Did I bring up racial segregation?
You rarely hear "locals" referred to as "natives" on STX. For one thing, most people are actually not native to STX. Many are down-islanders or from Puerto Rico, or from the continental US. So for the most part we're either locals or newcomers or snow birds. Racially, we're either black, hispanic or white - non-hispanic.
Poor EE, misconstrued again. It's a wonder s/he isn't ANGRY and BITTER - HA! 😀
"Racially, we're either black, hispanic or white - non-hispanic."
What is race? I've always thought of "Hispanic" as an ethnicity. If there were such a thing as race I would imagine it would have to include more than the three you proffered, even here in the USVI.
I do agree that the term "native" is useless. If it meant anyone born in a particular place then everyone born in North, Central and South America would be "Native American."
I believe the issue is a reverse of what is seen in the states. In the VI, the West Indians are the majority. Whites are the minority....and what we see in the states where whites are treated better than blacks is reversed in the VI.
In the VI, the "who are your people?" mentality very much prevails. Black west Indians divide themselves (whether consciously or not) into classist groups...and whites often find themselves defaulted to the bottom of the pile, until they prove themselves worthy of some higher status. The reverse happens in the US.
At the core, it is not a race issues, it is a class issue, I believe. STT Resident has figured this out and she is correct, I believe.
My theory is anecdotal, as is everyone else's on here.
I am biracial - half black, half white. Looking at me, I guess I kind of look in between (white skin, long, curly blond hair, green eyes, but certainly more ethnic features) - and many white people who aren't used to seeing biracial people will just assume I am white. Blacks are more used to seeing cross-bred people and/or very fair blacks, so they assume I am either mixed or am a fair skinned black - and Latin people just assume I am Latin and go off in fast Spanish that I cannot understand in the least.
Interestingly enough, I have met black men on STT who won't talk to me. They are kind and respectful, but I have been told on more that one occasion that they should not talk to me because I am "high". (well, darn, I only had a couple of painkillers and yes, i am a little high, but not enough to run you off! LOL)....no, they've explained that I am "high yellow".....this being a reference to old slavery days when the lighter you were, the higher your status was on the plantation........people who looked like me were the offspring of the masters and the prized slave women - resulting in a slave who had it easy, living in the big house, being cared for like the child of the master (which they were). It is odd how this old time thinking has remained typical in the Caribbean.
It is often said that stateside blacks who visit the VI are treated worse than white visitors. My situation is so unique that I cannot confirm, nor deny, that notion. However, I believe it based on what I have been told and the source of my information.
What I have noticed is that being "high" has been, in some instances, an automatic welcome into West Indian high society - kind of an automatic pass on the pedigree background check. This is not uncommon in the states, as well (as anyone who is familiar with the "brown paper bag test" can attest). It is also sometimes an automatic "bulls eye" for hatred from those who struggle with class issues. I am not sure how the Frenchies on the islands with mixed-raced children feel about that because I don't think they get an automatic pass. Frenchies are pretty much considered lower than low on the islands. Pretty ironic when compared to much of the rest of the world. So, somehow, West Indian society can discern between a mixed-race or high yellow person of preferred pedigree and a yellow person who is the offspring of maybe Frenchie and Dominican, who would be considered lower than everyone else on the totem pole. You might say "well, blu, that ties back to racism, not classism if an automatic assignment to the bottom of the totem pole is made"....but class and race are tied soooo closely n the VI...but I still believe class trumps race.
Black West Indian men in the VI who are wealthy, accomplished and/or well educated have no issues with associating with a "high" person or white person. But, dark men who are none of the above will keep their distance or will view a high woman's company as a novelty, but certainly not something that is serious or meaningful since they have been taught that the two don't mix. This is especially true in men who are from down-island, where older ways prevail.
I have West Indian black friends on STT who are REALLY close friends with their white neighbors...so much so that I ask about their neighbors/friends when we talk on the phone or whatever because I am always hearing about new gatherings, adventures, events, etc. I know, for a fact, that these West Indian blacks do not hate whites...nor are they "impressed" with their white friends...they're just friends.....blind in color. However, the common thread is that the whites must be accomplished in some fashion. It seems that they must prove themselves worth of the respect of the accomplished West Indians. More irony....
All of this is my round the barn way of saying that I believe the issue is class, not race. This is also the case in the states, but it much more prevalent in the VI. The magnifying glasses are out...."who are your people?".....and the answer had better be good.
ahem, I think it was me that mentioned the classism...and I have to say that many of the cited examples of "friendliness" are in the service sector - ie trained and paid to be polite and friendly. to people's faces.
I am sure that there are many examples of extremely well adjusted and tolerant locals - we had friends and professional colleagues, neighbors etc who were Cruzan and could not have been nicer to us - however, there are entire neighborhoods where we are not welcome, those areas are viewed as 'white free' sanctuaries.
I think it is naive to think that choosing one's evening greeting actually comes anywhere near affecting the bone deep resentment that many of the locals feel towards White people. An ugly cramped hot box of a hovel as compared to a cool white palace on the East End....hmmmmm
The sad thing is that many of the most overtly racist locals are the young - I thought that we were educating our way out of ignorance. Apparently not. The Per Ankh Institute, Mario Moorehead, some of the Farmers in Action, many of the local attornies et al are quite blatant in the use of descriminatory and racist rhetoric. And Mario, my Beloved, has a huge following on st Croix. His show is even broadcast in the public areas of the LG's Office, Cadastral etc.
"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."
I interpret such statements as being condescending, crass, arrogant, pathetic and very, very sad. Much has been said about attitude and yours comes across as being - what can I say - just low, period.
You're entitled to your opinon, of course, and I certainly respect that.. But your generalizations leave me totally cold and in fact cringing with goosebumps. Are you still here after 10 years or have you left? If you're still here then why so? And if you've left, have you found a better place to live and are you happy there?
I think an answer might be in order. Cheers.
After about three years of reading complaint after beef after tirade on this board about a perceived epidemic of the rudeness, tardiness, and general unreliability of workers down here -- be they sales clerks, government workers, or skilled laborers like plumbers and electricians -- jane's observation that:
"...many of the cited examples of 'friendliness' are in the service sector - ie trained and paid to be polite and friendly. to people's faces"
made me laugh so hard I spattered water all over my keyboard.
Hopefully her comment, if even I think it totally dismisses a willingness to believe that anyone providing a service to a customer might actually just be a friendly person responding to another friendly soul, will help temper some of the previous negative remarks.
Just to clarify that my experiences are based only on commercial transactions, I'd like to add that my history of good encounters began the day we looked at/made an offer on our house during our PMV. We'd gone back to the house on our own, around twilight, after our offer was accepted, and both an Hispanic neighbor from the across the street and the second or third generation (not sure which, or if their people go back further) older Cruzan couple who'd raised their family in the house next door both came out to make sure that we weren't going to anything bad (our house had been empty for a bit) and gave us a warm welcome and offered their assistance with settling in the moment we introduced ourselves and told them we were now happily on our way to being their new neighbors. They have since extended many kindnesses to us, including coming over to aid my husband unasked as he worked on beating back a badly overgrown yard and neglected landscaping. We share greetings, conversations, our bountiful banana harvest with them and much more. Other neighbors from up the hill have walked down to introduce themselves when they first noticed some new folks out in the front of the house. A family that I have never met personally because of my limited ability to get out let alone make it up that hill, ask my hubby how I'm feeling every time they talk, and have (and continue to) invite us to their big, boisterous Latin-music sound tracked Xmas and New Year's parties since we first moved in.
I guess that is my typically long-winded way of saying jane, you are entitled to your opinion, of course, based on your own personal experience, but please don't imply that my experiences are invalid or based on naivety, fantasy, etc.
There was a sign up in almost all of the tattoo shops I've ever been into (that's what bring home as souvenirs from our travels) that said, "Price depends on attitude" (PDOA). I've seen it in play watching snotty, superior frat boys -- who clearly demonstrated they felt themselves above the lowly "bikers" through their rudeness and disrespect -- ended up paying twice the amount to get three Greek letters put on their ankle than I paid for a much more complicated, time-consuming design, and when the artists charged me less or added little extras beyond the design and price we agreed to before they spent time with me. Those mainland-based PDOA experiences extended far beyond that particular industry, and I have no reason at all to believe that what I get back from the workers on STX differs at all from what's occurred many, many times in my pre-island life.
Also, jane's perspective about "choosing one's evening greeting [coming] anywhere near affecting the bone deep resentment that many of the locals feel towards White people. An ugly cramped hot box of a hovel as compared to a cool white palace on the East End...." goes a long long way toward validating bluwater's theory that the issue is really class instead of race based. bluwater's thoughtful post also meshes well with with the overwhelmingly positive response from locals we get when we tell them we live in Sion Farm -- a mostly working-class neighborhood where, as implied earlier in this long post, we are the only non-Latino caucasians of whom I'm aware on our long street and one neighboring street.
I'm truly saddened that not everyone has shared our good interactions with the USVI locals.
You are, of course correct. Race and ethnicity are two different things. I was trying, lamely I guess, to describe the different accents/skin tones ond finds on STX, none of which has anything to do with a person's "nativeness"
I am sorry to have mixed STT Resident and Jane's responses - though I knew that STT wouldn't have written much of what Jane wrote.
After reading this thread again this morning, and also the latest replies, I have no idea what is being experienced by some and why - and my previous post is mostly irrelevant. The experiences of whites on this forum as so widely varied, which is really the most interesting part.
I wonder if it is a belonger and non-belonger issue. Whites like STTResident, who have been on STT for such a long time and who have invested in a business there, seem to be having an easier time and feel welcomed. Blacks who step off of the plane from the states often feel that they are treated poorly, citing that they are treated worse than the white visitors. Then again, some whites who have been on island for only a short time are also reporting that they are not having race related issues and feel welcomed by most.
How can so many of you report such varied experiences in the same small place? Very interesting.
I will keep that in mind. I was just saying that the people that I stay were all born and raised on STX.
I've had similar experiences to HipCrip's regarding how locals react to hearing that I don't live at the east end of STX in what is becoming largely a segregated white community. The response is often, "YOU live in WHIM?" with a startled expression. When I respond by saying that I love living in the west end, the startled look segues into a smile and often a short chat. There is no question that their perception of who I am changes and falls into a different category when they learn that I am not part of the contingent of newcomers who believes that living at the east end is the ONLY option for white residents.
I agree that the Class distinction is a large part of what is behind what is seen by some as a bad attitude in locals. Island history of the big bosses living in mansions while the workers/slaves lived in much less grand housing isn't something that is totally forgotten. With many newcomers being the few on the island who can afford the island's more posh housing options, some resentment is a natural outcome. When those newcomers also work at higher paying jobs and live a much more affluent lifestyle, it is another bitter pill to swallow. The real kicker is that some of those newcomers also treat the locals as if they are only here to wait on them. So even if you are a newcomer who treats everyone with total respect and fully appreciates any kindness done to you, it isn't uncommon to be faced with initial standoffishness from a local who isn't sure what to expect from you. Will you be a friendly/respectful person? Or a demanding/insufferable person?
If you treat a local nicely (as you should!), then the response often seems to be that they classify you as one of the "nice" newcomers/white people and respond accordingly. That strongly suggests to me that race is less the issue than common courtesy and a perception of class differences. If you present yourself as being better than the person you are talking to, then you get the hostile response given to those who apparently think they are better than everyone else. Skin color may be a trigger that often leads a local to suspect they may be facing an issue of class distinction, but your attitude is what can either confirm or dispel their expectation. There may be some pre-judging going on from both sides... yet you do have a chance with most people to change their perception of you. Re-evaluating your own expectations can also help to improve your interactions over time.
The guarded reaction of many locals at the beginning of any interaction is natural in where it came from. It usually swings one way or the other quickly depending on how the newcomer interacts. Unfortunately many newcomers are primed to expect negativity by what they've been told by some of the people who will never "get it". This can poison their future likelihood to interact in a way that will diffuse negativity and result in a positive experience. I encourage every new arrival I meet to be very aware of how they present themselves to locals, as the first moments of interaction often determine the outcome of the experience. You get better at it over time and eventually may get past your own negative expectations and go into a new interaction with such a positive expectation that it's contagious. Both positive and negative expectations can be self-fulfilling prophecies.
There are a few cultural keys to unlocking a positive response in the person you are talking to. An appropriate greeting and a smile and some eye contact used to be commonplace on the mainland, also, but that was lost along the way as life up north meandered away from small town friendliness. It is something I see as a very positive part of the island culture and it was easy to embrace.
Only when we stop having to check a box that says: Caucasian, Hispanic, African American, etc will we ever be free of discrimination. I am part Japanese, part French, part German, part English, part whatever and it irritates me that I have to fall into a category placed on me by a person I have never met. In my life I go against the grain and look at people as individuals. I make friends with whomever I have similar interests and sometimes make friends with someone I just happened to cross paths with and we have nothing in common. Their are times that I have to fall into the 'norm' to communicate and have an understanding with another person and so I go with the groupings, classifications, etc., but I don't like it. (I am just ranting here)
Anyway, I have not had a problem with anyone because of my color of skin on St. Thomas and neither has my husband. We are both 'caucasians' and have many friends on island that are 'West Indians', 'St. Thomians', 'Latinos', 'Caucasians', etc. There are a few people on island that may yell something from their vehicle about 'Go home' or something, but it doesn't upset our day. For the most part, I believe it is attitude that makes the difference. If someone doesn't like me or treats me badly based on my skin color, I believe it is because of their experience and if anything I don't try to add to that by following in their actions. I just be happy and treat them kindly and be on my way. No worries. Sometimes they recognize that and change their actions toward me. Success! 🙂
I am a realist as well and I understand where our world is today and that many people don't have my view and like that everyone is in a different category for whatever reason. I am not perfect and old habits die hard, but hopefully one day we will find a nice balance of being different, but being the same.
Change your latitude, change your perspective. No worries.
I did not misunderstand your use of the term native as you clarified that your friends were born in STX. As the term native is defined as someone who is born to a place and did not move there your useage of the word is correct. I am a native born Crucian and do not find the term condesending as some posters have implied. My father, a St. Lucian native, would not refer to himself as a STX native as he was not born in STX. When one referes to the term locals it is inclusive of VI citizens.
I have read the term "bhan here" used by some continentals, on the board, when referring to Crucian natives... in my opinion, the term is not used in the most polite way. I suppose that the bhan heres that they refer to could more appropratley be referred to as native born Crucians.
As a side note, my friends who were born in New York are always proud to say or point out that they are native New Yorkers. I understand the sentiment as I am a proud Crucian native.
I wish you and your partner the best on your plans to relocate to STX .
Thank you for speaking up, johnnycake. I know I've avoided the term native out of concern that island-born Caribbean Islanders might misunderstand my use of the term as being the same negative, racist connotation of the word that many whites and Europeans used as a synonym for 'uncivilized savages.'
It's terrific to see more life-long Virgin Islanders taking part in these conversations.
It's a sad world when all that is important is if you use the currently in vogue verbiage and are seen as racist or out of touch if you aren't up on what an (insulated in this case) population has decided is the polite terminology to use to describe them. The whole "politically correct" movement doesn't cure racism. What you feel in your heart, no matter what terms you use, is what matters in the end. While it is helpful to try to be sensitive to how your words are perceived, the person who objects to your terminology should also make some small effort to understand if your words were meant in a positive light and weren't meant to be demeaning before they take serious offense. A friendly discussion on terminology may then evolve into friendly understanding and a meeting of the minds. Taking someone to task for not using the terminology YOU prefer doesn't seem to do anything but cause hard feelings.
I would rather say that it is not so much what you feel in your heart, but what you do in actions that count. The PC crowd is much more into feelings than action.
Sorry, but you touched a nerve made raw by spending the majority of my life as a member of one of these "insulated" populations. (Although I'm not sure how more than 45 mill,ion Americans with disabilities qualifies us as "insulated", but that's another discussion. Not being respectful or caring enough to refer to people using their choice of terminology causes just as many bad feelings. After a couple of hundred times being referred to as "a cripple" even after I'd politely asked that my peers and I be referred to differently, or having people pat me on the head, talk to my companions instead of addressing questions/instructions/etc. to me (especially when I've initiated the conversation), grab my chair and push me without first asking if it's okay or being asked to help, the next person that does it is likely get a pretty snotty response from me. I simply fail to understand why I should just shut up and abide offensive and inconsiderate behavior or hurtful language because speaking up might make you feel bad.
Maybe this is naive, but I would think that anyone who makes a living from commissions -- regardless of their industry -- would believe it necessary to expend the time/energy to learn preferred terminology to minimize the chance of having a potential client go elsewhere because they perceive a lack of awareness or sensitivity.
Regardless of your occupation, the fact is that while people who know you might understand what's in your heart, those just meeting you or who are merely acquaintances must use your words to figure out what kind of person you are.
Thank you for hearing me out.
Rolling off my ramped soap box and taking a deep breath, I am...
Being a part of the tourism industry, I am very aware of the importance of addressing people correctly. If, when gathering information, someone tells me that their title is Dr. or Mrs. or Ms. you can be sure that that is the title I use when speaking to them. It's not just a matter of politeness, it's good business. So be it local, native-born, tourist, white, black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic -- tell me what you prefer and I'll try to remember. I really don't see that it has anything to do with political correctness.
HC. A few years ago I accompanied my father-in-law on a European Tour as part of the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France and Italy. Dad could walk a little, but he mostly used a wheelchair to get around. I was constantly amazed to see him ignored and discounted as people talked over his head to speak to me. A real eye opener.
This post is very perceptive, meaningful and well delivered. I really enjoyed reading your perspective. There was no need to apologize for it later.
HC - my reference to "insulated population" was referring to the USVI in general as many residents object to any kind of interaction with newcomers from the mainland as not understanding the USVI perspective regarding prejudice and misunderstanding. Disabilities of any genre were not any part of my response. The whole PC verbiage nomenclature is a bit complicated for innocent new interactees to measure up to.
There is a different connectivity bar to be met by people when interacting with the disabled sector of our population. Again there is a verbiage list that is accepted or not accepted. People with varying types of disability certainly deserve the very best possible reception from anyone and everyone. As with discrimination in general, there are things that someone can say with the best of meanings in someone's heart that don't come across appropriately to the person reading them.
Then again, there are the experience you have undoubtedly been through many times where someone won't talk to you directly but will only talk to the person accompanying you as if they were your keeper. That is sad, but the reality is that the limitation is in the person addressing your companion, not in you, and although it's cold comfort, it's something to hold onto. Your true friends will understand this and they will be part of your life significantly enough to know you are worth recognizing in your own right as an individual with a lot to offer.
Life sux for people with disabilities as it does for people in many varieties of minority groupings, mostly because your very valid and connective perspective is all-too-often overlooked by those who assume their very narrow perspective is the be-all end-all answer.
I have not been a frequent recipient of discrimination in my life, but one of my grandmothers was mulatto and my great-grandmother was born into slavery, so I am not entirely lacking in understanding on this subject matter. I am now way too often perceived in this USVI environment as being yet another caucasian transplant with bad intentions and that is frustrating and painful and offensive. Still, there is nothing I can do in most situations other than grin and bear it and remind myself that they don't know me. or my heritage. Fortunately I have been able to connect with some locals as time has gone on so that they see ME and not just pale skin (olive skin tone from my French ancestry with curly dark hair largely from my African ancestry). The re-education needs to be on all fronts. As much as we would all love it if the disparate segments of our society could be reconciled within our lifetimes, that is a tough challenge to meet.
Alexandra! Do re-read your post! You're perfectly capable of posting very literally but this latest post is rather. IMHO, full of doublespeak and I honestly don't understand your stance.
I think you've misinterpreted HC's posts and observances. HC's observances on life in the VI only very recently addressed the disability and that was relative to other threads.
You recently tried to persuade a teacher with a promised $46K salary from a STX school and four children that two adults and four kids could easily get by on STX on that salary. The board stepped up. You stepped down and then your whole stance on that subject changed on another thread related to raising children here in the V.I,
At least make an effort to be consistent! Aaaarh, BAD STT RES!
STT Resident wrote: "Are you still here after 10 years or have you left? If you're still here then why so? And if you've left, have you found a better place to live and are you happy there?"
I lived on St. Thomas from 1981 to 1990. My experience on the island was so bad that I did not go back to the island or have any contact with anyone, for over seven years. I now live in Carolina's, and other than the bible thumping Jesus freaks who think they are automatically saved, no matter what they do, because they believe in Jesus, I am happy here. My job is easy, I have some family here, and a few friends - including some black people.
When I did finally go back to the island in 1997, I saw that it had not changed at all. Here is an excellent example:
My friend Richard and I stopped by a beach bar that we used to go to once in a while, near our childhood homes. As we walked up to the bar I ask Richard, "Hey, isn't that Odette?" referring to the bartender. Of course she ignored us and continued talking to her friend for the next five minutes - how many people here have experienced the inconsideration of West Indians blocking traffic to speak to someone on the side of the road?
Finally, when she comes over, I asked her with a smile, "Don't you recognize us?" After all, we had spent about 4 years of our lives going to the same school, in the same class. She was insulted and sharply replied, "I don know you!" After I told her who we are, her attitude did a 180.
This is typical.
In an honest effort to understand where you are coming from, I did a search on all posts on this forum under the posting name you have selected. I am assuming this is still the same person that was posting a while back. Difficult to tell. However, I wanted to try to find your personal “story” since you no longer live in the V.I. I have a rough understanding of what could have possibly caused you to leave, but only speculation on my part. I would have PM'd you but that option is not available to me....or to anyone else.
I found 26 posts under "noone", only three of which were not inflammatory, argumentative, or negative; one mentioned someone who was your mentor and nothing else, one warns about your dog dying from eating a toad, and one supports turning out to vote.
Interestingly, I DID find the below post from April 3, 2006, only 4 short months ago…
“I left. I visit once in a while, as I have many friends on St. Thomas, since I grew up there. Last time I was on the island I was down at Magens with a friend of mine (a native) and his son.”
So do you or don’t you have any friends who are locals in the VI? Your recent post that I refer to is in this thread and indicates you do not. But you did 4 months ago, so what happened?
Also found this ditty from the same date:
“Your power is in your vote. Change here happens at the top.”
Absolutely correct….but you don’t live here anymore…therefore you don’t vote here…and apparently were not living here at the time of that posting. You can't BE a part of the change, and the above quote is misleading to anyone who goes back and reads the archives, as we so often endorse for newcomers to the group. The tense you used indicated you were present and accounted for on STT, but on a closer look, you had already moved on. Unless I have totally misread that note, the "here" you were referring to was the VI and not stateside.
In all of your posts combined I did not find one single solitary compliment to the VI on any subject. In fact, the greatest majority of your comments have been positively incendiary, at which point I have to call "troll" if I go by the definition listed under Forum Rules, which everyone can read for themselves.
Since only one of your posts might actually have information in it that is not divisive (the dog post), and one post could be construed to be a neutral statement (regarding someone you knew as a mentor), and one has a very good point regarding change (voting, except that it didn't pertain to you), your batting average here isn't really all that great and your credibility is rapidly going down the tubes. However, in the spirit of following the board rules, please do not feel that you need to answer my above posted question regarding local friends in the V.I., as I believe I will follow Islander's instructions and simply ignore someone who only promotes discord and fear within a group. If you can't post anything positive about the USVI after 10 years of living here, then yours must have been a miserable existence indeed, and for that I am sure all of the locals and transplants who frequent this board are VERY sorry. We wish you well in your new locale, where you must be much happier. Perhaps if you broke your ties with this board it would keep bad memories from bubbling to the surface…sometimes it’s just better to let a sleeping dog lie than poke him with a stick, you know?
Does it matter where Noone lives or where he votes? His advise about the voting is still right on.