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Op-ed: It Worries Me When Virgin Islanders Say, ‘I May Move to Denmark’

Admittedly, I am frustrated and disappointed with the way the superpowers of the world built their wealth, only to keep colonies and the people they pillaged and raped away from that wealth with divisive and harmful immigration policies. The driving force, brutal slave labor and the value of sugar centuries ago.

A planned presidential visit to Denmark was quickly called off on August 20th after the prime minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen publicly rejected President Trump’s request to sell Greenland to the United States.

Denmark today is still recognized as a superpower of the seas, which makes the country the 8th largest shipping nation in the world. More on that later.

Trump’s interest in purchasing the island may sound a bit silly to some, but the exchange of words on the world stage by both leaders drew outrage and even some laughter among American citizens living in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Was the United States really attempting to repeat purchasing another population of humans in 2019? If our memory serves us right, this had already happened to the Danish West Indies in 1917. 

The difference today is that Denmark actually took the offer in 1917, and gifted the United States, what still today is its only predominantly black colony. The price tag was $25 million.

As we discuss climate change in the Caribbean in 2019, I lost count at how any Virgin Islanders in conversation with me have glorified Denmarks environmental prowess while ignoring its humanitarian atrocities that continue today.

With the most significant atrocity occurring just 102 years ago when it sold the then Danish West Indies to the United States — trapping inhabitants who were never given a real place or voice in American democracy. What a shame.

So, why did Denmark decide to sell the Danish West Indies to the United States in 1917? To sum up, Denmark sold the islands because they became an economic drain and their renewed strategic importance made them as likely to be captured by the Germans as they were likely to turn a profit. 

It’s important to note that Denmark was also pretty broke in 1917 and needed to boost up its coffers in order to maintain its naval edge around the globe. 

Iceland broke away the following year but remained in a personal union with Denmark until 1944. Today, the country has a population similar in size to Maryland.

What was $25 million in 1917 worth in today’s money? Adjusted for inflation, $25 million in 1917 is equal to about $541.45 million in 2019. Annual inflation over this period was 3.06%. 

Considering each islands’ historic district and heritage, the strategic importance of the region and access to the Caribbean, the cruise industry’s largest destination globally, $541 million today is still a steal of a deal.

Danish shipping companies are active in a number of industries — from dry bulk, oil tankers, global merchandise distribution, and groundbreaking eco-efficient services used by ships modeling their designs. The Danes are also leaders in maritime technology known for its innovative technological solutions and maritime safety equipment.

Many large cargo ships today are equipped with Danish maritime-technology. 

In 2019, voters in Denmark handed its anti-immigrant nationalists what some believe to be their worst political beating ever in an election. The outcome of this election is not an invitation for immigrants to relocate and it isn’t a sign that anti-immigrant views and ideologies will go away anytime soon in the country.

“This was an election that was about welfare and after tonight we’ll again put welfare first,” Prime Minister Frederiksen said in a speech after the outcome was clear. “This was an historically big win.”

If you are a black Virgin Islander who chooses to relocate to Denmark, you will no doubt be considered an immigrant, even with your American citizenship.

“Trump’s perception that Greenland could potentially be for sale likely stems from the fact that it was for a long time essentially a colony of Denmark, which could, in principle, have sold it off. However, this does not reflect Greenland’s current status in the Kingdom of Denmark, whose constitution stipulates that the future of Greenland’s sovereignty is up to its population to decide in a referendum,” an in-depth article published by Vox states. 

It’s kind of ironic that Virgin Islanders hoping to escape white nationalism in America would choose running back to the country that — without empathy — put our people in this predicament, to begin with just a century ago. 

102 years after the transfer from Denmark, American citizens in the U.S. Virgin Islands are still barred from voting for the president of the United States — so are American citizens in the Northern Mariana Islands, Ameican Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Earlier this year, Denmark made clear that it intends to send “unwanted” migrants seeking asylum to a remote island, which is just the latest in a series of aggressive policies playing out in the country.

Greenland is believed to contain a lot of wealth in its natural resources, which would be difficult to exploit due to the large amounts of ice and permafrost blanketing the island. “We are open for business, but we’re not for sale,” the island’s foreign minister, Ane Lone Bagger, told Reuters when it called for some follow-up reporting.

In 1887, Puerto Rico was granted autonomy from Spain. On July 25, 1898, the United States invaded and seized Puerto Rico as part of the Spanish-American War. The United States sought to legitimize this colonial act by signing the Treaty of Paris with Spain, Puerto Rico’s former colonial owner in 1898.

Since then, the U.S. has aggressively pursued other states and U.S. territories throughout the Pacific, like Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and of course, Hawaii.

Conquest is deeply rooted in America’s DNA and the promise of democracy is its flag.

Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett in her fight for voting rights and federal representation for all U.S. territories has said that America’s, “Democracy is not complete.”

U.S. Virgin Islanders should instead be holding Denmark accountable for its egregious acts, not running to its shores for sanctuary. 

Denmark, in the words of President Trump, “is no angel” and the nation should do better at remembering its bloody history of colonization and dehumanization around the globe. Returning the thousands of artifacts and treasures stolen from the Danish West Indies would be an earth-shaking start. 

But, I digress. 

Read an article titled ‘Denmark Struggles to Come to Grips With its Slave Past’ exploring the 100-year commemoration of the transfer of Danish West Indies to American rule in 1917. Featured: Little Marie on Neky’s arm, painting by N. P. Holbech, 1838.