Afro-Caribbeans, while they make up only a small percentage of the black population nationwide, occupy a significant portion of the group consisting of blacks who do not identify as African American. Since they are such a small group, they are almost always thrown into the same group by the general public, who does not seem to understand their rich culture, and their struggles. For this reason, and since Afro Caribbeans face many of the same struggles as African Americans, it will be much easier to talk about their experiences as all part of the black experience, keeping in mind the extremely diverse ethnic possibilities that exist within the black community.
Experience with Racism
Until only a few years ago, beginning with the killing of Treyvon Martin, and with the continued press coverage of other highly unfortunate cases, it seemed to many that the issue of racism was a thing of the past. United States society was now in a post-racism era. After all, the civil rights act of the 1960’s was over half a century old. I can remember thinking honestly, in the almost entirely white town that I came from, that the only kind of racism that existed were the “innocent” jokes about blacks and other minorities. I was completely ignorant of the structural violence and racism that blacks had to live with on a daily basis in many other parts of the country, and looking back, how potentially difficult it would be for a black person to feel fully comfortable in a town like mine.
The video above is an interview with author, and Toronto Native, Desmond Cole. In his video, he brings up his experiences with continued arrest and interrogation by police, for reasons he feels only a result of his skin color. This story is morbidly similar to the others we hear, especially in regards to the NYPD of New York City.
Since the killings of unarmed black men began receiving increasingly more publicity, various movements started which aimed to combat this unwarranted violence, focusing on using protest as a means for change. Of course, in both the incidents in Ferguson and Baltimore, rioting also occurred on the side.
Racism is not limited to members of the police, however. Blacks also experience racism from civilians.
This video tells the story of various young black men and boys who have directly experienced racism and have had to deal with the emotional pain that comes along with those experiences. To think that people so young have had to continually be subject to unfair treatment is mind-blowing; I can hardly imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes.
From this video, we learn about the types of messages that black children are fed, even from their parents. The unfortunate reality about being black in the United States is that they have to be taught to fear the police force and suppress their identities for the sake of concern for white people’s sensibilities.
While it is abundantly clear that blacks have a hard time socially in the United States, they are also significantly worse off financially and economically than any other racial group in the United States; not by a small margin, either. The cause for this gap is largely unknown, but the key suspects seem to be, again, racism and discrimination in the hiring process and a lack of socioeconomic mobility as a result of the perpetual state of the poverty that many black families pass on to future generations. The statistics are quite telling.
The chart above (2012) shoes that, while immigrants of all minority races seem to have better employment prospects than those who are native born, what is particularly striking about the black population is not only the fact that their rates of unemployment are so high, but also that the gap between foreign and native born populations is significantly larger than the gaps between the other racial groups.
What goes hand in hand with unemployment is poverty, and these numbers are quite striking as well.
The discussion must be had regarding why blacks and other minorities face such blatant disadvantages economically. The solution simply must be more than “work harder” or “get off welfare,” as many people like to think.
Cultural and Political Experience
Now, focusing more on Caribbean blacks, there is a great deal of cultural pride that those hailing from the Caribbean bring with them. They bring religions like Vodou, foods, music, and much more to the United States for everyone to appreciate. These aspects of Caribbean life are not left back in the islands, and people still make efforts to preserve the traditions that have been established over hundreds of years.
Despite the racism that is present, politicians in New York City have noticed the immense Caribbean population, and have begun to embrace it. One of the most important events of the year is the Caribbean Carnival, and political candidates of all ranks essentially must attend in order to reach this vast electorate. While in some ways this is certainly a good thing––awareness is being brought to the Caribbean community, and their culture is being embraced––I can not help but think that, almost obviously, the politicians only real intentions are to gain votes. This is most likely the case with any type of political campaign, however, so this unfortunate fact probably should not receive too much scrutiny. Much good is still accomplished.