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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, April 14, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesCitizenship, Residency and Race

Citizenship, Residency and Race

Dear Source:

Well, while I was taken about by the report that anyone would be told they weren't allowed to be at or speak in a public meeting let alone at one that was to deal with public comment on a proposed Constitution for the VI, I was not surprised by the source of the comments.
The purpose of a constitution is to establish a form of government with all its duties and powers and limitations. The US Constitution was written with that in mind, along with establishing rights for its citizens and keeping the document responsive to the nation's needs. That is the amendment process. Several amendments did establish rights for former slaves and other minorities and another established the rights of women to vote.
Residency is living in a geopolitical area for an established period of time, usually for purposes of voting and taxation. So, we have the phenomenon of US citizens who are residents of the USVI not being able to vote for President, Vice President, and Congress (Senators and Representative). And the reverse is true; when VI residents (who are US Citizens) move to the continent, Alaska or Hawaii, are eligible to vote in such elections, provided they have registered to vote.
Now comes the really volatile part of the matter: race. While the black slaves were freed in 1848, working living conditions remained much the same. The value of the islands in the late 1800's and early 1900's was seen as strategic in terms of shipping and warfare. When the United States government purchased the islands, the native peoples were in limbo, not US or Danish citizens. What a blow to a proud people to now live under military rule and have no real legal status. Gradually the situation was improved until Reorganized Organic Act and the later election of Governor Cyril King.
Throughout the history of the VI, various people have come or been brought there to work and live. They built a wonderful and rich culture put together from Europeans, Africans, Asians, and Native Americans. How can you define a Native Virgin Islander? To be quite frank, the Tainos and other Caribbean peoples are the true natives. The rest of us are latecomers.
Folks who keep the hate and mistrust alive among the various people that reside in the VI are doing a great injustice to everyone. Just think about the large numbers of former VI "locals" that now reside in other places and come home only for the occasional Carnival. Think about the rather open reverse discrimination that can and does exist in government offices toward its own employees who are continentals or white. Do you really want to continue, to codify, such intolerance and hatred toward people who come to the islands to live and share their gifts and talents? To continue to see the talented children of the VI getting training, education, or job experience in the military stay away from their home islands and the stress that comes of hating other merely, purely on the color of their skin or texture of their hair?
I truly consider the people I met and the friends that I made while living in the VI some of the best experiences of my life. Not a day goes by that I don't make at least one statement starting off, "in the VI…".

Diane Moody
Clermont, Fla.

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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