STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DURING THE NINTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Eliminating Racism in All Forms and Places
Mr Speaker, I wish to take this moment to join with other world leaders, and the millions of other persons in countries across the globe, who are lifting up their voices to demand an end to racism in all forms, everywhere - especially against people of African heritage.
Racism is real, and, unfortunately it has managed to bury its roots very deep into the systems that run countries, and the world, even up to today.
It has wormed its way so deep into shaping how things are done, what is considered to be right and wrong, and where we turn to for approval and recognition, that many of its manifestations have become recognized as the norm, thereby giving them legitimacy.
The murder of George Floyd in the United States and other incidents that are of a similar nature, have forced societies everywhere to confront the existence of systemic racism and how this has been used, repeatedly, over centuries in a deliberate strategy by some persons to retard the progress and mobility of black people, and to disproportionately favour others.
What we are seeing happening in the United States and elsewhere around the world is the arrival of the tipping point after more than 100 years of hiding the serious issues of hate and discrimination under the carpet, or simply turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to it.
What is happening is that there is an awakening – an opening of eyes, so to speak. Because things which were hurtful and conceived in hate, and which were accepted by a society that refused or were to scared to condemn it, are now being called out for what they are.
It is a good sign for humanity that when we look at the coverage of this global movement that is growing in momentum, we are seeing persons of all races and across so many borders, acknowledging that the plight, injustice and systemic oppression of black people are real.
It is said that in order to fix a problem, you first have to accept that it exists. And across the globe, the problem is being acknowledged as real – not made up. This means that societies and communities across the world are taking the first, but most critical, steps to beginning the process of solving the problem of racism.
Mr Speaker, it is no secret that based on our own history here in the BVI, we do have some similar issues to confront and to overcome. And we have to deal with these issues sooner rather than later. We must not leave this to fester. It is better to be proactive than reactive, because being proactive significantly reduces the pain and the hurt, as compared to when the reactive route is used.
Our upcoming Constitutional Review exercise is a proactive, golden opportunity to address some of the issues that have been affecting the BVI population where equity is concerned.
It is a chance to examine the institutional framework and make adjustments to allow the People of the Virgin Islands the opportunity to breathe and to truly lift their heads up.
Too regularly we hear our Virgin Islands people crying out about inequitable treatment in various areas.
We are part of a system that treats us, in many ways, like second class citizens and second class people, in spite all that our generations have achieved and in spite of all that we have proven that we are capable of.
We have to get to the bottom of this problem once and for all.
We have to remove all the obstacles, such as distrust, so that we can proceed to continue building these Virgin Islands that we love and call home, in the way that we want to see it built.
In an effort to assist this process, Mr Speaker, I wish to advise that it is your Government’s intention to establish an Equity Commission.
This Commission will be charged with the task of examining how the private and public sectors operate to determine to identify the systemic issues that undermine equity in our society, and to find solutions for creating a more equitable environment for all our people.
We are in the fortunate position to be able to learn from what is taking place abroad. We do not need to wait until people become too frustrated. We can be proactive in stopping the pain.
Mr Speaker, our world today is facing so many major challenges at this time. We have COVID-19, for which there is yet no known cure and we are facing the problem of racism. Racism is worse than COVID-19, but there is a cure for racism. And that cure is love, which we already have inside of us. Love conquers hate, always. In the BVI we have BVILOVE. Let us apply the cures to treat the illnesses that we are able to.
By working together, we will create an equitable and just society.
We cannot undo the past, but we can fix the present and give our children a brighter, better future; so, let us do it.
May God continue to bless and protect His Virgin Islands and her people, and the Virgin Islands overall.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker.