By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
And for once let's get our act together: In response to Rebecca Wakefield's story "Little Goes a Long Way" (November 7), it's not surprising to me that members of the Hispanic community aren't coming out in droves to protest the treatment of the Haitian refugees who landed here October 29. Hispanics, particularly Cubans, have always been concerned with their own groups.
But if any group could and should show up in support of the Haitians, it would be the Cubans. Haitians and Cubans have something important in common: Both have risked their lives and the lives of their families to reach the United States in hopes of making a better life for themselves. I couldn't care less what the reasons are.
To detain one group of people while another goes free to be with their families and search for work is pure and blatant racism. It has been more than a week since this incident took place and there have been no sightings of our prominent Hispanic leaders. Where is Alex Penelas? Where is Manny Diaz? Why is everyone acting like they don't know what's going on in Haiti? I'm not blaming any one particular group, but we can all do better.
Hispanics: I have to give this group ultimate credit because they are really militant when it comes to getting what they believe is right. My only thing is that if you truly want to build bridges within the community, then stand up for everyone, don't just protest when your group has been wronged.
We all know that the Cubans are the most powerful group in Miami-Dade County. I just get the eerie feeling that Cubans couldn't care less, and that their issues (read: Castro) are deeper than any other group. They shouldn't act like they're blind to the terrible situation plaguing the Haitian people. They too are being oppressed and persecuted. They too are being killed by evil dictators. And they have no jobs. I mean that literally -- there are no jobs in Haiti for average citizens.
After the Elian incident, Cubans claimed they felt alienated by other racial and ethnic groups. They felt we abandoned them in their time of need. The Elian incident tore our community apart. It's still dangerous to mention those times in the workplace without getting evil looks. We had town-hall meetings and community events for months afterward. But today little has changed. Now that Haitian refugees are going through this great injustice, it would be a perfect opportunity for Cubans to show everyone why they are the leaders of Miami-Dade County. But they probably won't.
African Americans: Yes, this group could do much, much more in the effort to have Haitians receive equal treatment in Miami-Dade County. There have been few African-American organizations or leaders who have shown concern for what transpired on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Carrie Meek and son Kendrick were around, as they usually are, and there was a mention of Rev. Al Sharpton trying to see the refugees. But that was about it.
The importance of getting black Americans to take responsibility is that, although it's not mentioned often, relations between the two groups are not exactly peachy. We could definitely do a better job responding to each other. One reason for the animosity is a lack of trust. Most Haitians try to avoid African Americans for one reason or another. I also notice that many Haitians, especially the older group, rely on stereotypes. African Americans take offense at this, and basically assume a me-against-the-world attitude.
Another reason for distrust is that some African Americans claim Haitian immigrants come here and take all the jobs. When I hear someone say that, I think to myself this is just the sorriest excuse an African American can come up with for being unemployed. Most African Americans are hard-working, God-fearing people, but there are very few activists in Miami-Dade County: Bishop Victor Curry, the previously mentioned Meeks, and sometimes Willie Sims. There are other well-respected blacks in Miami, but not many. The lack of unity between Haitians and black Americans is not a good situation for either of us. We can use each other. Hell, we are all black first. Why can't we unite for a new majority in Miami? We are all brothers and sisters under God, and we need to lean on each other to overcome injustices we have experienced in the past and continue to experience.
Haitian Americans: Whether it is through naturalization or Americans born to Haitian parents, this is by far the most important and least active group. Being Haitian myself, I find dealing with this group to be very difficult, to say the least. There is a great lack of interest among Haitians to join organizations, and there is also very little unity within the Haitian community. Trust me, I grew up in a Haitian household, where there was no community interest whatsoever. Work from sunrise to sunset Monday through Friday. Saturday it's ti mache(the flea market), and Sunday all day at church.
My thinking is that when Haitians get here to the States, they are very frightened and keep to themselves. Most have little or no education and struggle to keep a roof over their family's heads. Most Haitians avoid anything that would stir up controversy and bring attention or the threat of harm toward them. This is why it's so important for young Haitian Americans to become active and militant in their community. Although mobilizing Haitians has always been a problem, it can be done.