The campaign for the highest office in the world, the US presidency, is underway, and we expect that one of the hot button topics at the presidential debates in that country will be immigration. It will be one of the most important issues for Americans when they go to the polls on November 3, 2020.
People around the world are well familiar with the 151-foot tall Statue of Liberty which stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, with its famous invitation: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
We will not bother ourselves about whose tired, whose poor the poet, Emma Lazarus, was talking about (or not talking about) when she penned those beautiful lines in 1883. What we know today is that the hierarchy in the USA doesn’t want persons like us at their table. On the contrary, they want, insist that we, peoples of color, don’t turn up at their door. Those of us who are exceptionally gifted, accomplished, they don’t mind us coming, but not the tired or the poor.
The USA is run by white people, so it is natural that they prefer white immigrants. However, the USA is not in Europe: it is in America, on soil that was originally settled on by brown/red people. Presently there are more white people in the USA than people of color but, inevitably, white people will be in the minority.
A conversation between then US governor, Ronald Reagan, and US president, Richard Nixon, surfaced recently, and in that conversation Reagan made some very disrespectful, call it racist, comments about leaders from countries on the African continent. The most surprising thing about this conversation was that quite a number of people of color in that country expressed shock on hearing it.
Many people of color in the USA were overjoyed when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter for the job of US president in 1980. It was a blowout, with Reagan winning 489 electoral college votes compared to Carter’s 49. People of color contributed mightily to the savage defeat that Carter suffered.
In an August 25, 2001 story in the Irish Times, “Fought to end Apartheid in South Africa”, which was written and published to mark the death of Donald Woods, a white British journalist who was a friend and supporter of South African hero, Steve Biko, the authors noted a meeting between Woods and Carter at the White House.
“Invited to the White House, he was asked by President Carter, ‘Mr. Woods, what should we be doing about South Africa?’ He replied: ‘Mr. President, I would need three hours to detail the reply to that.’ Carter turned to Vice-President Mondale, and said: ‘Fritz, please call Cy Vance (Secretary of State) and see that Mr. Woods gets to brief all State Department senior staff for three hours this afternoon on what we should be doing about South Africa.,’” the article stated.
As president of the United States, Reagan said most of the right things, but he did call Nelson Mandela a communist and a terrorist. His war on drugs, which copied the blueprint of the Nixon White House, resulted in a dramatic increase in incarcerations of non-white people in that country. We know what that war on drugs has done to us, and our neighbors in Central America, and Mexico.
Reagan’s two children insist that their father wasn’t a racist, but this recent exposé of this old conversation has shocked his daughter. She shouldn’t be. Those words Reagan shared with Nixon are natural to probably the majority of the white men of his generation. What they said in public was not the entire truth about what they were feeling inside.
Carter was different from all his predecessors, and from the present man in the White House, largely because Mr. Jimmy didn’t grow up in a white neighborhood. Most of Carter’s childhood friends were black, and so it was easy for him to look past the color of a person’s skin and judge them by their character. That is why he was eager to hear, eager to take the counsel of someone who was wholly sympathetic to the black cause in South Africa.
Reagan wasn’t really a racist; he was brought up to be sympathetic to people of color, but ingrained in him was racial superiority. He called Mandela a terrorist because the people around him, the people who counseled him, were not sympathetic to black people. He called Mandela a communist because Ronald Reagan was ultra-right, a super capitalist.
Reagan had sympathy for non-white people; but he couldn’t feel their pain. Carter had empathy. Reagan persisted in policies that brought pain to people of color in his country (the USA), and to people in ours. Carter could not persist in policies that brought pain to people of color in his country (the USA), and to the non-white races in ours.
The present president of the USA, Donald Trump, has no empathy for people of color. There are those in his country who say he has no sympathy for people of color either, but our concerns are with his policies. Unfortunately, because he has no empathy for people who aren’t white, his counsel comes from old white men.
US policies, made by old white men, have brought a lot of pain to our region. US policies have brought border stability in our region. We are grateful for that, and we are grateful too for their being a market for our goods and for sharing much of their expertise. Unfortunately, US policies have also caused much havoc in our countries. We mention again their drug war that has made killing fields of Mexico, and Belize, and other countries in Central America.
The counsel of old white men is that our economies should follow the path of super capitalism. That works perfectly for people who are white, because after the various European raids of the Americas and Africa five centuries plus ago, the children of Europe ended up with all the capital. Super capitalism only serves a few people south of the Rio Grande. It is not a concern of US policy makers that governments in our region are riddled with corruption and many other forms of dishonesty. All that matters is that their American agenda is served.
Super capitalism doesn’t serve the masses in our countries and it never will. The consequence of this failure is that there is mass poverty, many hungry people in our region, near hopeless people whose only chance is exodus to a country where things are better. For most, that better is the country that says, “Give me your tired, and poor…”
Unfortunately, that invitation is not for us. Over the years the US has deported hundreds of thousands of our people. Interestingly, their non-white president, Barack Obama, perfected the art of deportation better than all the white presidents. That is a story we’ll have to follow up on.
When thousands of desperate people from our region formed caravans that ended up on the US’s doorsteps, the Americans were in a huge dilemma. They absolutely don’t want us and they have the right, like all countries, to decide who enters their country between the Rio Grande and the 49th Parallel.
This is a problem that they caused. Their solution, as always, is out of the super capitalist mold. Instead of addressing the cause of the problem, the failed policies they insist on forcing on us, they pulled out the big stick.
The US president first tried to pressure Mexico into a deal that would see them taking on the problem that they, the U.S., caused. When that didn’t work, they went after Guatemala and got that country’s president to agree that Guatemala will become a safe “third country” for persons seeking to enter the US. That deal is up in the air because the Guatemalan president signed it without getting the support of the Guatemalan congress. The US is now moving posthaste to get Honduras and El Salvador to agree to deals similar to the one they tentatively have with Guatemala.
The US is sweetening the pot with some crumbs. This is how the super capitalists solve the problem they created. It will not last. The solution for our region lies between socialism and capitalism. Then we will stop turning up at their border.