I wish to assure Mrs. Cox-Dawson that I am neither in denial nor am I naïve about the many criminal ills that challenge our Virgin Islands' communities. These challenges are national and global as well.
My disappointment in the MAPP/LIBURD advertisement stems from the lack of sensitivity shown by the team's marketing strategists. A more sensitive, positive and appropriate approach might have shown the same young black man in a cap and gown with a diploma across his chest. The caption could have still read:
"a new approach to law and order." There is nothing new about The Mapp/Liburd approach.
Please, Mrs. Dawson, do not excuse this type of bold-faced bias. How can we expect our males to compete and succeed if we do not challenge the stereotypes and those that stereotype them? If we as black adults, stereotype our young men in this fashion who will speak in their defense? Who will mentor them? Who will teach them to be strong, productive, men? And last but not least Mrs. Dawson, could you possibly believe that only young, black males commit crimes in these islands? This is the connotation given by the ad.
The point of my letter was not to deny the stark reality of the gun violence plaguing our territory – instead I was trying to expose the prejudice inherent in the ad. How dare this marketing team use our young black males as their scapegoat? How dare they perpetuate this type of discrimination? We cannot expect to demand a change in world perception if we foster and promote these same misconceptions at home.
We must be able to depend on and to expect that our leaders think before they act, especially when making public statements. Someone wasn't thinking when he or she decided to insult and defame the black, male population of the territory in what is the most inflammatory and incendiary advertisements I have ever seen printed here in the Virgin Islands.
The parts of my letter that you chose to quote are not some utopian fantasy about what could be, as opposed to what is. The stark reality is that we, as a society, are failing all our youth – especially the black male. In fact, the only truth that I see in this ad is that the age-old, negative stereotyping of black men still persists and they still have a long way to go in overcoming this legacy.
Shame on the MAPP/LIBURD marketing team for concocting this cheap strategy; and shame on whoever approved it. "There but for the grace of God go Mr. Mapp or Mr. Liburd".
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