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JohnTee
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August 5, 2006 1:12 am  

I just read an interesting article in the St. Thomas Source. A former Frederiksted man writes about his living experience on St. Croix. Basically expressing an experience of reverse discrimination, I guess based both on color and on being a mainlander. Sounds like he had a progressively poor experience over 12 years of island living.

http://www.onepaper.com/stthomasvi/?v=d&i=&s=Commentary:Open+Forum&p=1153541517

John


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jane
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August 5, 2006 1:59 am  

Earlier this year John de Jongh and I had a long conversation about this very subject - he agreed that anti white sentiment was somewhat of a problem and impediment to progress in the VI and he stated that, in his opinion, St croix was really the only island where it was significant.
In a way, it is only to be expected, the disparity in income, opportunities, lifestyle, etc etc would be enough for me to resent the "newcomers". It really is not about how one behaves towards the individual locals that you meet, it is more about the life experiences and familial attitudes learnt at the knee, of the person that is interacting with you!
It is not just white people that are disliked or distrusted, many black Statesiders who have come to the Islands are met with overt "racism". Perhaps it is not racism but more classism.


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STT Resident
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August 5, 2006 2:21 am  

I read the letter and could have written it myself with a whole lot more additions were I not still living here after over two decades. I disagree, Jane, with John's apparent estimation that the problem is only significant on STX. I talk about such thing with friends, both black and white but not in an open forum. Cheers.


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dntw8up
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August 5, 2006 4:07 am  

Ditto what STTRes said!


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rosiestropicaltreats
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August 5, 2006 4:08 am  

I just read the article and I have to say that it does not sway me from moving to STX. The friends that I have met on STX and are helping me to get my business down there are native's they were born and raised on STX and have officially made us part of their family.

When in St Croix I only felt uncomfortable and not wanted 2 times, one was at the Casino and the other time was when we got lost in the Kinghill area.

I think it is a matter of respect and treating people as equals. The reason we are moving down and opening a business is not for the money but to give back to the community. I have made my money here in the states and now I am going to down the St Croix to follow my dreams and my passions.

My friends are good people, I stayed with them while I was in St Croix seeing my Atty to get incorporated, she is also a Native. They do not see color nor do they see borders. I will be calling tomorrow and I will discuss the article with her and get her view point.

I am thinking that you have to take everything in stride. Treat people with respect and don't try to screw them.


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HipCrip
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August 5, 2006 5:58 am  

Perhaps it's because we have only been here on STX for a relatively short time and are recent arrivals, but neither the HH nor I have ever experienced any negative reaction from the West Indians/Caribbean Islanders we have encountered. While folks may be reserved and appear standoffish when first approached, once we have said "Good Whatever" and asked them how they are doing today with a smile, we've not received anything but a warm greeting and smiles in return.

Two notable experiences stand out in my mind. There was one sales associate at KMart who was clearly having a bad day and started grumbling near me when she got paged yet again, but after I smiled and said to her, "You know why they keep paging you, right? Because they know you're the best problem-solver they have." Her "patience my ass, I'm gonna kill something" look dissolved into a good natured, self-deprecating chuckle, eye roll, and "Yeah, right" and what could have been a very bad moment was totally diffused. Cheesy, sure, but she remembers me and gives us a warm greeting every time we see her. The other was when we called a plumber we';d never used before on a Sunday afternoon to come fix a newly developed leak in our water pump line. The plumber and his son left a graduation party and arrived less than two hours later, and apparently took a liking to my reception/trust/introduction of myself and asking about them/expressions of gratitude for such a rapid response and leaving a family event for us/whatever and told the hubby when it came time to write the check that they were giving us the local discount because of how they were treated. (They ended up charging us a ridiculously low price for an hour and a half, trip to the hardware store for parts, emergency weekend call, and they know we are now customers for life and recommend them whenever we can.)

While these two examples stand out, we get this same type of reaction from everyone of color we meet, from store employees and hotel cleaning staff to folks hanging in front of Plaza Extra. The only bad encounter I've had is with a male employee at the casino, and after watching him wait on other white women mainlanders, I have to attribute his issues with me to the fact that I am in a wheelchair. (My biggest problem anywhere with folks of every gender and race is refusing to deal with me directly and instead talking to my husband about me in the third person as though I am not there, brain dead and mute. GRRRR!)

Maybe my experiences are different because I am in a chair and am considered too much of a sympathy case to get the same negative reaction some of the temporarily able-bodied folks get, maybe it's because I've just run into the right folks since arriving, or because I never show my negative moods when out in public but am positive, upbeat and light-hearted no matter what comes my way. Who knows for sure? But I had to speak out to say that not transplanted white folks have shared this experience, and STX should NOT, IMO, be singled out as a stronghold of this behavior.

I'm deeply sorry that others haven't had the same good experiences as we have.

--HC


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Linda J
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August 5, 2006 11:58 am  

I've had much the same experience as HC. I also think it's because I'm older and it's obvious that I have some problems with mobility (I hate my knees!!). Plus, I come from the southern US, where slowness and politeness is still the norm.

The one time I do see annoyance is when I cannot understand what someone is saying. I tell people that my ears don't hear as fast as they are talking, but I am always embarrassed when I have to ask to have things repeated.


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East Ender
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August 5, 2006 12:27 pm  

I also wonder if the experience of white women is different than of white men.


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Becky R
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August 5, 2006 1:11 pm  

Itchy, twitchy fingers again....

I am a white woman. Many times I have felt the backlash of reverse discrimination, even if it is in subtle ways like getting passed over in the line at the bank for the local behind me. We have a friend staying with us who is a white male - he has been here a little over a month and I believe just had his first incidence of this several days ago at Cost U Less...he was disheartened, but he let it ride because he's a REALLY nice guy...and his comment was "whatcha gonna do?" But he WAS bewildered - and judged before anyone ever spoke to him...it was like he went invisible or something.

I don't believe I am rude to anyone if it can possibly be avoided - and mostly I feel I am not as quick to go to bat for myself as I would be on my native turf because the odds are against me winning. The worst experience I have ever had was while sitting in traffic near Peter's Rest - I had my window down, just sitting in school traffic - and a very angry teen girl at a bus stand began hurling curse words at me and telling me to "go home" (which, incidentally, was where I was headed...my 'home' on St. Croix). She said a number of things that I could quote but would get bleeped out, and many things I didn't even understand but I don't think they were nice.

I just wonder - if I moved to Texas tomorrow, I would be a Texan - will I ever be a Crucian? My bet is a resounding no.

My husband works with a gentleman of color who moved to STX 30 years ago. From our limited perspective, he gleans a lot more respect, perhaps because of his long-standing period of time in the community, and he is a gentleman who deserves respect. However, he has his moments as well when a new customer realizes he is not a born-and-raised Crucian...as did the other pharmacist who recently left to go to the mainland after 20+ years here. On the whole, however, he is perceived at first glance to be a local and is treated as such.

I will side up with Linda J and say (sorry, Linda) the older I get, the more respect I seem to get, but mostly from the older islanders and not the newer cable-t.v. generation. Guess what? The MTV generation is obnoxious anywhere and our world has changed to where this is accepted as "just the way it is", which I totally do not agree with but definitely see in motion. If I step back and look at the bigger picture, however, I can see where there might be resentment from a large faction of residents - their whole way of life has been changed in comparison to when I visited 20 years ago, and it's generally due to the influx of mainlanders. The influx is primarily white, so in my mind it stands to reason that the resentment would be toward the white community at large. Some places I frequent now recognize me and the tension is a little less palpable - but if I go into a new store, it's almost like I have a beacon flashing over my head - WHITE=MAINLANDER=VACATIONER=MONEY=WILL-BE-GONE-BEFORE-LONG-NEXT-IN-LINE-PLEASE.

I will balance my argument and say that the locals we have come to know personally or through regular interaction at stores, although a little stand-offish at first, are true jewels whose friendships we value highly. Interesting story, though...someone we know, a black man and his wife who have been here many, many years - well, the wife won't go to east of about Hovensa because she's "afraid of the white people". Guess it runs both ways....


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terry
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August 5, 2006 2:22 pm  

We have spent a total of 9 weeks on island, in 4 different trips. So far we have seen no signs of this, although I'm sure it will happen.
Twice when checking out at a store, a "local" let us in line before her, because we only had a few items. We have done the same thing for others as well.
the drivers there are the most polite drivers I have ever encountered. So much so, that I find myself being polite when I come back to the states. That takes a few days to get rid of and go back to "normal driving". LOL


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JohnTee
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August 5, 2006 2:28 pm  

After reading that article, I'm glad I posted the link to it and got all of this discussion. Reading the article and leaving it at that, would have left a bad taste in my mouth. The gist of discussion seems to be that if you treat people decently, you will in turn, generally get treated decently.

For what little bit it's worth, when we recently vacationed down there, I don't think there was any doubt in the minds of locals that I was visiting, and found that I was treated well in general by locals. I had read about starting conversations with, "Good (morning, afternoon, evening)" and not jumping right into business and made a point of doing so. Guess there's something to that old saying of, "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar!" Not to say that all of us don't have a bad day now and again. I think HipCrip's anecdotal story is an excellent case in point.

I'm reading "Don't Stop the Carnival" by Wouk and am reminded of something out of the first chapter . . .

"The West Indian is not exactly hostile to change, but he is not much inclined to believe in it. This comes from a piece of wisdom that his climate of eternal summer teaches him. It is that, under all the parade of human effort and noise, today is like yesterday, and tomorrow will be like today; that existence is a wheel of recurring patterns from which no one escapes; that all anybody does in this life is live for a while and then die for good, without finding out much; and that therefore the idea is to take things easy and enjoy the passing time under the sun. The white people charging hopefully around the islands these days in the noon glare, making deals, bulldozing airstrips, hammering up hotels, laying out new marinas, opening new banks, night clubs and gift shops, are to him merely a passing plague. They have come before and gone before."


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JohnTee
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August 5, 2006 2:34 pm  

Terry,

Interesting observations that sparked the ol' memory. In line at K-Mart with just a few items, I had a pleasant woman tell me to go ahead of her. I thanked her for her courtesy.

On return to home I've also found myself a little more polite/considerate, greeting people with, "Good . . . ." Sometimes they don't quite know what to think of it. I had one woman slightly dumbfounded when I greeted her with, "good morning" and then waited for her to go on. 🙂

John


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East Ender
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August 5, 2006 2:44 pm  

I just gave away my copy, but I think that wonderful passage from Wouk continues with something about not being able to exist on mangos and iguanas and waiting for the next hurricane or earthquake or other calamity to clear them away.

In fact, I hate to even say this but with all the out-of-control development recently, I have heard more than one resident think out loud about such an event.


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JohnTee
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August 5, 2006 3:51 pm  

EE,

Much more good stuff in Chapter 1, between the paragraph I posted and the one you referred to; here is your reference . . .

"The West Indians to not know what will cause the frantic whites to leave next time. Perhaps a bad earthquake: the entire chain of drowned mountains rests on a shaky spot in the earth's crust. Or a tidal wave; or a very bad hurricane; or an outbreak of some dormant tropical disease; or the final accidental blow-up of the white man's grumbling cauldron in the north, which will send the Caribbean white remnant scurrying to-where next? Tasmania? Tierra del Fuego? Unlike the natives they cannot subsists, if the ships and planes nes top coming, on crayfish, mangoes, coconuts, and iguanas."

I'm really enjoying this book!


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dntw8up
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August 5, 2006 5:40 pm  

I think folks need to be careful about romanticizing today's West Indian as someone who would be able to live like their ancestors subsisting on "crayfish, mangoes, coconut and iguana" as most West Indians today would be as lost without their cars, fast food and cell phones as any mainlander!


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jane
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August 5, 2006 5:43 pm  

lol - the young people on St X would be lost without MTV, rap music and the "gangsta" culture - it would be hard to find anyone under 30 who would even know what to do with a crayfish.


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HipCrip
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August 5, 2006 7:45 pm  

JohnTee...

One little thing you wrote triggered another interesting lesson/experiment that I learned shortly after moving here. About 3-4 months after arriving, my parents came down to visit. Both are avid travelers, and are very outgoing people who do their best to adapt to the local customs and courtesies.

We used their visit as an opportunity to go to many places we had never been before. During the time we spent together going out in the evenings, I started noticing that the response to my father and mother's greeting someone with a smile and "good evening" (the mainland form of the salutation) and my husband and my use of the island form "good night" resulted in a big difference in the response we received -- even if both were greeting the same person. My parent's 'good evening' was primarily returned with a brief nod of the head and a "hello" ---our 'good night' more often than not got us a smiling "Good night" in return plus a "How are you doing" or "Enjoy your night" added on.

We finally came to the conclusion that using the word evening instead of night was more than enough to flag someone as tourist/not one of our own/someone not interested/respectful enough to use our form of courtesies and customs. (Respect is a very big thing here.) "Good night" seemed to be kind of a secret password gaining us entrance to a special locals door to the clubhouse that outsiders --- rightly or wrongly -- just aren't afforded.

So for all the new folks just arriving, who've already been here for a bit, or plan on landing here, work on making that switch from good evening to good night. It can be a tough thing to master, and it will sound odd for a bit to use a phrase that has always meant "well I'm leaving now for the night" as a hello, but the payoff from changing that one little word might make a world of difference in the responses you receive from your new "neighbors."

Great discussion...thanks to all for bringing a very sensitive topic forward for a calm, honest , and respectful discussion.

--HC


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Anonymous
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August 5, 2006 8:18 pm  

There is no such thing as "reverse discrimination"

Discrimination is discrimination, period.

10 years living on St. Thomas showed me what this is. Most of the black West Indians hate white people, even the West Indian Frenchies. Even though I have many childhood black friends from the states, I do not have one single black West Indian friend.


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Becky R
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August 5, 2006 8:26 pm  

Oops, wrong wording, I suppose..."reverse discrimination" is what it was called in the south a blue moon ago, which shows my age!

I beg to differ on the "hate" factor, though...we have had much kindness and generosity shown by the people of the West Indies. I would certainly not want to be the one to label a whole culture over an experience with someone who was possibly only very ill-bred. That's a damning statement and one that comes through with more than a bit of anger...my humble opinion. Trust me, I've been treated more rudely by a drunk vacationer than most anyone here...but West Indians tend to be a bit aloof, and "aloof" and "hate" are two different scenarios. Abiding by the rules of whatever culture you find yourself in is just plain old good manners. If you find you've goofed up a local custom, a quick "oh, I am SO sorry, I didn't know" will generally suffice if it is genuine...and a quiet promise to yourself to remember the lesson you just learned is a good thing. Much is open to interpretation - what might offend me mightily might not even bother you, but I've never felt hated at all. And yes, we DO have West Indies people who are our friends....and I expect will be so for years to come. Let's not put the bad manners of a few off on a whole culture. That's a judgement too...not all vacationers are evil, obnoxious, demanding people either...I don't want to be measured by that yardstick, and I am sure my friends here would be deeply offended at your generalization of the entire population of the Virgin Islands.


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Anonymous
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August 5, 2006 8:42 pm  

No hate = they want your money.


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Becky R
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August 5, 2006 8:53 pm  

People who are my friends want my money? The next door neighbor who came and helped fix the air conditioner on his day off last year, and two days later came and put out a fire? The National Guardsman who invited us to his cookout and introduced us to everyone he knew, and enjoyed many a beer with my husband after work? His uncle, a retired police officer, who offered to go look at any home we considered buying since he knew a lot of the builders and how homes were constructed and didn't want us to make a mistake, and absolutely refused to accept a cent if he provided us this help? The local who bails me out every time I call her about some strange fruit or food I've found that looks interesting but I don't know what to do with? Well, I'm mystified...and if they want OUR money, they're tapping the wrong well. 🙂

C'mon, noone...be fair.


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HipCrip
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August 5, 2006 9:31 pm  

Gotta tell you, noone, that if the posts I've read from you here today -- let alone before (if they were from the same person using this unregistered handle, it's so hard to tell) -- are representative of the tone, language, and general demeanor you bring in person, I'd be polite in acknowledging(as I hope I am doing now) but I'm not so sure I'd want to be friends with you either. Granted that it's very easy to misinterpret black text on a white background 'cause there's no context clues like facial and body expressions, tone, inflection, etc., but most of the folks I've met first online and then in real life (pretty much my entire social circle of friends made since 1995, and the Hip Hubby!) ended up being just like they came off over time on the message boards/chat rooms/ IM services we used to first get acquainted.

After 43 years of living with being sick and not feeling well/being in pain a whole lot of the time, I learned early on that what you get back is, a lot more often than not, a mirror of what you put out to the world.

Just an uninvited but hopefully mostly polite observation from a total stranger -- you and others may choose to take it or leave it as you see fit.

--HC


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East Ender
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August 5, 2006 9:32 pm  

noone: I am about to bestow my title of "Bitter and Angry" on you. Wowie!

"Some" does not equal "All." One ought to be careful in painting with those broad strokes. I believe there are SOME local, West Indian folk who hate white folk. I also believe they are a minority. As I have said before, SOME of the leaders and teachers fan this sentiment, unfortunately. A wise person once hinted to me that the charnge came when the Black Panther/Pan-African/SLA movement was imported from the mainland in the late 60s-70s. Most Caribbean people who were raised before that time see themselves as "Caribbean people" and have a very good core.


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rosiestropicaltreats
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August 5, 2006 11:40 pm  

I have on more thing to add. I experienced discrimation on a whole other level when I was in STX. When I was staying with my friends that live in Golden Rock. We all decided to go to the beach at Mill Harbor. So it was me in tow with my friend Norma, her friend Joyce and her 3 grand kids all them were nativies, I was the only foriegner. As we were on our way to the beach, they did not have the gates open to the beach so we had to walk through the bar. There were some people that either lived their or were vacationing there.

They were very rude to Norma, Joyce and the kids. I thought to myself how crappy this was. This was one of the places that I was looking to buy a condo and I have since changed my mind.

See these people were vistors to STX, they brought their pretentious attitudes with them looking down at my friends. One of the people at the bar had the gull to say to me are you really freinds with them. I proudly said that I was and walked away.

I got to experience a lot that weekend, I went to Jump Up, I got lost on the island 3 times, once from the airport, once on the way back from the Pueblo at Golden Rock and the 3rd time was on my way to the airport.. Each time I stopped and asked a local for directions. Each time they led me down the right path. As someone told me if you take the time to start with a Good Morning, Good Afternoon or Good Evening it goes a really long way.

I think the tourists that go to STX, STT or STJ have a lot to learn about culture they are tainted by what happens in the states.


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Anonymous
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August 6, 2006 1:00 am  

It's interesting that you (east ender) would pull up the racial segregation of the 60's. To give you a point of view I was raised with, and understood before I delt with black West Indians:

My Pepere, due to his dark color, due to his American Indian blood, risked his life in the Freedom Rides in Selma, Alabama with such people as Rosa Parks to defend all people's rights to be treated equally. He is greatly saddened that the black people who benefited from these actions are now are discriminating against others, like me when I lived in the Virgin Islands.


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