Caribbean Americans – The Dismissed Minority

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CaribWorldNews, Fri. May 8, 2009: The comments are harsh and the reality like a cold water bath on an icy winter day. `We deal with diverse groups on the Census form and Caribbean is not on the form last time we checked;` `What numbers are we talking of here? What’s the spending power of this Caribbean market you talk of? We need real facts.`

Or: `Well the Caribbean market is too small according to the Census numbers we see, so we can’t justify this buy.` Here’s another: `Caribbeans are not really African Americans or Asian Americans so we can’t count them in our budget. Our clients are very specific.` And what of this one? `We know they throw a good party but do they really have spending power we can justify to our clients? They’re big on that and we have to make sure we justify every dollar.`

Welcome to the life of a Caribbean business or organization founder seeking funding, sponsorship or advertising dollars among America`s web of investors, mainstream corporations who claim to target diverse groups; advertising agencies and government. The comments can leave you depressed, feeling completely dismissed and non-existent, or frustrated and seeking hard to find another line of work or simply pretend you’re no longer Caribbean.

Check any diversity supplier corporate program and Caribbean is not a group that even shows up on the radar. The same is true for the many advertising and marketing agencies which now tout the diverse markets as their focus.

Allied Media, which focuses on a host of diverse markets, has no mention of Caribbean Americans, but Arab Americans and even Persians did make the cut.  
Diversity Inc., a magazine and portal that deals supposedly with all things diversity, has no mention of the Caribbean bloc or Caribbean Americans either. African, however, is fully explained in their style guide while their diversity factoids offers facts on all groups on the Census form.

Neither is the Caribbean bloc even mentioned on the New America Media list of `news by ethnicities.` And for another year, the U.S. Census is refraining from recognizing the much touted Caribbean Heritage Month, which many Caribbeans saw as a major achievement.
Nothing about the month is even mentioned in the long list of months and holidays that will be recognized by the Bureau’s fact for features this year. Why? The Census has been clear in the past – they have few accurate numbers to do any fact for features on this bloc. The result is that unlike other nationally celebrated months, CAHM is only celebrated by Caribbeans. None of the media stream media bother and certainly neither do corporations, who all pay tribute to other months, whether Black History, Asian American Heritage on Hispanic Heritage.

Yet in the Caribbean American community, there is no denying the level of self-importance exuded by many. There are a seemingly endless list of organizations, `leaders,` parties and events.

Many are quick to pose for photo-ops with the influencers, whether politically connected or otherwise, be thrilled to be in their presence and shake their hands and wildly hand over their votes without so much as a commitment to an issue that matters. Yet few realize that in the overall mainstream of America, the Caribbean bloc matters not.

It matters not their historical contributions, nor the many who ascend to higher offices. And certainly, the many pompous, self-important leaders who dot the U.S. landscape, puffed up and arrogant in their little corners of the community, also matter not.

They are not even a blip on the radar and while Cuban Americans, despite being about a million only in Miami are respected and lauded, the Caribbean group that has been living in the U.S. since slavery, is unimportant, dismissed and invisible.

For all those who question the Yvette Clarke bill, lobbied for by CARIBID;, try to lobby against it or dismiss it as something that will never become law, wake up and realize that in the halls of power and wealth, the Caribbean as a bloc is unimportant and invisible, which makes each and every one of us non-existent and unimportant as well – whether we live in the U.S. or the Caribbean region.

So while many may host dinners, honor so-called influencers, pose for photos, run around acting as all-important group heads or party as if it`s 1999, the stark reality is without numbers you don’t exist and without numbers counted by the U.S. Census, your presence in the U.S. is limited to your little pond in which you and you alone believe you’re important and matter. 

The reality is until we can accurately increase our number count as people of Caribbean ancestry and start showing mass that corporations and politicians alike see on paper, we will continue to be dismissed and ignored as the people who can party hearty, but whose potential beyond that is inconsequential.

It is why CARIB ID is so important to the lives of all Caribbean nationals across the U.S. and in the region; why all must fill out the Census form in 2010 and write in their country of origin under question 8 and why the millions living across the U.S. must lobby for H.R. 2071 to become law and not see it as a tool meant to divide but a tool to count us accurately while also growing the black or Asian ethnic groups that we predominate.

We have two choices – continue down the blind path we’re on that leads nowhere, continue to have our votes taken for granted, continue to struggle in our businesses and organizations and complain about lack of sponsorship and funding, or stand up and be truly counted. – Commentary By Felicia Persaud

EDITOR’S NOTE: Felicia Persaud is the founder of CaribID and publisher of CaribWorldNews.

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