This blog is difficult for me to pen. I feel apprehensive but Donald Trump’s win and seeing the outrage of the Caribbean diaspora across my social media, ignited a fire within me.
By remaining silent on this issue, I am aiding and abetting xenophobia and racism and it’s time I said that it’s not ok to treat anyone this way. It’s not ok to treat me this way.
So Trump has won the election and it seems like some of our Caribbean folk are heartbroken and upset.
Heartbroken and upset that a country that we look up to on cable and in the movies that portrays justice and liberty for all through the mystics of Batman, Marvel super heroes and dragon slayers, has elected the very evil that its heroes swore to defeat. Americans elected a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic leader and everyone is aghast.
As a Guyanese immigrant living in Trinidad & Tobago, I feel your pain. Probably even more so since I am supposed to be part of a unified region, the Caribbean – a region of people who support the same cricket team as me (West Indies). But in most cases, I am ‘the other’, ‘the outsider who came here to pillage their jobs and their men.’
As an immigrant, it’s an awkward place for me to be in, being vocal about xenophobia and then showing up for work the next day and going to social events and smiling with the very people who look down on me. For years, I thought that I deserved whatever treatment I received; the butt of jokes, the snide comments, the jeers about my name because hell, I live in their country – therefore I should accept whatever comes my way. I didn’t know and understand that I deserved to be treated with dignity and respect because I was a human being, a child of God.
Take a look around you and honestly reflect on your own culture. Is it really that much different from what we saw represented by the Trump campaign?
Well let me tell you, it sure isn’t. As hard as it can be, instead of pointing fingers, let’s use this wake up call to hold up a mirror.
In most cases, the Trinis I know do not know of any other Guyanese people, but they hold fast to the stereotypes that categorize us as a people. There are good and bad people in every country and we need to recognize that without making generalizations.
Are there Trinis who are kind to me? You betcha! Albeit, a tiny percentage of the population but they exist and they are part of my angel network on Earth.
Please don’t be outraged by America. We have Trump’s and Pence’s in our own backyard. In Jamaica, in Trinidad, in Barbados – ‘dem’ everywhere. If you are in the Caribbean diaspora, you still have a responsibility to fight for equality and to understand that the hate you experience from persons from other countries also exists in your country of origin. When you are amongst your own people and someone makes a joke about another culture, do you laugh right along or do you give voice to the voiceless?
I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator“ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider …
– Letter from A Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.
- Ever made a snide remark about another Caribbean country or its culture? That’s xenophobia.
- Made a rude stereotype about another ethnicity? I believe that’s racism (or at least a variation of it).
- Think you are better than a woman at something simply because you are a man? Sexism.
- A woman who thinks that women should only do certain things and marriage and having babies is their achievement? – More (internalized) sexism please!
- Threw garbage out of a moving car, or how about left trash behind on the beach after your lime? Well, you are just an asshole.
We need to acknowledge that there is still a shit ton of work to be done against racism, xenophobia and sexism everywhere!
To the people who are comfortable just going about your everyday life, the time has come to get uncomfortable and to stand up for what is fair. The days of fighting for equity are far from over. We can no longer afford to sit by idly. Let us ponder upon the structures and the teachings that we, the progressives, need to put in place to gradually rid of world of fear and hate.
Let me put this another way – the racists are doing what they are supposed to, the men and women who take pleasure in oppressing women are doing their duty, what are you doing that is within your power? Do you speak out against any of the above? Or do you laugh along with the crowd in fear of standing out?
I was trying to think of how can I approach people who view me in a negative light with love and kindness. I usually don’t. I just smile politely at the offensive jokes or I keep to myself choosing not to interact with most people I come across. In fact, I have had so many negative experiences that I developed a prejudice that all Trinis are racist, entitled and xenophobic, which is NOT the truth.
Last week I would have been fine with thinking that everyone is entitled to their opinions and that it’s not my job to change their thoughts but to just stay in my lane and do me. While I haven’t changed my mind regarding people being entitled to their beliefs, I am of the opinion that this entitlement to their beliefs should not equate to entitlement to bigotry. What I think is responsible and loving behavior needs to change.
Our language matters. The way we speak to each other and the words we use to describe each other matter. Subtle biased comments become hard cased shelled beliefs which are near impossible to erase. Seemingly minor comments add up until it becomes a normalized way of thinking and viewing ‘other’ human beings.
In a world where globalization is not going away but will only make us become more at one with each human being on Planet Earth, we need to change how we view each other. We need to start questioning beliefs we have held onto as gospel about other cultures.
I’d like to invite everyone reading this post to take a pledge against hate, fear and bigotry. In whatever way you can – start small. Start becoming aware of your own beliefs against other people. Start paying attention to what others say around you and with kindness and courage, start to question those beliefs.
Remember, it’s the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.
Written by Analise Kandasammy. For more of her insights, check out her personal blog JustAnalise.