One of the biggest mistakes the African Diaspora from the Caribbean or the Continent can make is to assimilate into what has been marketed as American political thought. The marketed thought typically includes words like “diversity”, “equality”, or “freedom.” The marketing plan that enticed us, our parents, or grandparents to move to the United States leveraged the notion of opportunity against the poverty or lack of opportunity that pervades the Caribbean and much of the African continent.
Statistics show the plan has worked. Of the 42.4 million immigrants that call the United States home, four million are from the Caribbean. Since the early 20th century, Caribbean immigrants have entered the U.S. in search of either work or political sanctuary. My father and my aunt were among the wave of immigrants entering the United States; my father via the U.S. Virgin Islands in the late 1950s , and my aunt moving to New York in the early 1960s.
Both had no delusions as to why they moved to the U.S. and from conversations with them I gathered that both were ready to return home upon retirement. My aunt frequently visited the Caribbean, returning to her native Nevis and visiting us often when my family and I resided in St.Thomas.
For first generation offspring, maintaining Caribbean-ness is tougher. Granted, the occasional trip home may keep the Caribbean flame alive but we are still subject to the marketing of America. We have a lower buffer against the more insidious portion of American marketing; the materialism, the consumerism, and the jingoism and nationalism that Madison Avenue, K Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue conspire to put on Americans.
And for those of us who share the same skin color as black Americans, it is easier for us to be drawn into the most insidious of American marketing tools, the civil rights movement and its philosophy of “turn the other cheek, take the scraps, and be patient because the good stuff, i.e. jobs, equality, etc., are right around the corner.” The philosophy is a weak one, running totally opposite of the self-reliance philosophy that our parents and grandparents moved to the United States with.
I am afraid that for younger Americans the bling of consumerism has been mistaken for the beacon of opportunity that our elders saw. For them, particularly my great uncle on my mother’s side, Joseph Boston who was a migrant farmer in south Florida, the States was a place you went to work not to worship.
I have never viewed the United States as a “land of opportunity” although I can understand why a significant number of people do. It is the world’s largest market. It’s educational and research institutions have generated technological innovation used the world over. Hell. The U.S. gave us “Star Trek” for Pete’s sake.
In reality, the United States is a tax and customs jurisdiction, nothing else. Re-read its history and you find that it was never designed to be “fair and equitable.” It’s investors and its strongmen set out to wrangle as much out of its human and natural resources and convert its returns into gold. The “country” wasn’t designed to give love. Such talk is a distraction, one that black Americans in particular have fallen for. It is why, after eight years of sweet nothings whispered into their ears by Barack Obama that the New York harshness of Donald Trump seems so off-putting.
The Caribbean, due to its comparative lack of resources, has historically produced men and women that take a business approach to hardship. We don’t rely on government-sponsored social welfare aid. While justice is a concern world-wide no matter which country you live in, rallying cries around social justice and expectations of social fairness are not at the top of our lists. Granted, while the history of race violence in America is real and has left van emotional legacy, it is offset by a history of slave rebellion and petitions for independence in the Caribbean. That history has kept my people resilient.
I am afraid that the younger generation of Caribbean descendants have lost a bit of that resiliency. Absorbing too much American culture in general and black American culture in particular has fueled the weakness. It is not too late to reverse the ravages of the disease.
One first step toward recovery is remembering why men like my great-uncle survived the pain while cutting sugar cane and picking oranges in Florida. Putting you, your family, and your people first before energy and dignity zapping philosophy that would have you “wait your turn” is the Caribbean way, the African way.
The second step is remembering that America is not your savior. It is a pool of resources that you should set out to exploit for the betterment of you, your family, and your people. Making America your savior is the same as you making yourself its slave, a slave to philosophies and mindsets that will make you weak.