As the American political establishment begins coming to grips with the reality of four years of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, Caribbean-American legislators are still stunned, like many others in New York, across the country and globally, over Trump’s unexpected triumph in the U.S. Presidential Election last Tuesday.
“As I gathered my thoughts, I realized that now, adding salt to the deep wound, are those trying to downplay the importance racism, xenophobia, jingoism, and misogyny played in this election — the very things that so many of us were consistently told weren’t a part of America. And too many deny the impact it has on continually disenfranchising communities,” said New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants.
“Yet, all the ideas we are consistently told aren’t a part of America propelled a man to the presidency of the country of my birth,” added Williams, the Democratic Deputy Leader of the Council, who presents the largely Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “He did so stripping out all the usual code words and phrases, leaving and encouraging unabashed bigotry, using patriotism as an accelerant. And the party that so often said they didn’t believe in these things, while pushing policies that said different, was rewarded with increased power for creating this candidate.”
Williams expressed dismay that America is headed for the Presidency of Trump, “a billionaire who said the most vile and bigoted things.
“So much so, he was officially endorsed by the Klu Klu Klan, a man whose candidacy was described by the head of the American Nazi Party as a ‘wonderful opportunity that may never come again,’ ” said Williams, adding, however, that Trump’s election “didn’t happen accidentally, but with zeal and excitement from half of this country.”
Throughout the campaign, tension had run high among a broad group of people, including Caribbean-Americans and other groups who had felt ostracized by Trump’s racially charged rhetoric.
But Williams said he took “solace in history, showing us that ‘this, too, shall pass.’ This is the expected backlash for progress being made.”
He said that, “after a period of lament, those of good consciousness will step forward and organize to turn the ship back,” stating that he hopes New York City will be a beacon for that fight.
“Unfortunately, it will not happen without tremendous damage to real human beings, families and communities,” Williams lamented. “How much damage depends on how quickly we are honest with what happened on Nov. 8, and why it happened?
New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, said “many of us did not expect the outcome that we received” on Tuesday.
“Many of us thought that we would be making history by voting in the first female president of the United States, and that we would be moving forward — stronger together,” said Bichotte, the first Haitian American in New York City to be elected to the New York State Assembly.
“I have observed varied responses to the outcome — some who are angry, some who are saddened and depressed, and those who are ready to begin to go to work on strategies for 2018 and 2020,” said the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn.
In reiterating President Obama’s views when he addressed America on Thursday about the country’s peaceful transition of power, Bichotte said: “Regardless of our political preference, we are all Americans, and we need to come together as a country.
“There are competing visions for what will make America great, and one aspect of our democracy is that we can voice our discontentment and fight for what our vision is,” she said. “We are, indeed, stronger together, and this is how we must proceed. As a member of the Assembly of this great State, I will continue to be committed to doing my part in bettering the welfare of our neighborhoods, our communities, our state, and our country.”
Bichotte’s State Assembly colleague, Jamaican-born Nick Perry, who represents the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, while expressing disappointment over the outcome of the election, said it was the Democratic Party’s race to win.
“In some parts of the country, we failed to get out the votes in the African-American communities,” Perry told Caribbean Life Friday night. “Even in New York, we did not go out [to vote] as we should.”
Perry said the consequences of Trump’s victory are “immeasurable,” adding that his triumph is unbelievable, but it is what it is.
“The fact that Donald Trump is the President-Elect, we have to live with that,” he said. “Let’s hope for a surprise — that Donald Trump can actually be a very good person.
“Whether or not you like Donald Trump, you have to accept him, even as deplorable as he was in the campaign,” Perry added. “But you cannot hope for a failing president, because all of us will be affected. Our Founding Fathers did make provisions for checks and balances; no one man can destroy America.
“We have to pray that he does good things, because failure at the presidency hurts all American,” he continued.
Like many New Yorkers, Mayor Bill DeBlasio, whose wife, Chirlane McCray, traces her roots to Barbados and St. Lucia, said he was deeply disappointed to learn of Donald Trump’s victory Tuesday night.
“And as I’ve talked to many of you over the past day and a half, I understand your fears, and that the results have shaken your faith,” said the mayor in an email message to supporters. “The work of democracy and building a more just and equitable society must continue long after Election Day. I am glad that we are in that fight together.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, whose borough is dubbed “the Caribbean capital of America,” said the United States is “defined by so many things,” including its “commitment to a peaceful transition of power — that is an indispensable hallmark of democracy.”
He applauded everyone who exercised their valued right to vote in Tuesday’s election, and asked all to get engaged in the weeks and months ahead in the continued work that goes beyond campaign seasons — work to make all of our communities safer places, where every one of us is able to raise healthy children and families.
“That is a shared mission around which every Brooklynite, New Yorker, and American can unite,” Adams said.