The 2017 Transfer Day Centennial & Racism in the U.S.

As the 2017 Transfer Day Centennial is on the horizon, U.S. Virgin Islanders are turning a critical eye towards the present social, political, and economic status of the territory under the American flag.

“Chairwoman of the U.S. Virgin Islands Centennial Commission Pamela Richards-Samuel told the crowd at Tuesday’s ceremony that the upcoming centennial would be an opportunity “to bring a national, as well as international, spotlight to the territory” and to “leverage various critical issues with an eye towards resolving many, if not all, of them.”

Those issues, Richards-Samuel said, include “Virgin Islanders’ lack of full citizenship rights under the U.S. constitution, the territory’s political status, the need for a V.I. constitution, the lack of proper care for veterans, full inclusion for the territory in the Affordable Care Act, and other issues that make the commemoration of this historic date, at the very least, ironic.”Richards-Samuel via All Eyes on 2017 Centennial by –David Knight Jr

How has America’s presence in the territory during the past 98 years shaped Virgin Islanders’ identities and pursuits of self determination? More specifically, are we heading towards statehood, independence, or increased autonomy?

If you missed it, John Oliver highlighted VI Delegate Stacey Plaskett’s address to Congress and called out the precarious position of residents of American dependencies on HBO. Inhabitants of American dependencies are second class citizens and nationals of the United States. The Obama Administration noted that citizenship is a privilege and not a right for people of the territories, predominantly non-white spaces. Consequently, these incorporated and unincorporated territories of the U.S. raise a host of questions about the marginalization of people of color in the American empire. Roque Planas notes that the racist logic underlying America’s marginalization of people in the territories is outdated. However, systemic racism is an ongoing struggle in the United States of America. It has not yet ended as the killings of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice remind us. Police brutality, disparate education systems, housing discrimination, myths of colorblindness, and environmental racism highlight a brutal reality; Black and Brown people in the U.S. still find it necessary to remind the nation that #BlackLivesMatter.

Perhaps, the racist logic of America’s legal codification of colonial subjection in the territories is not an example of an outdated racist logic. It is, instead, and exemplar of America’s ongoing troubled relationships with people of color. It is a reminder of the logics of American domination. People of color in the territories and on the continent are still vying for “equal rights” and “equal protection” under the law in this nation.

We should always remember to stand in solidarity with one another. African Americans in the continental U.S. can teach their counterparts in the territory what struggles await us if and when we achieve equal voting rights.

Our fates are linked!

In solidarity always. #DecolonizingtheUSVI

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