High expectations of Caribbean Americans from Biden-Harris administration

By Albert Baldeo 

America has a new administration. Like all other immigrant communities, Guyanese-Americans and other communities of color, too, have 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.

Our expectations are on the rise more so after 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 can the Guyanese and Caribbean communities hope after they resoundingly voted for change? What issues would we like the Biden administration to prioritize?

We have paid our dues in all areas of American life, as taxpayers, voters, immigrants, US citizens, professionals, publishers, teachers, workers, laborers, day care, and diplomats. Indeed, 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 were pioneering and a forerunner for several “new Americans” being elected today. This has now taken root, and gives us all voice 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 office holders. Our journey, which began with small steps, has entrenched us all in American life, and must continue!

There has been an unconscionable disparity in the COVID vaccine distribution, which has shortchanged minority communities, including the Guyanese, spread in Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park and Ozone Park (“Little Guyana”). This is reflective of the systemic barriers Caribbean-Americans and other minorities face.  

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. 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.

From the Biden-Harris administration, we also wish to see more positive changes and improvements, especially in immigration, justice system, civil rights and labor laws. The roll back of anti-immigrant measures from the previous administration has been heartening. 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 unionize, 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.

America must also improve relations with the Caribbean, making it a powerful ally by fighting back against the bullying tactics of Venezuela to seize and occupy two-thirds of Guyana’s oil rich territory, and in eradicating the drug trade

At this year’s Redistricting, we demand the end of the gerrymandering of city, state and congressional seats, which has suppressed our communities and stifled 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 diluting our power.

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.

Albert Baldeo is a community activist, civil rights advocate, and President of the Baldeo Foundation and Civil Rights Center.  

The views expressed in Op Eds are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times

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