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Mapp/Liburd Campaign Has Crossed the Line

Dear Source:
While the advertisement referenced here did not appear in your publication, I am sure many of your readers saw it. This is an open letter to the Mapp/Liburd team.
What on earth were you thinking with your recent print advertisement for the gubernatorial race featured prominently in recent copies of both the Daily News and St. Croix Avis? The large B/W photo in the ad depicts a young black male – about 19 years old – shirtless and sporting a gun across his bare chest. The caption beneath reads: "WANTED: NEW APPROACH TO LAW & ORDER. IF YOU WANT DECISIVE ACTION, VOTE MAPP – LIBURD. "
Exactly what decisive action are you offering here? And why have you chosen this particular image of a young black man with which to serve it? You have used one of the most pervasively jaundiced and stereotypical portrayals of black men that have plagued our nation and these islands for centuries: the black male as dangerous. Our young men face enough obstacles without the added injury that this negative reinforcement supports. Your ad and the ideology behind it display a blatant disregard for our society, its sociology and its history.
I showed the ad to a colleague who remarked, "Well, this is the territory and most of our gun crimes are perpetrated by young black men." Sadly, he too misses the point. The point is that gun crimes and gun control are much more complicated than this ad suggests. One must look at the situation in its entirety, not just cherry pick the parts most convenient – For instance, how are the guns getting into the territory in the first place? Who is bringing them in? How are they so easily proliferated through our community? And, most significantly, what is occurring on a societal level that fosters the rapacious growth of this gun-culture phenomenon?
I shudder to imagine the scenario of your advertising strategists sitting around a table thinking that they actually came up with something legitimate; that they were doing something good. With a cavalier slight of hand they have entirely marginalized all the young men of this age group who are not "gun totin' thugs." This type of advertising – tapping into and playing on the fears of constituents – has long been associated with negative campaigning: Willie Horton anyone? Designed to appeal to certain groups of people, it is exemplified in GEORGE BUSH Sr.'s presidential bid of 1988. It is stale, played out and certainly has no place in the Virgin Islands or its politics.
The young man portrayed here certainly does not represent the majority of law-abiding, hard working and productive young members of our society -any son, any brother, any uncle, any father, any husband – You have insulted them and done them a grave disservice. I hope that somewhere in your "new approach to law & order" you focus less on the symptoms of crime and more on its root causes. Let us provide our young black men with excellent schools and abundant opportunities for athletics, music, arts, water sports and other extracurricular activities; let us build a university that is the best in the region – and thru it, create an atmosphere of learning and love of knowledge that permeates the entire territory; let us encourage brilliance and mandate creativity; let us strive harder to keep guns and drugs off our streets and out of young men's reach; let us make our islands safe, once again, for the young men; let us show all our young people – not just the males, but our young ladies too – thru word, action and deed that they are the future; that they can be a part of a community that wants more economic opportunity and inclusion for its youth; that we are a people who would rather spend on schools and education, instead of prisons. Now, that would truly be a new approach! As it stands, "the future is now scary" with Mapp/Liburd.
Lenyse Shomo
St. Thomas

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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