A different view on the Island and racism


To the Editor:

Clennon King has a point about the Civil War statue in Ocean Park being offensive. Anything that honors those who fought to enslave a group of people has got to go. In this case I would keep the statue but replace the offending panel.

The Civil War was an extremely brutal war. We do not know exactly, but there were between 640,000 and 700,000 people killed on both sides, of which 200,000 were combat deaths. The rest were deaths by disease, accidents, suicide, murder, execution, etc. The National Archives say at least 40,000 of those killed were African American, possibly more because records were not so well kept when it came to African Americans.

The North won, and slavery was abolished. Just because slavery was abolished does not mean racism was abolished. Winning a war is one thing, changing human nature is another. That takes time. Here we are 150 years later, and racism still exists in America, not as bad as it was but still bad enough.
Mr. King is wrong, however, when he says that Martha’s Vineyard is no different from much of America when it comes to the matter of race. I have lived on Martha’s Vineyard for the past 32 years. I have also lived in the Greater Boston area, Richmond, Va., and Asheville, N.C., where racism is a fact of life. In my 32 years living on Martha’s Vineyard, I have never met a racist person. The people who live here year-round are the least racist people I have ever seen. Mr. King says that nothing epitomizes subtle racism more than the continued presence of that statue. I would wager that 99 percent of the people who live here have never even read the inscriptions on the panels.

Mr. King says we sell ourselves as an Island of progressives, we boast about being a playground for the black elite and shamelessly point to the Obamas, Spike Lee, and Skippy Gates as proof. The truth is we don’t sell ourselves as anything but ordinary people, and we don’t care one way or the other if the Obamas, Spike Lee, and Skippy Gates come here or go somewhere else for vacation. As long as everybody leaves after Labor Day.

Gary Alberice

West Tisbury


  1. I agree with much of what you have to say. I must say though that as a native islander racism is alive and well on MV. I have witnessed it all of my life. I am white so people think they are safe saying things in front of me. I am ashamed to say there was a time where I wouldn’t respond giving those people a false sense that I agreed with them. I have worked in restaurants where black customers were referred to as “uppity” if they complained about anything. I have heard people called niggers. All this by people I have known most of my life. I once had my grandfather call my new black baby doll a ” tar baby” I didn’t understand it but I knew it wasn’t good. I’m sad to say racism exists here like elsewhere. It’s here. We need to own it and do better.

  2. I also see racism and anti-Semitism as alive and well on the island. Wampanoags are targeted with slurs, as are Jewish people from NY, NJ and CT. Brazilians, although not a “race,” are demeaned like no others, accused of all kinds of things. White, Christian locals are the worst offenders, and although most are careful what they say, when they think they are amongst themselves, it comes out. And, black teens are especially targeted when they’re in stores shopping or looking, followed around by store personnel who suspect them of shoplifting. We have a long way to go.

Comments are closed.

Previous articleFocus shouldn’t be on Oak Bluffs statue
Next articleA reel treat