While it is true that race consciousness among Afro-Caribbeans developed in and was nourished by racist environments such as the United States, allowance ought to be made for a noteworthy exception to the general tendency for Afro-Caribbean migrants to undergo this metamorphosis. The exception was migrants of African descent – at least, by American standards – from the Hispanic Caribbean. Black Hispanics, and black Puerto Ricans in particular, gave little indication of the heightened race consciousness so sharply manifested in the United States by migrants from other parts of the Caribbean. The characteristic behavior of Afro-Spanish migrants has historically been to close ranks with fellow “Spanish” compatriots – “black” and “white” together – distinguishing themselves, deliberately or otherwise, from those classified as “Negroes” in the United States. Writing in 1925 of the black migrants from the Caribbean, W. A. Domingo observed that the “Spanish element has but little contact with the English-speaking majority. For the most part they keep to themselves and follow in the main certain occupational lines.” Wallace Thurman, the Afro-American critic and novelist, made the same observation a few years later, using almost identical words: “The Spanish Negro … stays to himself and has little traffic with the other racial groups in his environment.” From time to time, noted a sociologist in the 1930s, “one may see a very dark Negro who will be speaking Spanish more loudly than the rest. They say he does not wish to be mistaken for an American Negro. All are Latins.” In Harlem Negro Metropolis, published in 1940, Claude McKay observed that the Afro-Americans in Harlem “cannot comprehend the brown Puerto Rican rejecting the appellation ‘Negro,’ and preferring to remain Puerto Rican. He is resentful of what he considers to be the superior attitude of the Negroid Puerto Rican.”
– pg. 195, HOLDING ALOFT THE BANNER OF ETHIOPIA: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth-Century America, by Winston James, Verso, 1998
In their presidential election of November 2008, the power structure of the United States of America offered America and the world a Black American President – Barack Obama. It was a euphoric moment for African Americans and for people of color all over planet earth. That is for sure. The more optimistic people of color and sympathetic Caucasians conceived of this moment as indicative of a post-racial era in the United States, but after the celebrations were over, cold, hard facts introduced themselves.
Accommodationist and assimilationist Black people do not like to confront this, or to have hard-nosed commentators say or write it, but the American power structure is a white supremacist power structure. Those of us outside America can see it in how American foreign policy operates. Inside America itself, the African American masses know what time it is where “Mr. Charlie” is concerned. So yes, African Americans voted for Barack, “he was one of ourn,” as we would say, but it was the American power structure who put him in the White House, and they chose very well indeed. Barack’s eight years in the American presidency were smooth, dignified, and, also and alas, cruel, whenever the power structure called for Barack to behave thus.
Barack, in coalition with the French, murdered Libya’s Moammar Gaddafy, who had done more to assist the African continent economically than any leader in history. Barack deported more of us to Central America and the Caribbean than any President had ever done. During Barack’s two terms, nothing changed for Belize where the existential threat posed by the Guatemalan claim was concerned: in fact, the claim arguably became more dangerous after the so-called Special Agreement in 2009. And, as the years went by Obama insisted on pushing a so-called LGBT agenda, which appeared to have negative implications for Belize where our disintegrating public and sexual morality were concerned.
Belizeans have descended into an abyss of drinks, drugs and debauchery, and at the same time Belizeans have become dramatically more violent and murderous. While we Belizeans were grappling with what appeared to be a breakdown of our traditional values and mores, it appeared that when Barack Obama thought of Belize, if he ever did, all he could think of was pushing his LGBT agenda.
It was because of Barack’s LGBT obsession that Belize’s Christian extremists welcomed the Donald Trump presidency. But the core of the American population which elected Trump to the presidency is a racist, hate-filled, white supremacist core. Americans saw that for themselves at Charlottesville, and heard it for themselves in Trump’s attacks on NFL and NBA players. We people of color in the region watched how slowly Trump moved to assist Puerto Rico compared to how swiftly he moved to get federal assistance to Houston, Texas. Obama was a problem, because he was an employee of a white supremacist power structure, but Trump is a greater problem, because he himself is a white supremacist.
There were two great imperialist and colonialist European powers in our part of the world after Christopher Columbus “discovered” us in 1492: these were Spain and Great Britain. There were other significant European imperialists and colonialists around here – the Portuguese, the French, and the Dutch. But Spain and Great Britain are the most relevant to Belize, because of our unique population history. Our Maya/Mestizo population was ruled by Spain and our African population was ruled by Great Britain. There is a fault line in our population between those of us who were ruled by Spain and those of us who were ruled by Britain. Belize must address this divide if we are to build strong national unity.
In our region, countries like Cuba and Puerto Rico were Spanish possessions which now have a mixture of so-called Hispanics and Africans at the base. Puerto Rico does not conceive of itself as a Black nation, but when Donald Trump and continental Americans think of Puerto Ricans, they do not think of them as white. That is for sure. But, Puerto Ricans, like Cubans, have ethnic issues amongst themselves which involve tension between Hispanics and Blacks. The worst example of such a situation exists on the island of Hispaniola, which is comprised of the Dominican Republic on the eastern side of the island, and African Haiti on the western side. The Dominican Republic considers itself Hispanic, somehow white, and there have been cases, most bloodily in the 1930s, when the Dominican Republic slaughtered thousands of Haitians who had crossed over from the west.
When you hear Venezuela refer to itself as the Bolivarian Republic, it is because Hugo Chavez wanted to pay maximum tribute to Simon Bolivar. Bolivar fought to liberate South America from Spanish colonialism in the early nineteenth century, and he was materially assisted in his efforts by Haiti, which had become a free Black republic in 1804. Bolivar, who died in 1830 in Colombia, lived to hear the United States of America declare the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, and he resented the Monroe Doctrine, because he resented the hegemonic pretensions of the neo-European United States, which had seized the territories of the Native Americans and was now using the slave labor of millions of Africans to enrich the U.S.
Chavez thought along the lines of Simon Bolivar, in that he believed that Latin American and the Caribbean should work together to neutralize the awesome power of the United States, which, in pursuance of their twentieth century interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine, had behaved in a violent and imperialistic manner in our region. But a problem with unifying Latin America and the Caribbean is the problem of ethnicity, which usually brings with it the problem of language.
So then, we come to the African American population of the United States, which, we have often said to you, comprises the financial and technological elite of the Black world. America’s African American population is condemned to being a small (10 to 12 percent) minority of the population of the United States, but if Black Americans ever began to view themselves as an integral part of the Western Hemisphere’s larger population of people of color, they would be moving in a Bolivarian direction. One of the reasons this will not happen any time soon, is because of the divide between Africans and Hispanics in our region which we mentioned previously.
And now we come to Belizeans, who benefited substantially from the education and employment opportunities which became available in the United States after the Black civil rights struggle achieved a measure of success in the 1960s. Belizeans have embraced the “American Dream” wholeheartedly, but the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States is a troubling development. Racism and white supremacy, bottled up during the Obama years, have been unleashed with a vengeance under Trump. “Redneck” Americans hate both Africans and Hispanics, and consider them inferior peoples. You will remember that Trump’s supporters completely bought into his call to build a wall along the Rio Grande to separate the United States (white) from Mexico (Hispanic).
We Belizeans can’t dodge the issue of ethnicity. The most effective way to address the divisive dangers of ethnicity was always education, hence this newspaper’s call for the teaching of African and Mayan history over the 48 years of our existence. Inculcated ignorance is a weapon of the power structure. It is doubtful whether any significant number of African Americans in the continental United States understand that Puerto Ricans are their brothers and sisters in the regional struggle against racism and imperialism. The reverse is also the case: Puerto Ricans do not identify with African Americans.
Donald Trump is a raging bull. He is not a humanitarian. Belize’s foreign policy should reflect some real analytical consciousness of the ball game changes in this region with Trump’s election to the presidency. The most significant thing we can do in Belize to improve our national unity is study the histories of our African and Mayan peoples. What should unify us, at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day, is that white supremacy is our common enemy. For Donald Trump, “spooks” and “spics” are the same thing. Check stats.
Power to the people.