By Felicia J. Persaud
News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Fri. June 26, 2020: On March 16, 1827, Caribbean-born John Brown Russwurm, the co-founder of the first black newspaper in the United States, Free Journal, wrote in the paper’s first editorial: “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly.”
One hundred and ninety-three years later, amid the new Black Lives Matter revolution for equality on the heels of the killing of George Floyd, this Caribbean immigrant’s words sadly still ring true.
It is true this Caribbean American Heritage Month, this Juneteenth and daily for immigrants, including Dreamers, who are under constant attack.
For in 2020, we still have to plead our own cause – as Black people, as People Of Color, as Immigrants – because the system has been so stacked against us for so long, that lies and misrepresentations have become part of facts about us and about our history.
Nowhere is it more obvious at present, than in the current atmosphere of this administration. The misrepresentations are a daily occurrence.
Black people protesting against police murders, brutality and systemic racism are tagged as “domestic terrorist,” “thugs” and “hooligans” and law enforcement boosted to attack them viciously. By contrast, White, heavily armed right-wing curfew breakers who curse at police and lawmakers, are treated with kids gloves and celebrated as standing up for their constitutional rights.
Young immigrant Dreamers are seen as law breakers and less than and threatened with deportation or told to “go back where they came from” even though many put their lives on the frontline in the COVID-19 fight to save all Americans regardless of race.
Muslims are viewed as terrorists as the Bible is used as a weapon to tear people apart; people of color are seen by some Whites as less than and as a danger for simply being in the same space and have to endure being threatened or having the cops called on them for now real reason.
And an American-born, university-educated President in the 21st Century unabashedly admits that he had no idea of Juneteenth, even as he geared up to rally his base of bigoted supporters on the day.
But the reality is that like Russwurm noted so many years ago, we have to keep telling our own stories, raising our own voices, and standing up for our own rights.
It is the only way, and it is the only reason why we are seeing the sudden shifts in all quarters like we have not seen in decades since the 1965 Civil Rights bill was signed into law.
It is why we have seen the Census shift to allow Caribbean people and all others to also document their nationality and country of origin; it is why we are now seeing some seismic shifts in how Black people are treated and presented all these years, from the corporate to the political and societal.
It is why we saw the decision by the Supreme Court on June 18th, one day before Juneteenth, that essentially freed young immigrant Dreamers too from the noose that the administration had placed on their lives.
It is why we are now seeing all of these conversations and changes on racial disparity and equality.
But the battle is still on and the war must be waged at the ballot boxes this November, to ensure our voices are finally heard and the heavy knee of misconception, misrepresentation and mistreatment is lifted once and for all off our necks. We must plead our own cause with our votes and use it to determine our own destiny and not let others speak for us.