The fear and anger that has been brewing on this island is getting a little face time. The only question now is whether it can be addressed in a positive way, or if people will continue to act out in negative and harmful ways. How long will we be subjected to the consequences of rumors and revenge?
I don't think a single fact, relevant to the original or subsequent crimes; has been released by authorities, yet many people are talking (and publishing) what is essentially hearsay.
Some rumors I have encountered:
1. The woman was raped by four white racists, hell bent on raping, beating, and stabbing this woman and leaving her for dead face down in the water.
2. The woman was raped by one white man.
3. The woman is a diagnosed schizophrenic who wrote slurs on her own car to cause trouble, and has a history of similar behavior in Tortola.
4. The store in Meada's center was torched by its owner for insurance money.
5. The police on St. John recently participated in something called a "Blue Flu" where in every officer calls in sick the same day.
6. The rape and the fires are both somehow linked to the unsolved murder in 1993 in Coral Bay, and that's why Skinny Legs was set on fire.
7. The rape is retaliation for the recent dinghy thefts in Coral Bay that went unaddressed by both the police and the father of the known perpetrators.
When people listen to rumors such as these, they act in ignorance, and these actions come from the two most dangerous emotions known to us, anger and fear. When we feel threatened, we become afraid, and that emotion turns to anger. When we become angry we often become deaf to the truth, able only to hear the whispered gossip buzzing in our ears.
No one that has lived on St. John for any number of years is blind to the growing tensions between whites and blacks. St. John is going through enormous changes and, like any small town in the States that has been "discovered" (i.e. Jasper, Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod) we run a risk of overdeveloping and pushing out the original residents. The government is taking land that has been in families for years, selling it to rich people from the States who do not even live here, and leaving the people who do live here with little say in the matter. This reality is not just affecting West Indians. It is affecting the boaties in Coral Bay who have been here for 30 years and now are being kicked out of Coral Bay (to anchor where exactly?) to make way for a new marina. It is also affecting people who have not been here 30 years but came seeking a quiet and unpretentious island lifestyle and now cannot pay the rising costs of rent.
We need to feel like the government and the police have our back. We want to feel that as money is filtered into the island, it is not all being funneled back out. We want to feel like we have a voice and a place in our community. The face of the problem becomes the white developers, and it has now become the rest of the white people trying to live here that bear the brunt of the anger. Likewise, when some kids are robbing houses on Gift Hill, the white residents become less likely to pick up a young West Indian hitcher. The problem does not rest on race alone. There is not a KKK crew of white people just waiting in the wings to string up a bunch of West Indians any more than there is an undercover plan to repeat the night of the silent drum. There are people behaving badly and there are the rest of us. It is up to the rest of us to stop all this before it goes too far.
Not much is known at this point in regards to the heinous crimes that have been committed on the island in the last week, it all seems a lot of speculation. Was the store in town burned because the owner got into an argument with a woman who later was raped? Is the connection an implication that the owner of the store had something to do with the rape? Doubtful. More likely it is an old vendetta exercised out of anger at an opportune time. So then what is the message I am to glean from this? That if I argue with a West Indian my car and my house will now be burned to the ground? This would be in addition to the general attitude of white people here that it is better to be silent that argue with a West Indian because the police will not help you and the repercussions will be great. Was this woman really raped by a gang of white supremacists who have been torturing her and her family for some time? If so where have the authorities been all this time? Why are the people doing this to her family still at large?
I, like the rest of the St. John community, am full of questions that I want answered. What I am not willing to do is judge before I know the full story. I will not be reactionary and knee jerk. Those are the responses that will not get us anywhere. Rather, we need to get back together as a community, and start identifying the real roots of the problems at hand. Instead of listening to the rumors, we must start listening to each other.
Terra Jane Albee
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