Editorial — 07 February 2018
Where is home?

Donald Trump is on a daily voyage between tragedy and travesty. His sense of the presidency is informed only by his massive lack of knowledge and his disdain for even the most basic precepts of American government. But his incompetence, ignorance and ill-will are distractions from the real damage he is doing to this country by empowering right wing ideologues and conservative fanatics to wreak havoc upon the American people.

Sadly, the list of harmful acts courtesy of Trump is virtually endless. The exit from the Paris Climate Accords is but one example of the kind of endless global damage that this man is capable of causing. The return to criminalizing low-level non-violent drug offenses guarantees that the Incarceration State will be alive and well in this country for years to come. The elimination of labor safety laws and the all-out assault on voting rights, civil rights and women’s rights are also signs of the messy handiwork of the Man Called Trump.

– from the Wallace L. Ford column, pg. 23 of the AMANDALA issue of Friday, February 2, 2018. (Wallace L. Ford, a Black American, is a New York City attorney who was a Dartmouth College schoolmate of the AMANDALA publisher.)  

The election of a Black American, Barack Obama, to the presidency of the United States in 2008 had been seen by some observers as heralding a so-called post-racial third millennium in America. At the same time, scholars had been predicting that by the middle of the 21st century, White Americans would have become a numerical minority in the U.S., even though they would still essentially control the American economy. When you add to the two Obama presidencies and the demographic predictions for White minority status, the fact that White Americans had been losing a lot of jobs because of American corporations’  outsourcing of factories and jobs to the rest of the world, you can understand how the stage was set for the Donald Trump presidency, clearly the result of fears and bigotry in America’s White majority population.

As the United States exported jobs abroad because their companies could pay far lower wages outside of the U.S., thus increasing their profit margins substantially, the American economy began to become more service-based and more high technology-oriented. Americans did not want many of the service jobs, which went to regional Blacks and Latinos, and Americans were in many cases not as qualified for the high-technology jobs as the Asian imports, in particular: Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Pakistanis, and so on, whom White Americans view as people of color.

White Americans elected Donald Trump because they want to return to the pre-globalization and pre-free trade era. They want to turn the clock back three decades and more. The problem for the United States is that what the Americans used to do in the post-World War II period, that is to say, manufacture various quality goods and machinery, and export same, is now the purview of Mainland China, whose economy has been in explosive growth mode for three decades and more.

After Hurricane Hattie in 1961, when Belizeans began migrating to the U.S. in huge numbers, not only was the American economy still in impressive growth mode, but the Black American civil rights struggle was about to open a lot of minority job opportunities from which Belizeans benefited. After Hattie, Belizeans who left Belize for the American cities thought they were leaving a depressed, depressing home situation for a new home which was the most fabulous in the world. And, to a great extent, they may probably have been right. We were “coming to America.”

It was really not that America wanted us. America used Belizeans to satisfy the race quotas mandated by the civil rights legislation for which militant Black Americans had agitated. In the United States, most Belizeans considered themselves separate and different from Black Americans, and the reverse was also the case. Black Americans believed, and rightly so, that it was their slave labor which had contributed immeasurably to America’s wealth, and they also knew how violently racist White Americans were. Belizeans, on the other hand, were only seeing the good side of America.

Today, Belizean Americans are now seeing what a status predicament is developing for them. All the welfare programs which benefited the Belizean base in American cities are now being threatened. Any immigrant of color whose legal status is not gilt-edged, becomes subject to deportation. There is a kind of ethnic cleansing going on in the United States, and it appears that it will get worse in the days ahead.

Migration to America has already broken apart many, many Belizean families. In the 1960s, life in America was almost always better than our life in Belize, because, remember, we did not even have sewer systems in Belize until the late 1970s. Yes, British colonialism had left us with some pretty good schools, though secondary education was only available for a small minority, but British colonialism had been totally dedicated to enriching the United Kingdom and impoverishing British Honduras. There was no such thing as development in British Honduras where infrastructure and investment were concerned.

It was for this reason that the masses of the Belizean people began to fight British colonialism openly through the mechanism of the People’s United Party (PUP), established in 1950. It took more than a decade of struggle before Belizean leaders began to control Belize’s public funds, and fourteen years before Belize achieved self-government in 1964. Because of the Guatemalan claim, independence was long delayed, until 1981.

This newspaper disagrees with many of the development decisions made by Belize’s political leaders since independence, but the reality is that Belize has been modernized, especially in urban and tourist areas. In other words, a Belizean who is successful in the United States can return to Belize and find the modern conveniences to which he or she has become accustomed in America. In 2018, Belize is on the regional map in a way we definitely were not in 1961. We were nobody, and we were nowhere in 1961. All we had was Belizean love.

The question now is, with Belize having figuratively metamorphosed from an ugly duckling into a beautiful princess, and with America having become a place where immigrants and people of color are being viewed with hostility and even hatred, why would you consider America your home if you have Belize as an option?

Well, one reason that jumps out at you why you would hesitate to return home is the Guatemalan claim to Belize. That claim is a troubling, sometimes intimidating reality. Still, there are many, many Belizeans who have not really succeeded in making America their home. As the racism worsens in Donald Trump’s America, more and more Belizeans will be in a legal and psychic limbo. Today we want to remind you that the Belizean people began to fight themselves out of crushing colonialism in 1950, and we have managed to get some things done. The most important consideration in 2018 is this, that whatever we have here in Belize, we can call it our own. We have an independent, sovereign nation-state from which no one can ever deport us. God bless the child that has his own. But, Guatemala claims our own.

The purpose of this editorial is to begin a conversation with Belizeans who are living and working in the United States. We know life is a grind for most of you. There was a reason why the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, always called for a piece of American territory to set up a separate state for Black Americans. Sovereignty and statehood are powerful, relevant concepts which too many of us are willing to subordinate to our desire for personal wealth. Consider what happened to Japanese Americans after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. All Japanese Americans were immediately considered security risks by the government of the United States and were rounded up and confined in prison camps. International realities made it so that the United States government decided that one could not be of Japanese descent and be a patriotic American at the same time.

What we want to say to Belizean Americans is that there is no personal security as valuable as having a sovereign nation-state you can call your very own. Some of you have decided to become American citizens. Fine. What about all the Belizean Americans who are not in a position to access American citizenship? Where is our love? Belizean love mandates now that we confront the Guatemalan claim head on. In 1950, we Belizeans decided we wanted a country to call our own. We rejected the servile status of “British subjects.” In 1981, we succeeded in winning the prize, but now a neighbor threatens our treasure.

Belizeans and Belizean Americans, we have a precious land and sea in our hands. Generations after us will ridicule us if we let go of The Jewel. Some of you talk of 1798, but because of your personal greed, you often sound and behave more like the 51 than the 65. Always remember this, that those “chosen people” who now advise the Guatemalans are exactly those who violated the Palestinians. Guatemala’s closest allies are those who wrote the book on disenfranchising an indigenous population. Belizeans and Belizean Americans, we are in existential war for our home. The question for some of us is: where is home?

Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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