By Jean H Charles:
The black American population according to the latest census is shrinking, whether in Washington DC, Los Angeles or Harlem New York, the Mecca of Black Renaissance; is losing its majority to an increasing white populace. The same phenomenon is visible also in the Caribbean, where, whether in Roseau Dominica or in Port au Prince, Haiti, beautiful homes are closed, and their absentee owners are in New York, London or Toronto. The black dilemma pictures a canvas whereby new Caribbean or African blood is not welcomed with open arms by the indigenous black American population to increase and renew the black stock of America.
The Euro-American by contrast, coming from Lithuania or Malta, is quickly mixed and integrated into the bloodstream of the white population, thereby energizing America and its white composite. The black dilemma is made more troublesome due to the fact that in the Caribbean those who left their homelands to establish themselves in Europe or in America must endure the ignominy of a one way ticket. They are not welcomed to bring back their intellectual and their financial resources in the building of their motherlands. From Belize to Cuba, in passing through Trinidad or Jamaica, the Caribbean Diaspora does not enjoy the political right to vote and cannot contribute to the policy-making of their country so as to render their homeland hospitable to all.
This attitude can be compared with the situation facing European immigrants, where new legislation is being drafted to offer citizenship to the offspring of the third generation of immigrants whose parents left Europe for the United States some fifty years ago. These new French, Polish or Italian citizens with double nationality will pollinate both side of the Atlantic with new inventions, new business and new offspring that will make both their ancestor-lands and their new home-lands fertile and prosperous.
This essay is looking into what deliberate steps should be taken in a diligence mode to increase the black stock of America, create a renaissance in the Caribbean and in Africa with the exchange of resources and of people on both sides of the Caribbean and of the Atlantic sea.
The cold shoulders existing between brethren of the same continent has its origin in the dark ages of Africa's history. For example, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., in a recent article in the New York Times, quoted John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University, who in their research have found out that 90% of the black slaves brought into the Western Hemisphere were captured by and sold to European traders by African elites and kings, who took them as hostages through tribal warfare. This attitude and its ongoing deluge of inhospitality has extended itself at all levels and in most places since.
Starting with my hometown of Grand River Haiti, it has produced through the years not only liberators and luminaries such as Jean Jacques Dessalines and Jean Price Mars, it has also produced more recent individuals such as Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, and, as well, Marie St Fleur, the first Haitian-American State Representative in Massachusetts. Despite these contributions, the elite of Cape Haitian, the closest large city, has always found repulsive those outsiders—moune en dehors—who migrate into the city. Some of the former have also left for Port au Prince, the capital, where they have themselves also endured the disdain they had earlier bestowed on their comrades.
Migrating into America, those who came barefoot as well as those who came wet foot have endured similar hostility, not only from the authorities but also from black natives who were supposed to be a natural ally in the acculturation process. By comparison, the Jewish Diaspora from Russia has a well oiled agency that picks up the new migrants at the airport, with a scholarship to City College, a voucher for lodging and another for food stamps. Henry Kissinger, as a young lad, for example, could not get into Harvard but was schooled at City College through that route before moving to higher ground.
I am watching with desperation the young men and women from Senegal or Mali on 125th Street in Harlem selling counterfeit merchandise, or luring the ladies in for a hairdo while they represent excellent material for a one way ticket to City College up the hill. No concerted effort is being made by officials or the non-profit organizations to help this new crop of migrants to become fully integrated into the fabric of America, and thereby renewing the black stock for a continuous process of nation building.
Recently, some 30 Haitians people landed in Jamaica after the earthquake in search of a solace in a more peaceful land. They were unfortunately returned by the Jamaican government under the pretext that Jamaica could not afford to absorb them. The contradiction in brotherly solidarity occurred at this peak of Haiti’s national disaster. Such lack of solidarity in such extreme conditions can only spell, in the long-term, the demise of all of us. I have also seen in Roseau, Dominica, how the culture of stupidity has facilitated the extinction of the Creole language as a lingua franca of the citizens of Roseau as compared to the rest of the country, where speaking Creole is routine and ordinary.
The black dilemma, as Abraham Lincoln and Frederic Douglass have seen, could not be solved in a piecemeal manner, State by State, as Senator Frazier Douglas then preferred it to happen. Today, sorting out and solving the black issue, starting from the United States with its sizable black population and a black president, it must be seen in its entirety and its universality. Barack Obama can help but using a Lincolnesque analogy, he must be forced to do so.
There is no other solution but using the term of Frederic Douglass, who, while speaking to Lincoln, said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them, and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows or both.”
Yet when the black dilemma is solved it will be only a partial one if it does not include the white population. As with the women’s liberation movement that failed to include the men in the process, the white populace must also be included into that solution. Making the world hospitable to all is not a black or white issue; others like the Abolitionists, the Quakers and the British did understand that humanity is indivisible.
In closing, maybe we should hear from the man from Harlem, Langston Hughes, to find our direction and purpose:
I am the poor white fooled and pushed apart
I am the Negro bearing slavery scars
I am the red man driven from the land
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak
Yet I am the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the old world white still a serf of kings
Who dream so strong, so brave so true?
That even yet its might daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That made America the land it has become
O; I am the man who sailed those earlier seas
In search of what to be my home
For I am the one who left Ireland’s shore
And Poland plain land and England grassy ilea
And torn from Black Africa strand I came
To build a homeland of the free
O’ let America be America again.
May 1, 2010