excuse of a come back will not hurt her or what she stands for. The people of the virgin island know who she is. We know what she stands for and we commend her.

  9. This is the worst excuse of an explanation of your poor behavior. My business survives on cruise ships. But at no time was that a thought in my head. Notbafter whatbwe went through. What we are still going through. I hope your comfortable in your air conditioned house while many of the vi people are still in shelters

  10. To clarify, there was not a single merchant who called Senator Serauw after the storms for the cruise ships to come back. This a clear excuse that Senator Serauw brought up to cover her poorly worded comment. To clarify – she posted a Facebook post calling out “ethnic groups”, since she clearly does not think she belongs to one. Then she explicitly calls out the jewelry industry and mentions that you do not see them do anything for the community. This is a direct comment deliberately dividing our community.

    It has nothing to do with calling for cruise ships – to be frank – she is a freshman senator who barely won a questionable special election with little to no influence on the business aspect of this community. All of the business community was very active after the storms helping their employees and other families get back on their feet.

  11. Why is it that those espousing intolerance typically hide behind something … a mob, a hood, a mask, the darkness, or a nameless online post? At least Senator Sarauw was transparent in her intolerance – even doing a Trumponian double-down in her rambling Facebook post yesterday. If you have at least some common decency and are indeed not ashamed of your statements, put your name to them.

    Today it is attacking the 1,000+ citizens of our community that are of Indian or Middle Eastern origin. Which ethnicity, origin, skin color, orientation, gender, identity, religion, or disability will it be tomorrow? When someone else’s ignorant stereotypes hit closer to home – and they will — I hope that those that you have denigrated will be the bigger person and stand up for you.

    Senator Sarauw must be so proud to have her defenders crawl out from under their rocks. Make her prouder and stand up and shout your name. And, for those that are offended by intolerance – particularly so if it is not aimed at you – you too should stand up and be counted – because at some point you will be next.

  12. What’s wrong with a person in a community just quietly being a good neighbor and citizen? Is it a requirement to be on corporate or charity boards? Is it a requirement to join groups or clubs? I would submit that a person can be a part of the community by working hard not to be a burden on society, paying their taxes, obeying the laws of the land, helping their neighbors (and by neighbor I also mean anyone they may come across whom they can help in some way). Can a person be accepted into a society by being kind, helpful and respectful, even if they don’t join in local customs or celebrations? Isn’t everyone entitled that their own beliefs and choice of associates? These are questions that bear consideration before we start judging or inferring or imputing motives to others, don’t you think?

  13. Heartbreaking. How did we get here? So many offer so much to make our community diverse. Yet over the past few years outside forces whisper words of hate. They continually work to place us in groups and divide these groups of white, black, gay , straight, muslim …. and so on. WHY? So they can tear us apart?
    We are all Virgin Islanders. My family is on all three US Virgin Islands and throughout the eastern Caribbean as well as US & UK. I have always been proud of our West Indian culture our diversity in St Thomas. JUST LOOK HOW MANY HAVE SUCCESS OFF ISLAND , AND HERE AT HOME.
    The East Indian community has been an asset and a blessing. The West Indian community is not only an asset but the VERY FOUNDATION OF OUR HOME. If I were the devil I would attack that foundation by telling them they were victims I would whisper to that foundation they are not worthy and have been done wrong , I would make them VICTIMS. If I were the devil I would mollycoddle and convince this foundation to be dependent on the government. If I were the devil I would encourage this very divide so that I could conquer. For the past few years we have followed the playbook of the book “RULES FOR RADICALS” Written by Saul Ailinsky. A Book he devoted to Lucifer. It’s time to heal and understand that we can all be VICTORS not VICTIMS and rise above the destruction of equality . We are not equal we are diverse and that is our true strength as Virgin Islanders. Let us embrace our cultures and love each other for our strength.

  14. Bigotry Is Very Much Representative of the Virgin Islands Community of today. Other than the Gov and his crew, how many African-Americans are invited to the business meetings and why is there an “Indian Association” anyway. Didn’t see the association at the beach cleanups or other recovery activities by the way. Yet, who is price gouging and who will really profit when the ships come back.

    • The Indian community was at the beach cleanup. And even produced a video about it. The video never stated what group was behind it they just participated as Virgin Islanders.
      Also the the East Indian community participated at several other community event… In fact 100% of them.

      Regardless let me participate in “Group Think” for one second. My family is West Indian and came here on slave ships. I could be upset about that and join in divisive community attacks or ???….
      Love on everyone regardless of stereotype scenarios that will only divide us further.

      The Truth is we have good and bad in this world but telling each other we are “Victims” is a tool that the devil uses to destroy us.

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