The Sunday Gleaner: WESTERN BUREAU, Jamaica – While there will be considerable euphoria and pride in a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris win in the US presidential race, Jamaica-born New York-based political scientist, Diana Cassells, is cautioning Jamaica and the Caribbean about their expectations at this time.
Cassells, in her analysis of the US election, and what the win means for Jamaica and the Caribbean, said at this moment, things on the ground in the United States will take up the bulk of the attention of the new administration.
“We have a series of crises – the COVID crisis, unemployment, student loan, housing – and so a lot of attention will be on bread-and-butter domestic issues as a priority,” she shared with The Sunday Gleaner.
“But I believe that tempering the overarching sort of security crisis, where people of the Caribbean and people of colour live in communities that are over-policed and lacking resources, I do hope, and I am optimistic, that a progressive Biden-Harris administration will begin to address those issues.”
Cassells also hopes that the duo that trounced the controversial Donald Trump at the polls, making history in the process and earning the largest number of votes in a national election, will make good on their plan for immigration reform.
She said, “Because it would lead to some positive net effect for people from the region, who have been in immigration limbo, whether it is DACA, or part of an older migration, where people are yet to adjust their status, so that they can begin to make meaningful calculated contribution to the country they have chosen to migrate to.”
Cassells is suggesting that the number of undocumented Caribbean nationals can only benefit if they are brought out of the shadows.
For her, they become new voters, and active participants in American life. More important, it increases their earning potential, because not having to work in the shadows frees them up to take advantage of job opportunities that are foreclosed to them at this point.
Once that kicks in, she noted, the net effect will see them being able to contribute to their relatives and friends back home, via the remittance pipeline.
But more important for the political scientist, a former student at The University of the West Indies, Mona, the stronger the Caribbean community in the US engages, there is no doubt that with the elevation of Senator Kamala Harris as vice-president, it will redound in terms of Caribbean pride.
“And that should not be missed. It should lead to the incorporation of more Caribbean involvement in local American politics – that is how you begin to shape the agenda in your favour,” said Cassells.
INFLUENCE OF CUBANS
Making reference to the Cubans, who, in spite of the fact that they are only two million in numbers, far fewer than the total gathering of people from the English-speaking Caribbean, she said they have had an outside type of impact on US politics and US foreign policy, and American life.
“The forging of that community is different from the English-speaking community; however, what is not to be lost is the fact that politicians respond to an organised community, and that is when you can begin to force the changes that you need to see in the region,” she noted.
Ray Jones, president and CEO of the Jones Company of America, concurs, but went even further, stating that he believes the change in executive political leadership in America opens the door to great possibilities of expansions, improvement and increase for Jamaica and the Caribbean as a whole.
Especially, but not limited to, areas of business, economic development, education, support for rural farmers, commercialising innovations and, most important, renewable energy and so much more for Jamaica and those living throughout the Caribbean.
Jones, whose mother is Jamaican, said Biden has a past history of having shown interest and having had discussions regarding the Caribbean and Latin America.
“And so the president-elect and vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris, of Jamaican heritage, have created the best time ever in history for opportunity,” he said.
Jones strongly recommends that Prime Minister Andrew Holness and members of the Jamaican private sector immediately begin working in solidarity to develop a comprehensive plan and strategy to work with the new US administration to increase exporting products to the United States, grow manufacturing and grow the middle class by luring US companies to Jamaica.
‘TAN A YUH YAAD’
Donna Kassin, who has been very critical of the Trump administration, is not as hopeful.
She argues that Jamaica and the rest of the region must become aware of the power of disinformation and religious indoctrination taking place throughout the world, “from which Jamaica has not been exempt. Trump may be defeated, but he will not be the last to arise as some quasi-messianic figure battling the so-called deep state, whose rivals must be depicted as criminals and illegitimate, and a free press the ‘enemy of the state’. This is the influence of Q-Anon worldwide. America isn’t their only target”.
Kassin, who is about to release her book ‘Everything Crash: The Search and Rescue Mission for America’, did not mince her words referencing the American interference in Jamaica’s politics in the 1980s and the resulting economic destabilisation, which has taken 40 years to overcome.
“What is happening in America could be seen as karma at work,” she reasoned.
She pointed out that Biden will have no magic wand to correct the damage inflicted by Donald Trump.
“America’s economy is in shambles. Immigrants may want to consider that the ‘land of milk and honey’ they once envisioned is now infested with ugly maggots. ‘Tan a yuh yaad’ has never been more meaningful,” Kassin declared.
However, political commentator Joe Watkins, the son of an immigrant mother from Antigua, who moved to the USA with the hope of building a dream for her children and family, argues that the American dream should never be dashed.
“There were lots of elected Republicans who felt that America should be the beacon of the free world, people are welcomed, and that hope that what America is will certainly return,” he stated, adding that this election was bigger than Republican and Democrat politics.
“This is what America is supposed to be.”
For Watkins, the plus for the region, and Jamaica in particular, is having for the first time a US vice-president with West Indian blood.
“Kamala Harris has family from Jamaica, and that should count for something. I am sensing that there will be more openness if representatives from the region seek the new VP’s help in regard to aid, and other things. I would think they would find a sympathetic ear,” he noted.