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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, June 23, 2024


Unemployment in the Virgin Islands is rising, just as it is on the mainland. There is, however, a difference here between the two districts. Unemployment on St. Thomas/St. John is somewhat steady, if not slightly decreasing. This, of course, is misleading in itself, for many of those unemployed on St. Thomas may have been so for a brief period of time. Many on St. Croix have been unemployed for long periods of time, and many may already have been dropped from unemployment rolls.
That might indicate that the current figures are perhaps misleading (albeit apparently correct as far as federal regulations are concerned), and perhaps the adjusted figures on St. Croix might be as high as 24 percent instead of around 14 percent, as compared to the St. Thomas/St. John figure of around 7 percent.
This situation conditions persons to recognize the inequities, and there is a sense of hopelessness which pervades the St. Croix community. This hopelessness, while tolerable for a limited period of time, cannot continue ad infinitum. Hopelessness can beget a sense of helplessness. Hopelessness and helplessness lead to actions which might become less than desirable. Even most cornered animals do not give up without a struggle. Obviously a situation such as the current one mandates recognition and remediation, rather than delay and happenstance.
Intra-territorial inequities appear to be the rule, and a long-standing condition, in the Virgin Islands. This was exemplified in the "Introduction" to a bibliographic reference publication which this writer compiled nearly three decades ago: "The Virgin Islands … Social, Economic, and Political Conditions Referred to in Recent Periodical Literature" (Aye-Aye Press, Christiansted: 1974):
"It becomes rather painfully obvious that the many social problems in the Virgin Islands, especially in St. Croix, result from its distended location from its capital and controlling island, St. Thomas (which is smaller in population and size) — with absolutely no local governmental control. This situation is at least partially responsible for the emergence of a political and economic 'elite' which does not necessarily represent the interest of the majority of the Virgin Islanders, especially Crucians. The emergence of [opposition] groups … in St. Croix, and not in St. Thomas [note:1974], is an indication of the problem and an indication that times are changing politically, economically and socially."
The "Introduction" continued:
"It appears that anyone who places the Virgin Islands under a microscope misses the real issues in St. Croix. St. Thomas always dismisses the "inter-island rivalry" as unjustified … Even the President's Federal Task Force on the Virgin Islands was probably doomed to failure because it would discuss the problems with administrators in St. Thomas, and never reach the grass-roots … The answer to St. Croix's problems cannot be analyzed, cannot be solved in St. Thomas … It has become painfully obvious that governmental efforts have failed the native youths, and the youths in natural fashion blame xenophobic conditions rather than the very real reason for the alienation of society, such as the lack of responsive representation, lack of opportunities, social restrictions by the entrenched, etc."
The situation on St. Croix probably may not continue as the status quo. Changes may develop internally on St. Croix which would affect the entire Virgin Islands. We have evidence of that from previous reactions, which were literally the "shots heard around the world." Let's hope we have learned from our past and that remediation will be instituted before things get out of hand.
Again in the "Introduction," this compiler quoted Crane Brinton ["The Anatomy of a Revolution," c.1955]:
"Our focus is on drastic sudden substitution of one group in charge of running a territorial political entity for another group."
Another observation was included, from Harper’s Magazine [April 1970, 47]:
"In sum, violence can succeed in a political environment like that of the United States under certain conditions. Those who use it must be able to localize and limit its duration. They must use it under circumstances in which the public is either indifferent or uninformed, or in which the accessible and relevant public opinion … is heavily biased in their favor. If violence is accompanied by exceptional brutality, it must be kept a local matter, and one must hope that it can somehow be screened from the attention of the larger polity."
Inferences should not be drawn from these quotation that such actions are being advocated. It is, in fact, the opposite which must occur. The Virgin Islands must realistically recognize its problems, shortcomings and intra-territorial inequities to prevent any occurrence or recurrence of events which may, this time, plunge the entire Virgin Islands in an unfavorable light around the globe, a globe which gets smaller day by day.
Those currently in charge of the polity in the Virgin Islands must recognize the potential current and projected problems ahead, and work toward relieving the apparent inequities before they proliferate into a "full-blown rose."
Isn't it strange that problems which existed in 1974 and before have not really been addressed? For, after all, they resemble the situation which exists today in 2003. Surely 29 years should have taught us something. The failure of four proposed constitutions, primarily on St. Croix, should indicate that the then-existing intra-territorial inequities were not recognized and were not addressed. (It was not a matter of "educating" electorate — the electorate was as knowledgeable as were the members of the initiatives.)
Constitutional initiatives must examine all aspects of intra-territorial problems, recognize them and address them. This author hesitated to write this article because of its potential for misunderstanding and because of the personal reactions which may result. It is, however, being submitted at this time so that recognition will be given and the remediation can be effected.
The current economic conditions and the appearance of reacting groups on St. Croix should not be summarily dismissed as "inter-island rivalry," but rather as "intra-territorial inequities." After all, neither St. Thomas/St. John nor St. Croix is the Virgin Islands; a problem of St. Croix is also a problem of the Virgin Islands, and even like SARS it can proliferate quickly. Only recognition of problems can lead to solutions.

Editor's note: Dr. Robert V. Vaughn, Ed. D., a 38-year resident of St. Croix, is a former librarian/teacher at St. Dunstan's School, Good Hope School and the then-College of the Virgin Islands. II. He served as secretary of the V.I. Emancipation 150 Commission.
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