Today, Virgin Islanders celebrate the 172nd anniversary of the emancipation of the enslaved peoples of the Danish West Indies. Around the world, people are now calling for equal treatment of the descendants of the enslaved Africans. Our history is full of brave men and women who fought against unjust systems. We must follow in their footsteps and address our own history of oppression and present inequality.
I recently spoke with Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. concerning the relocation of Gov. Peter Von Scholten’s portrait from the Great Hall of St. Croix Government House. He agreed there should be a more appropriate artwork. We must not dishonor the people who fought for emancipation and the truth of our history. I’ve also requested that Senate President Novelle Francis Jr. sponsor legislation for a process to educate the public on the various forms of status. Such legislation would require a referendum on status at the end of such period, which would trigger legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to be introduced and advocated by the delegate to Congress.
On this day in 1867, an oppressive rule over the African descendants within the Virgin Islands was overthrown, freeing thousands. One hundred and seventy-two years later and under our seventh flag, I fight for our equitable inclusion in the law and advocate for overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Insular Cases, the racist legal doctrines that have excluded us from the full American experience.
Despite the Insular Cases’ disenfranchisement and discrimination against black and brown citizens in the Virgin Islands and other territories, at best these injustices have been met with silence, even from leading progressive voices and institutions. No administration, presidential candidate, or party has taken a firm stance against the Insular Cases, indeed the last three administrations have fought to keep those cases in place.
This Congress, my bill requiring Congress develop recommendations for a presidential vote and full voting representation was included in HR 1, which passed the House of Representatives.
Let us use this day to not only celebrate, but to reflect on what we have accomplished and do the work ahead for today and the future.
Happy Emancipation Day.
— V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett is from St. Croix.