By Felicia J. Persaud
News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL. Tues. Oct. 6, 2020: I am a Caribbean immigrant voter and entrepreneur in the battle ground state of Florida, having moved here from New York City. I’d like to believe my vote is important in this election. But like many Caribbean/West Indian immigrants and immigrant voters in these United States, I feel ignored, dismissed, and unappreciated.
I have yet to see a single ad that speaks to our community and voting bloc – from either political party. Not that I expect one from the GOP, but with all the millions being spent by the Biden campaign, I am yet to see any from the Democrats either, despite the fact that many Caribbean immigrants were excited about the selection of the Vice Presidential Democratic candidate, Kamala Harris and her Jamaican heritage.
There is not a single ad that I have seen to date that asks directly for my vote – not as an independent voter, as an immigrant voter, or as a Caribbean immigrant voter. I heard there is supposedly a Haitian ad in Creole, but I’m not Haitian nor do I speak Creole.
This in a state where Caribbean immigrants are undoubtedly an important swing voting bloc and can make a difference as it was proven in past elections. An estimated 187,000 are from Haiti while almost 100,000 are from Jamaica according to Pew Research. Of course, there is no count of people from other countries, including Guyana, where I was born, The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago, who also make up a large percentage of Caribbean immigrant voters in Florida.
A recent analysis of latest Department of Homeland Security data done by NewsAmericasNow.com, shows that over 1 million Caribbean immigrants became naturalized US citizens over a ten-year period. That is between 2008-2018, making them eligible to vote this Fall.
While little is heard of the Caribbean voting power compared to Hispanics, especially Cubans and Venezuelans, in Broward County, Florida, the West Indian population has nearly tripled in the past 10 years. West Indians comprise nearly half of the county’s 330,000 black population, according to the 2000 Census. In Miami-Dade County, people of Caribbean or largely non-Spanish speaking descent are 35 percent of the 452,000-black population.
The Caribbean nationals in this area come from diverse countries making the inadequacy of the term “Black” to describe persons in this voting bloc even more pronounced, since many of these immigrants are also of Asian heritage or mixed-race ancestries.
Across the state, nearly four of every ten immigrant was born in the Caribbean and call areas like Broward County, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Palm Beach Gardens, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Port Saint Lucie, West Palm Beach, Deerfield Beach, Miami Beach, Kissimmee, Fort Myers, Boca Raton and Sarasota home. Jamaican-Americans hold local office in Lauderdale Lakes, Lauderhill, Southwest Ranches, and Miramar, which is considered the Little Caribbean.
Yet, not a single Caribbean media I know of has gotten an ad buy with a culturally sensitive ad that speaks directly to us as a community or asks for our vote. Not a single Caribbean radio program, Caribbean news site or Caribbean newspaper and not a single Caribbean American influencer speaking to us. This, despite the fact that the reported ad budget for the Biden-Harris campaign is over 200 million.
The candidates themselves, especially Joe Biden and Harris have appeared several times at events targeting Latinos in Florida, and one yesterday for Haitians and Cubans, but not a mention of other Caribbean voters.
The reality is that Caribbean voters cannot simply be dumped into a Black or African American voting bloc and targeted as such. The diversity of the Caribbean’s culture and ethnicities is what sets us apart as distinctive. That coupled with the issues that impact us or which we are largely concerned with, including immigration and our regional security, makes us a distinctive voting bloc that cannot simply be lumped in, ignored and taken for granted!
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow