West Indians feel discriminated against in the United States of America. Vilna F. Bashi Bobb and Averil Y. Clarke’s essay “Structuring the Perception of Opportunities for West Indians” explains that West Indian people feel they get ignored when applying to a school or job (220). Nonetheless, they take up any opportunities for work or migration that arise. They work hard to overcome the obstacles of racism.
Different experiences between the first and second generation immigrants
The experiences with racism vary between the first- and second-generation immigrants. “The first generation has the maximum opportunity to invoke West Indian ethnic identity—they have the social experiences of a foreign reference point, a network of coethics with which to live and work, and a foreign accent—all of which translate into social distance from a racially hierarchal social system” (Islands in the City: West Indian Migration to New York 233). Second-generation West Indians in New York cannot adapt to their situations as well as their parents. They become individuals who belong to New York, and when society relegates people of their color to a less desirable social class, they have nowhere else to turn to. They are forced to struggle in a place they refer to as home.
Racism is a new concept for Caribbean immigrants
West Indians are not used to racism in the Caribbean since most of the people there are black. For example, when he was interviewed, Rajiv Wallace, a West Indian immigrant currently living in the Bronx, stated that he was not used to racism in New York since he is an immigrant. “However, once they [West Indians] arrive in America, many […] find that race presents a much greater challenge than anything they have been accustomed to” (New Immigrants in New York 205). The racism in New York has a strong presence and all West Indians become aware of it. Racism persists even after the abolition of slavery 150 years ago and over a century of civil rights movements. West Indians, however, try not to let this continue. They unite with African Americans in their determination to end this.
Despite people seeing them as black, they invoke their cultural identity
Caribbean people in New York still manage to keep strong ties to their national identity. They participate in ethnic events like Carnival and Church congregations. Carnival diverts much of the city’s traffic and attracts political leaders to promote their campaigns. They also own businesses that practice Caribbean traditions and communicate with the Caribbean community, such as small concert halls (typically just basements), money transfer banks, salons, and dollar vans. These businesses encourage people’s social interactions with one another in New York. West Indians also interact with one another when they try to gain better political representation. There is a lack of West Indian and African American political influence in the United States of America, so they work together to change this.
Discrimination in politics
A lack of political representation encourages black New Yorkers to collective political action. “They have turned to demonstrations and protests, as well as the ballot box, to press for political incorporation” (Roger, 24). They learn about certain strategies used to keep them suppressed and question these strategies in their demonstrations. By working together African Americans and West Indians can change the political system by incorporating their ideas and providing support for everyone. African Americans have made progress in gaining the possibility to vote and getting an African American to be the president of the United States of America. West Indians are now joining in to finish this process of gaining political control.
Discrimination in housing
Discrimination outside of the political atmosphere also encourages African Americans and West Indians to stick together. They, especially the immigrants, live in ethnic neighborhoods in New York City. However, when some move to other neighborhoods with many white inhabitants, everyone moves out and the previously white neighborhood becomes black. This occurs because many of the previous inhabitants are not comfortable living among people they consider “black” including West Indians. Thus, the population of white Americans decreases as the number of West Indians moves in. A good example of this occurrence is the northern Manhattan neighborhood Harlem. In 1905, when the black population of Harlem increased significantly, the previous population started quickly moving out. Therefore, today Harlem is known as a predominantly black neighborhood.
How some people continue to enforce racism
Besides the racism that occurs in housing and on the job, some people still believe that black people including West Indians are inferior and should not be subject to the same priviledges as others. An example of this is trying to enforce the discontinued practice of black passengers giving up their seats to white passengers on a bus. This incident was recorded on a New York City bus. It shows how abolishing racist laws does not stop people from being racist.
Racism causes struggles between black Americans and police officers
The black community feels oppressed by the New York City police department. Those of black skin color are often questioned and accused of crimes. One such incident police and a black person who was illegally selling loose cigarettes ended with the person’s death due to the chokehold shown below.