What About Your Caribbean Heritage VP-Elect Kamala Harris?

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US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 10, 2020. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
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By Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Fri. Nov. 13, 2020: Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris has made history in the United States. It is a happy and proud moment for all who helped this ticket defeat the worst and most dangerous President in the history of the United States and turn the country back from a path of fascism, xenophobia and bigotry.

It is a historic moment for women, all immigrants, Black people and all people of color in these United States, as for the first in the country’s history, we will have a female vice-president, a Black woman and one who is a daughter of immigrants.

But the Caribbean Diaspora’s excitement on the defeat of Donald Trump and the Joe Biden/Harris win, took a mega hit on Saturday night, Nov. 7, 2020, after the VP-elect’s anticipated remarks from Delaware.

Several of my team members at Invest Caribbean had spent parts of the day creating and issuing a statement on our pride at her being the first US VP with Caribbean roots.

The Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, proudly also recognized her Jamaican heritage in his congratulatory tweet, a win that came after many Caribbean-American voters across the country, had stood in line for hours on end, to vote for this ticket and to mobilize for it, based largely on the fact that they felt she shared their heritage.

The pride in the Caribbean and Jamaican immigrant communities and in the region, for months since her announcement as the Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate, was one of elation. Many compared her to the late Shirley Chisholm even as some African Americans criticized her as not “Black” enough, but Jamaican and Indian.

In South Florida, ads were run on Caribbean and Jamaican radio shows, calling her a proud “Jamaican sister.” That pride translated into votes on Nov. 2, 2020 and before, as many in South Florida, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and especially in the suburbs of Atlanta and Philadelphia, lined up and unanimously voted for the Biden/Harris ticket.    

It was those combined “Black” votes that helped them win narrowly over Donald Trump on Nov. 7, 2020.   As it was noted over 31 percent of Latinos and some 30 percent of Asians, choose Trump.

Yet, many concerns came to our organization and were posted on social media, the VP-elect’s anticipated remarks from Delaware on Saturday night, Nov. 7, 2020, after Harris again choose to again publicly recognize her South Asian heritage through her Indian immigrant mother, but not her Caribbean heritage through her Jamaican immigrant father, economist Donald Harris, the man mainly responsible for her conception and existence. 

The Diaspora further noticed, that, not even President-Elect Joe Biden referenced that connection, choosing also to only mention Harris’ South Asian heritage.

The disappointment and pain in the Caribbean Diaspora were palpable on social media Saturday night and Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, as Caribbean immigrants are proud, patriotic people, and none more so than Jamaicans.

Taking their cue it seemed from VP-Elect Harris, the mainstream US media began focusing only on her South Asian roots, referring to her as the first “Indian American” Vice President; doing stories on her “Indian” ancestral home, as even Caribbean-American Congresswoman, Yvette Clarke, whose parents are Jamaicans, put out a statement that also ignored Harris’ Caribbean connection by recognizing her only as “the first Black woman and the first Asian woman to hold the second most powerful position in our country.”

This, despite the fact, that Harris had campaigned in Florida, seeking the Caribbean-American vote and boosted of her “Jamaican” link on Caribbean radio, her love of oxtail stew and knowledge of making it, and how she had every single Bob Marley song.

In fact, back on Oct. 21st, in Orlando, Florida, she stated on a popular Caribbean radio show: “When you look at the Caribbean-American community, it is vast and it is so intertwined and integrated into the fabric of America.”

Days after, President-Elect Biden boasted on CBS Local Miami, that he knew the difference between Caribbean and African American voters.

“The Haitian community is different from the African American Community in Detroit. The Caribbean island community…. The Jamaican community … they’re different. Understand the differences, which I do,” he said on Oct. 29th.

But when it mattered most, on the national stage, Caribbean American immigrants were once again ignored, along with Harris’ obvious Jamaican and Caribbean roots, and relegated back to the status of invisible.   

Yet, despite this national slight, the Caribbean-American Diaspora, will be calling on VP-Elect Harris, without malice, to help support our issues in these United States, especially on the immigration and the regional front.

And we hope she will answer that call!

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow