I would like to respond to misinformation provided by a Dutch politician of Statian ancestry, in your newspaper editorial section of November 12, 2021. This particular Dutch politician has expressed strong Afro-centric views regarding the scientific research of Africans in the Diaspora. Although I do not agree with all of his opinions, I respect his right to have them, and indeed I do agree with some few aspects indicated. However, the emotionally-charged means of his arguments, and blatant misinformation provided, seem to be more of a quest to advance his own political career both in Holland and Statia.
Of particular concern were his accusation of “tokenism” if a person of African descent does not agree with his extremist views, and even more concerning is his charge that “Archaeology is per definition a racist discipline” as outright misinformation. Regarding all the social science fields there has been a long history of transformation from early biased philosophies to the more diverse and inclusive philosophies of today, including archaeology and for this politician’s own discipline of psychology. But as a Dutch politician, it seems he prefers to trigger emotional responses for his political gain, rather than be accurate with the facts. Something similar to what we are seeing globally with the Q-Anon phenomena of misinformation and grotesque distortions of the truth.
What is important is that Caribbean people seek not to throw the pendulum to the far extreme opposite direction, but rather to find the respectful middle-ground of full inclusiveness for Caribbean communities within the scientific study of their own heritage. What is also significant, is that technological advances of scientific heritage research now allow for an enormous amount of new information to be learned specifically about those Africans who were part of the Diaspora and thereby vastly enhance our broader understanding of the actual lives of the African ancestors of Caribbean communities today.
One of the points I have in agreement with this Dutch politician is that we need more Caribbean heritage researchers from the region! Indeed, my entire 40-year career has been built on developing community-engagement programs for heritage research, in which we are seeking to inspire more Caribbean people to become heritage researchers. Unfortunately, this politician seems to be ignoring the great diversity of Caribbean multi-cultural and multi-racial societies, and rather has expressed his view that only Black African centered persons should follow these fields of study. I absolutely agree and support that Caribbean persons of African descent should be pursuing careers as heritage researchers, and indeed many are. However, for him to specify that only Black persons should make this heritage career choice is nothing less than racism itself.
We are at a critical time for heritage research transformation on Statia, and the recently created Statia Heritage Research Commission (SHRC) is also striving to achieve many of those exact same goals this Dutch politician mentioned, including recommendations from regional and local individuals who have experience in these matters to revise and re-structure the systemic problems which have come forth from the SHRC investigations. The SHRC recommendations will be specific and detailed regarding what archaeological practice guidelines and policies need to be in place on Statia, based on International standards and respect for community voices.
Dr. Jay B. Haviser, Archaeologist