Someone once described black Americans as “the financial and technological elite of the black world,” and through the decades that description has stuck in my mind. Remember now, this had to have been a long time ago, because it was before black Americans became “African-Americans.”
When I was going to college in the States between 1965 and 1968, this was the time when “Negros” were becoming “black Americans.” This was a big move, because this moved black people closer to Africa. Africa was where we had to return mentally and spiritually, because the slavemaster had been so focused on separating us from the motherland – Mama Africa. This was why he called us “Negros”: a Negro had no continent of origin insofar as his/her description was concerned, and a Negro had no history. Chinese came from China, Russians came from Russia, and Germans came from Germany. Where did Negros come from?
Once we became “African-Americans,” it was a step closer to Africa, and so even though I personally had become very comfortable with “black,” when the African-American designation began maybe three decades or so ago, I slowly began to go along with it. African-American more specifically identified us as originating in Africa. So.
After I was going to Dartmouth for a while, I realized that black American students at the university did not accept black foreigners like myself and Guy Mhone 100 per cent. Guy Mhone was from Malawi in southern Africa. He was four years older than I, more mature and more sophisticated. Mhone and I felt that we were outsiders in the Dartmouth Afro-American Society, that their focus was all black American. So, we drifted away, and then we drifted apart. I began hanging out with a white student who lived down the corridor from me in Bissell Hall, and I began drinking more. Guy Mhone resided in Cutter Hall, which had a higher percentage of foreign students than any Dartmouth dormitory, and where there was much more awareness of international issues than in the rest of the university.
In the autumn of 1966, I joined a white fraternity (there was no black one), so that I could drink more cheaply. I was the first black student in Zeta Psi, and things were cool, until the Afro-American society demonstrated in early 1967 against a campus visit of George Wallace, the racist, segregationist governor of Alabama who was running for the Democratic Party nomination for President. The demonstration became a little unruly, by Dartmouth standards, and white students in Zeta Psi disapproved of it. I believed that I owed the Afro-Am my solidarity, and it was then that a separation began between me and Zeta Psi. I would say that around this time Guy Mhone loaned me a copy of Malcolm X’s autobiography, and that essentially changed my life. I was 19 years old, going on 20.
Bethuel Webster’s Seventeen Proposals were released in early 1968, and this attempt to subjugate Belize to Guatemala ensured that I had to go home, although it was from early in my time at Dartmouth that I had decided I would leave America and return to Belize as soon as I finished my degree studies.
In 1968, it seemed to many of us Belizeans that the Guatemalan claim to Belize had a heavy racial component. Belize was a country with a majority black population, and for the “Spanish” Guatemalans, this was a bone in their throat. So then, at that time I felt that the support of black Americans, “the financial and technological elite of the black world,” would be important and helpful for us predominantly black Belizeans. I don’t believe such a support has ever materialized, and today Belize is no longer black, at least not the way it used to be.
The thing is, Guatemala was never “Spanish,” at least not the way it appeared to us in British Honduras. This is an important aspect of the Guatemalan claim, because when someone who is bigger and more powerful than you are, is threatening you, then you have to start examining that person to see where his Achilles heel is. Everyone has an Achilles heel: trust me on that. Guatemala’s Achilles heel is the fact that the majority of the Guatemalan people are indigenous, and their minority neo-European elite have terrorized and trampled on that indigenous majority for centuries.
Something sensational happened in the United States last week Tuesday: 71 per cent of America’s Hispanic population voted for Barack Obama. In a sense, what this means is that America’s Hispanics were saying: we’re not white! Even if they had thought that they were before they reached the United States, white supremacy in America would have made them understand otherwise. Hispanics are now the largest minority of the population in the United States, and the nation which influences their thinking more than any other is Mexico, the same nation from which the U.S., in the nineteenth century, grabbed Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, and western Colorado.
Last week’s Obama victory has American white supremacists enraged. I’ve read what people like Pat Buchanan, a former Presidential candidate, have been saying, and their statements are racist. Their statements also reflect a fear of the future. The white race will probably become a minority in the United States before the twenty-first century is over, and this is a race which has committed sins for which they will have to do penance.
The difference between African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, it appears to me, is that whereas Hispanic-Americans could look to Mexico, or even Cuba, for inspiration, African-Americans generally disdained blacks coming from their nearest source of solidarity – the Caribbean. African-Americans remain the financial and technological elite of the black world: they have to start behaving as such, at least on the regional stage. They have to grow up.
They can start with this Guatemalan claim to Belize. This is a stone relic of the colonial era. That era is no more. Or, is it? African-Americans have to educate themselves about what’s going down south of them in the Caribbean and the Americas. African-Americans have to become more interested and involved in United States foreign policy, especially in the Western Hemisphere.
In the United States, white citizens in the former Confederate states have responded to Obama’s re-election with talk of seceding from the Union. If they want to get crazy, remember Francisco Morazán’s dream of a United States of Central America. Throw in Mexico, Cuba, and the Caribbean, and what about Venezuela and Colombia, and those redneck Ku Klux Klanners will have to start adjusting some of their ancient assumptions. Real.
Power to the people.