EDITORIAL: Caribbean-Americans have more to accomplish

Shirley Chisholm
Pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm

June is commemorated as Caribbean-American Heritage Month, highlighting the strong ties between Caribbean migrants and American history. Unfortunately, the significance of this history is relatively unknown by a preponderance of Caribbean-Americans, and hardly recognized by the average American.

Dating back to the 17th Century when slaves were brought to the US from Barbados, people of Caribbean origins have been making significant contributions to America’s history. Individuals from the Caribbean have contributed to various areas of American live, having excelled as inventors, educators, business people, cultural and sports icons,  politicians, and civil rights activists.

Arrived in America with a purpose

Caribbean nationals didn’t arrive in America simply to “drink milk” or “milk the cow.” No way.  Most wanted to share in the ownership of that cow. Most Caribbean migrants didn’t come to America to make “quick money,” then return to their respective Caribbean homelands. Rather, they saw and seized opportunities to place their stamp on America, their adopted country.  

Very few, if any, Caribbean nationals were content to retreat to the back of the bus heading to an inferior, segregated, humiliating destination, away from a ‘superior’ white race.  Caribbean people do not regard themselves inferior to anyone, a fact misunderstood by some African Americans who, unfortunately, endured years of racist humiliation. This misunderstanding has resulted in the occasional criticism of Caribbean migrants as “uppity” Blacks. But, it isn’t that Caribbean migrants regarded themselves as better than other Blacks. Caribbean-Americans are just not content to be taken as inferior. And, Caribbean-Americans like Marcus Garvey tried to show the entire Black race it was, in fact, a superior race.

Not many understand accomplishments of Caribbean Americans

Maybe, even President Trump, in paying tribute to Caribbean-Americans in his recent proclamation of Caribbean-American Heritage month, fully understands the uniqueness of Caribbean immigrants, and the contribution or they have made to this country. Neither did his predecessors. Because the contribution of Caribbean-Americans may not be fully understood, neither is this contribution appreciated.  If this was understood there would be no-way that the over 7 million people of Caribbean heritage in this county would still be striving to be given their own recognition in the US Census.

It can only be hoped that as another Caribbean-American Heritage Month is commemorated the full worth and significance of the Caribbean migrant will be recognized and appreciated.

Caribbean Americans seek to stand out

Caribbean-Americans are a proud and ambitious people,  driven to succeed. Caribbean people didn’t migrate to America to be lost in the crowd. It’s just not in the DNA of Caribbean migrants to be incognito. Rather, Caribbean-American heritage reveals migrants who sought to stand out, elaborating their special culture and ease of adaptability to various aspects of American life. It’s a historical fact that Caribbean influence in America has been unbridled.

Caribbean migrants are also unique in that although they bear allegiance to their adopted country, they nonetheless remain faithful to their respective Caribbean homelands. They are rarely oblivious of occurrences back in these countries, and although most Caribbean-Americans cannot participate directly in the social and political developments of their homelands, the Caribbean-Diaspora always try to make their influence felt.

Still seeking major recognition

However, for most of the millions of Caribbean-Americans who, along with their ancestors, have played major roles in the development of several aspects of the American society, there’s still much to be accomplished in America. They’re still seeking to be recognized as an autonomous ethnic group in  American society. They, rightly, seek the same recognition given to immigrants of other ethnic origins, like Hispanics and Jews.

Caribbean-Americans is not content be considered as just Black Americans, though they are. They want to be considered a separate influential political constituency, a formidable business community, and people with a distinctive culture. Caribbean-Americans want, and should be, recognized, unconditionally, as an autonomous American ethnic community, period.

Educate America

People of Caribbean heritage should take advantage of this month to educate America of the impact they have made on this country since the 17th century and are continuing to do.

Caribbean migrants must continue relentlessly to carve out their indelible niche in American society, never losing their uniqueness.  They cannot be content with the selfish goal of coming to America to “seeking better lives” materially. Outstanding men and woman like Shirley Chisholm, Colin Powell, Sydney Poitier, Malcom X, Claude Mckay, Tim Duncan, Madge Sinclair, Kamala Harris, Una and Yvette Clark, Hazelle Rogers and Yolly Roberson , who are icons of Caribbean-American heritage sought to make their and other communities better. They ensured the Caribbean influence integrated firmly with the American way of life.

Far from over

The work is far from over. As a people, a community,  Caribbean-Americans still haven’t been given their rightful place in the American society. One month of commemoration cannot be the objective. American history is resplendent with the contribution of Caribbean migrants, and, Caribbean-Americans must continue to strive for permanent recognition, in the US Census, in American legislatures, in the general society.  Caribbean-Americans helped build, is building, America. This must always be recognized.

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