This theory as postulated by Miller, 1990, asserts that the positions and relationships of individuals and groups in society are organized according to five dimentions: power, resources, status, belief, and culture. According to the theory of place, societies invariably invent criteria which are used to allocate place and to arbitrate dissension related to inequality (Miller, 1994). The immigrant-host relationships in the British Virgin Islands evolve around the theory of place. Miller developed the theory to explain the marginalization of black male in Caribbean societies, but its application to the immigrant-host situation in the British Virgin Islands could help the individual to understand the relationships between groups of immigrants or non-belongers living in the Territory and B. V. Islanders. In the British Virgin Islands situation the dimentions of power, resources, and status exert the strongest influences in forging these relationships. These characteristics can be traced in government policies and legislation designed to manage and control the immigration situation in the British Virgin Islands.
The dimentions of status and power in the struggle between immigrants and British Virgin Islanders can be seen in the following discussion on the putative "I born here".
As Willock 1995 points out, the term originated in the U. S. Virgin Islands:
"The statement"I bon yeh" came about as Virgin Islanders found themselves being treated as second class citizens in their own home during the 1960's and 1970's. It was not uncommon for a Virgin Islander to work for a set salary and have to pay all his bills and other expenses from that salary, while other residents received similar salary and also assistance in the payment of their bills and expenses. Further, Virgin Islanders attempting to obtain certain jobs were passed over for workers from off-island. As a result, the irate Virgin Islander reminded the potential employer of his indigenous birth. This declaration has been misapplied and mis-interpreted to mean that because a person is born in the Virgin Islands that is all that is required for advancement...in most of the Caribbean islands, Latin America, etc, special consideration is given to the native born. In other islands if two people have similar qualifications and one is a native born and the is not preference is given to the native born. However, when the Virgin Islander attempts to exert this weii established principle, he is ostracized."
The sentiments expressed in the analysis by Willock are applicable to the British Virgin Islands situation where there are distinct groups of nationals according to their place of birth, parentage and method of obtaining citizenship. The first group is comprised of the 'natural' long standing families who have descended from the emancipated slaves in the British Virgin Islands. The second group is first or second generation B. V. Islanders whose parents were among the early immigrants to the British Virgin Islands. Their parents are usually non-naturalized nationals although many of them may have residence status. The third group includes all those immigrants who have been naturalized or granted B.V.I Belongership.
The term "born here" was used very often, perhaps unconsciously, by the second group in attempting to convince the first group that they too are British Virgin Islanders because they were also born in the Tertitory. It was important for them to establish their claims, make their identity visible in order to reduce perceived discrimination which the first group demonstrated against the second and third groups. Many times the reference was used in friendly conversations rather than in open conflicts. Over time the usage has spread to some small degree to the first and third groups and has been used in a similar way with the second group. This concept has been used as a convenient rationalization in the following instances:
1. in an effort to exclude British Virgin Islanders from employment in some firms;
2. as a definite campaign strategy to discredit British Virgin Islanders in general;
3. to propagandize that British Virgin Islanders attach more importance to place of birth than educational achievement when seeking employment.
(To be continued).
- Dr. Charles H. Wheatley.