As a kid, I had it all wrong. So many people around me at various times just didn’t look like the Indians of the Americas. There were relatives by marriage from Barbados and Jamaica, plus friends and neighbors from Antigua, Nevis, the Bahamas and other islands, all of whom referred to themselves as West Indians.
I kept quiet, but remained puzzled for a long time. People I knew from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic never said they were West Indians, though, which I found to be quite interesting. All of these island people ranged in skin color from black to just about so-called white. So, like me, they were all people of African descent. (We were called Negroes then.)
Labor Day was special in the Harlem of my youth. The “West Indian Day Parade” would last for four hours on Seventh Avenue in Harlem, complete with all kinds of rhythmic music ensembles, floats and artistically costumed dancers. Islanders and their friends would party late into the night.
It is no secret that white explorers wanted to get to India by going west. That is how they “discovered” these islands and called them the West Indies as a group. They named each island: Jamaica, Barbados and so on. Europeans enacted genocide upon the native populations they found on the islands and imported black slaves, mainly from West Africa, to develop plantations – especially to cultivate the land, plant, raise, and harvest sugar cane.
Actually, it is at once odd and a shame — at least from my perspective — that African descendants who are ethnically far removed from Indians of any kind would accept being called “West Indians.” All blacks throughout the Americas are Africans. There is absolutely no other truth! Since slavery, blacks here in the United States of America were called “Negroes,” and it took a long and protracted struggle to end the use of this term.
We also know that because of the Trans-Atlantic African Slave Trade, significant numbers of Africans were worked in the various islands before being sold to sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations throughout the southern United States. Most often, this occurred after families were established among slave populations, only to be torn apart as family members were sold far from each other, never to be seen again.
Therefore, throughout the western hemisphere in particular, people of African descent who may be called African American, black, West Indian, Negro or whatever, have no inkling of blood relations, for the most part, past maybe four generations. That may be why black people suffer from sickle- cell anemia. Unknowingly, blood relations have met, married and had children together.
A bloodline in Jamaica may have originated in Guinea, West Africa for example, and may have family members sold in Alabama, Cuba, Haiti and Virginia. Several generations later, by happenstance, a Jamaican from that bloodline hooks up with a Cuban from that same bloodline. After more than 400 years, from a base of millions of slaves, don’t tell me it hasn’t happened!
So let’s cut the crap, brothers and sisters, and get to work on some transformation, because there really is no schism. Here’s the skinny: Although blacks in the islands were suppressed, they were and are in the majority. This condition under colonialism gave them a different feeling.
Yet islanders – like Africans who make up the majority in their respective countries in the Motherland – have not broken the chains of economic bondage. Economic neo-colonialism, then, is a reality that pushes so much of the black “talented tenth” to the U. S. and England.
U. S. blacks had to deal with chattel slavery as a minority, and after fighting on both sides in the Civil War, were freed from slavery and legislated into serfdom, i.e., mostly re-enslavement. In addition, blacks suffered scientific and medical experimentation and bouts of genocide and eugenics.
During this period, black people were denied basic human rights, and to this very day, are hunted by law enforcement as if they are wild hogs.
So, what do you say? Can we get together and deal with organizing for some political and economic power here in the U. S. A., and also throughout the Caribbean and Africa?