British Virgin Islands

Friday, Oct 30, 2020

The upcoming BLM protest in BVI and the Anti-Governor cartoon

The wonderful solidarity that BVI is going to demonstrate by holding a peaceful BLM event in BVI to support the brotherhood in the USA, and the somewhat poisoned debate and cartoon against Governor Augustus Jaspert reminds me an old school story:

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground in a large field. While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.

As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm it was.

The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there, all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate.

Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung and promptly dug him out. Then ate him.

The Lesson?

1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.

2) Not everyone who gets you out of the shit is your friend.

3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!


So here is my 5 cents on the current situation in BVI:

As part of the preparation for the local BLM and George Floyd demonstration, Islanders should acknowledge the positive fact that the racism in BVI is negligible and marginal compared to the broad, profound and systemic racism that prevails in the establishment, institutions and society of the United States.

It is enough to see the almost daily horrific images from the USA -in print and on video - to understand that for the past 250 years black life clearly does NOT matter for the US police and their injustice system.

Racism in the USA was never a secret. It was built in to the United States' system of governance and society from the very first day of establishment. It was even formalized within the original Constitution, where it states baldly that black men are not part of "We the people". Black men and white women did not count as people when the American Constitution was written. It took Fifteen Amendments (yes Fifteen!) and 150 years to start to fix this racist and discriminating document. Even after the 15th Amendment, many States pointedly disregarded it and refused to allow all blacks to vote.

While the 15th Amendment only barred discrimination about voting rights on the basis of race (but allowed the Ku Klux Klan to operate), it left the door wide open for individual States to determine their own specific qualifications for suffrage. Southern State legislatures used such qualifications - including literacy tests, poll taxes and other discriminatory practices - to disenfranchise the majority of black voters in the decades following Reconstruction.

The Voting Rights Act was finally passed in the USA in 1965, and then it was only in 1997 (yes, just a few years ago) that all the States in the USA,  with - surprise, surprise - Tennessee as the last one, allowed the majority of black people to vote. 

However, several million black people still cannot vote until this very day. (And separately, by the way, The British Nationality Act came into force only on 1 January 1983, and still the British refused to allow Hong Kong -while controlling it- and the Overseas Territories to become full democracies. What they became instead were human safari parks, giving visitors and the people inside just the illusion they were living free, when in fact they remained in autonomies under white supreme control.)

Anyway, as we can see from the 1000 citizens murdered by the police every year, racism in the USA has no plan to go anywhere anytime soon. White supremacy is not just a fanatic KKK belief. It is built in to the everyday speech and the formal written language that legitimises racism. Terms such as "Black List", and "Dark Side", and rituals such as wearing black for funerals, reinforce society's common understanding of what's the colour of good and what's the colour of bad. Not only in the USA, but across all those countries where the original immigrants came from.

In the shadow of BLM and George Floyd, it would be wise to remember that there is no comparison at all between the evil history of African slavery and the good fortune of BVIslanders.

We can always find reasons to complain why life is not better, but given the deadly racism in America it is just good luck, or at least less bad luck, that BVIslanders ended up under British and not American control.

Just compare apples to apples to get the scientific proof of it: according to a report from the United Nations, the US Virgin Islands, USVI, are in the top 5 countries with the highest murder cases per capita, while on the contrary, the British Virgin Islands are at the bottom of this list.

It is of course legitimate and important to discuss the past that saw the islanders being brought by the British from their happy homes in Africa to a refugee island that has now become a semi-autonomous territory. One should always see that the glass is half-full, and be happy that fate left the Islanders under the British regime. It is far less oppressive and much less lethal than the systemic racism in the United States, which the black brothers have been constantly fighting against - without success - for 250 years.

Voices are again being heard on the island, against what remains of British colonialism and British controls on BVI territory and its people. These voices need to be heard, with open minds, and addressed fairly and effectively before the debate escalates out of proportion.

The voices - and the cartoon - against the Governor's role, position and actions are legitimate, relevant and timely, although the controversial cartoon is somewhat disrespectful to the Governor and absolutely disrespectful to George Floyd. 

It is important to listen to the voices about the foreign-white-non-elected Governor's control, even if the motives and the real reasons behind them are not really about racism and colonialism. Far from being innocent, it seems - according to sources around the Governor - they are more likely direct backfire from frustration that the Governor took control of the GBP 300 million loan the UK is about to give to the BVI, as he wanted to make sure that this money was really going to help rebuild the BVI and not just disappear, as usual, in fake governmental contracts.

Regardless of the money issue, I also have a genuine question that challenges the Governor's role. I do not see any reason why, in 2020, a society cannot be independent and free to manage all aspects of their lives, without the white-supremacy role and control of a foreign, external, non-elected, white Governor. This is not how democracy works, and it is not really emancipation. Emancipation is 100% unconditional freedom. This sounds to me more like living in a safari park - thinking that you are free when in fact you are not!

Nothing personal against Governor Augustus Jaspert himself, of course, as his talent, skills, experience and knowledge are very impressive and not in question at all. Just a reasonable question arising out of a natural sense of justice.

We are after all in 2020, and the whole 'Governor-and-Overseas-Territory-and-Commonwealth" blah blah blah sounds so much 1750, that maybe it's time to rethink, refresh, upgrade and update the whole thing.

On the other hand, looking at the disaster and chaos brought about by "freedom" and "democratisation" in the Arab Spring (let's not even think about Venezuela), maybe the wisdom, stability, independent thinking and professional control that the Governor brings to the BVI is of much greater value then the anarchy that would be created without.

One thing must be clear. In the world of 2020, there is no place to thank the British for the freedom and independence the islanders have been granted. That would be just like thanking  a rapist for raping the same victims again and again, just a little bit less often.

This freedom was just the Islanders' natural and absolute right, so in fact it was no gift at all, but just the return to the victims of rights stolen by a thief. However, in reality, in a world where justice and equality are not at all for granted - not anywhere - there is definitely reason to appreciate the good fortune that the British did not treat their African victims the same way Americans have done from day one, right up until this very day.

The debate that sets in opposition the negatives left over from colonialism against the positives, thanks to the Governor's contribution, is healthy and legitimate. The outcome is far from clear: it's not black or white. It's not a good (black) versus a greed (white). It is much more nuanced and demands careful consideration.

It is important, right and essential to support the BLM protest in USA with local peaceful demonstrations: they show that we are all united against the injustice facing black people in America. But we should be mindful that there is no comparison - not even 1% - with the situation in BVI, despite the odd incident here and there, and the general healthy debate about "Remaining versus VIxit".

 As for myself - despite my jungle instinct for "freedom at all costs", then looking at how the world is going to be Post-Covid and how great Britain can be after Brexit - I have a strong feeling that the last thing BVI needs now is any talk that leads to instability, disruption and systemic change. In the fullness of time, BVI will have a native-born citizen as Governor, as do the white-overseas-territories: Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

With the way the world is right now, it is reasonable to conclude that what BVI still needs is Governor Jasper. Moderated, of course by an open-minded and mutually respectful debate about how to improve the interaction and balanced responsibilities of the BVI government and the Jaspert-UK remote control.

Now read the opening story again:

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground in a large field. While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.

As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm it was.

The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all, warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung and promptly dug him out. Then ate him.

The Lesson?

1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.

2) Not everyone who gets you out of the shit is your friend.

3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!

Comments

EB 133 days ago
First they commit a crime against humanity, and after that they expect from every victim to thank them for committing a-bit-less-harmful crime against the same victims.
ED 133 days ago
That post exemplifies the root of the problem - a historical legacy of centuries of propaganda based on the premise of European racial supremacy. It portrays the white colonial master that is the savior to the ever thankful poor black slave. Thank God, I’m an emancipated African - and I don’t worship at the feet of white gods - the Queen or the Governor, who are simply relics of outmoded colonialism built on the tenets of racist institutions of white supremacy that colonized and enslaved Africans for centuries.

As Bob Marley said, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” because sometimes, “shit is just shit!”

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