Home Letters The expectations of Caribbean Americans & other minorities from Biden-Harris Administration
America has a new Administration. Like all other immigrant communities, Guyanese Americans and other communities of colour, too, have similar legitimate concerns and issues. Over the years, these groups have been climbing the social, economic, professional and political ladders, and have established themselves as one of the main pillars of American structure.
Intrinsic in these vested interests, our expectations also are on the rise. This has been buoyed by the fact, for the first time in our history, a person of both Indian and Caribbean heritage, Vice President Kamala Devi Harris, occupies this high position. She is literally a heartbeat away, God forbid, from the highest post in the world – the President of the United States.
So what are the prospects of Guyanese and Caribbean American communities in the Biden-Harris Administration that resoundingly voted for change? What issues would we like the Biden Administration to prioritise?
We have fought long and hard for this day, which has ushered in the new Biden-Harris Administration. We have paid our dues in all areas of American life, as taxpayers, voters, immigrants, US citizens, professionals, publishers, teachers, workers, labourers, daycare, and diplomats indeed, in every area of life. We have collectively helped to build the American dream.
When I first ran for public office in 2005, I was the only person of minority heritage running, and I knew then that my efforts would have been a pioneering effort and precedent that has been the forerunner for several “new Americans” being elected today. This has now taken root, and gives us all voices in city, state and federal governments. Now, we have a Vice-President, Congress members, Governors, Mayors, State, Assembly and City Council members, Ambassadors, and other high-profile officeholders. Our journey, which began with small steps, have entrenched us all in American life, and must continue!
There has been an unconscionable disparity in the COVID vaccine distribution, which has shortchanged many minority communities, many of which included Guyanese-American communities, like Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park and Ozone Park (“Little Guyana”). This has caused disproportionate and systemic deaths, pain and suffering in our communities of colour, and is reflective of the institutional barriers Caribbean Americans and other minorities have been suppressed with.
Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park and Ozone Park have been reduced to ghost towns, with the painful closure of many small businesses, foreclosures, and the debilitating reality that we are ground zero in the ravages of the pandemic. We will need accelerated city, state and federal resources to get us back on our feet.
This is a wake-up call for all of us. Our journey is far from complete, although many gains have been painstakingly wrought. We must continue to fight for inclusion, empowerment and respect from our fellow Americans, as we sacrifice and aspire to a common goal of making our nation more perfect, and tolerant, and much more inclusive.
Consequently, much is expected of the new Biden-Harris Administration. Whereas some brilliant and deserving Caribbean Americans have been installed in some functions and positions, we wish to see Cabinet positions, diplomatic positions, advisors and federal civil service positions being given to our many qualified brothers and/or sisters in every level of Government. We are as good, and as deserving, as anybody else.
We also wish to see more positive changes and improvements, especially in the immigration, justice, civil rights and labour laws. The rollback of anti-immigrant measures have been heartening. We have distinguished ourselves in the sciences, technology, professions, indeed, in every walk of life. More professional work visas (H1-Bs), and green cards, like Caribbean nurses, physicians, scientists and teachers must be extended to Caribbean Americans, and other emerging groups, by admitting the brightest people from around the world.
All Dreamers must have a quick path to US citizenship. Amnesty will result in more revenue and accountability to the government, and enhance public safety by bringing people out from the shadows. Better wages, the right to unionise, especially our taxi drivers and other gig workers, freedom of religious worship, mutual respect for all cultures and religions, equitable enforcement of the laws, and the eradication of hate crimes, must be addressed, as all have a stake in this.
America must also improve international relations with the Caribbean, and be a powerful ally on our side, like fighting back against the bullying tactics of Venezuela to seize and occupy 2/3 of Guyana’s oil-rich territory, and in eradicating the drug trade. Unemployment benefits, saving small businesses, universal healthcare, upgrading area schools and hospitals, transportation and other infrastructures, redirecting resources to areas where they are truly needed, like away from the US-Mexico wall, eradicating hate crimes and hate mongers, should be priorities.
At this year’s redistricting, we demand the end of the gerrymandering of city, state and congressional seats, which have suppressed our communities of interest, and stagnated our voices and demands. “Little Guyana” must be united politically, socially and economically, and thus be able to speak with one voice to address our common issues and concerns, instead of being divided into several districts that have diluted our power.
We must also have equitable access to medical care and education, unemployment insurance, job, trade and educational opportunities, corporate social responsibility, strategic and trade alliances, and deter international and domestic terrorism.
These initiatives will not only make American great again, but more tolerant and inclusive, and more competitive in the world economy, while being a well-respected leader in world affairs. It will also widen the base of support for the Biden-Harris leadership, and convey the message that they care.