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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, February 5, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesWho Should Be Excluded? Who, Included?

Who Should Be Excluded? Who, Included?

Dear Source:
Once again our Legislature has shown a tendency toward ignorance, incompetence, ethnocentrism, racism or all of the previous combined. In passing an amendment to allow anyone born in the Virgin Islands territory to vote on ratifying the VI Constitution–regardless of where they live–is absolutely absurd. To not have any Senator raise an objection to it calls into question the collective common sense of our Legislature, its collective intelligence required to think "deeply" about issues, the ignorance of the underlying ethnocentrism it projects and the subtle form of racism that passage of the amendment represents. The rationale of those who voted for it may differ, but collectively the four areas of concern are evident, especially since no one presented the amendment to the Board of Elections prior to passage. As pointed out by John Abramson, "[F] rom an administrative point of view it is a nightmarish situation." One must ask what is each Senator's underlying reason for voting on the amendment?
If newspaper reports are accurate, ignorance is evident in the commentary made by Senators Russell and Malone. The amendment is exclusionary and not based on reality. To assume that a person born in the VI but has not lived here for 10, 20 or 30 years is keeping "up with news and developments" with what is going on here is clearly not accurate. An adult Crucian living in New Jersey for the past twenty years, who will be stopping in to see me this week, knows nothing or very little about what is going on here. To assume that a person born here but only lived here for three years, or one who is mentally incompetent should help determine the direction of the VI is not logical, nor rational. To grant a privilege to those born here, but not living here and not registered to vote here, because they "have families, property and business interests in the territory," is exclusionary and discriminatory of those who spend time, money, and pay taxes here. To consciously or unconsciously exclude worthy individuals who have a vested interest–political, social, economic, cultural, etc.– in determining the future of the islands is plain incompetence lacking common sense! There is also an underlying ethnocentrism in which only native islanders born here are granted a privilege over those who have resided on the islands for four years or visited the islands for twenty years, own property here, pay taxes here, and keep up with what is going on here but not born here.
Although the amendment granting only native-born islanders to vote is not technically racist, it is in practice racist because of the clear majority of "native Virgin Islanders granted the privilege of voting on the VI Constitution would be people of color. The passage of the amendment correlates and coincides with the argument of "Native Papers" by Gerard Emanuel, which argues that "only native Virgin Islanders, their descendents and whomever else they choose" should participate in the Constitutional Convention process. The passage of the amendment also indicates an ignorance of the Organic Act of 1954, which gives the Legislature the opportunity to determine who can vote as long as it is not exclusionary.
Ask yourself this question. Should a person, not registered to vote here, but contributes financially and donates personal time to 14 VI organizations, has paid taxes on two pieces of property for twenty years, has visited the islands for a minimum of four months a year for eighteen years prior to residing here full time for 2 ½ years be granted the right to participate in the VI Constitutional process before someone born here but who hasn't visited in fifteen years? Also ask this question: by passing the amendment with a clear exclusionary bias does it then allow the Senators to manipulate the vote or the outcome via a challenge to the exclusionary process?
Peace and love to those who want inclusion rather than exclusion.
Hap Clark
St. Croix

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 source@viaccess.net.

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