British Virgin Islands

Thursday, Oct 22, 2020

A look at discrimination in the BVI amidst the global black revolution

A look at discrimination in the BVI amidst the global black revolution

As we continue to lend voice, ear and action to the Global movement of Black Lives Matter, following the horrendous killing of George Floyd by police officers, a son of the soil, Benito Wheatley, is not only acknowledging the existence of racist by-products in the BVI, but also calling on residents to stamp it out.
Mr. Wheatley said “at home, the BVI should not overlook its own often subtle problems of discrimination within the society. It is undeniable that prejudice of different kinds exists between societal groups on the islands. However, for decades the society has largely operated peacefully, preoccupied with economic activity and the pursuits of modern life.”

While civility has taken precedence, Mr. Wheatley further acknowledged that “social tensions continue to bubble below the surface that periodically erupt when issues around immigration and employment arise.”

As it stands, the BVI is comprised of 137 different nationalities of different races while BVIslanders account for less than 40% of the population.

Varying backgrounds, beliefs and prejudices have resulted in segregation and heavy discrimination by various groups.

This was further supported by Mr. Wheatley who said “enclaves have formed that have not been balanced by robust efforts in past years to effectively integrate the society’s various groups into a wider BVI community”

“There has also a been a failure to effectively monitor and police economic and social discrimination by different groups toward each other,” he said.

While the issues remain sensitive, Mr. Wheatley is adamant that they must be highlighted, acknowledged and addressed, as it continues to cripple the very society that we are trying to build collectively.

He’s encouraging a national social dialogue where residents can “responsibly and maturely discuss their challenges and frustrations, without fear, and with a view to gaining mutual understanding and beginning to address long standing social and economic issues and divisions.”

With a dire need to understand the social and economic dynamics, he’s also pushing for an objective independent study of social relations, social cohesion and economic relations within the society that can “provide a clearer picture of the situation on the ground and how things can be improved.”

As it relates to immediate reform in the workplace, Mr. Wheatley said “existing systems for anonymous reporting and investigation into discrimination in the workplace at all levels and by companies in their business practices should be strengthened, along with enforcement of the laws already on the books.”

While a sore issue, Mr. Wheatley is pushing for the territory to find common ground, adding “issues that must be openly discussed and tackled if the BVI and the world in which it exists are to improve.”

“Marching in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on 20th June will be important, but it should be coupled with local action to root out discrimination and build a fairer BVI,” he said.
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