Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Your Black Politics: Black Immigrants See Personal Triumphs in Obama

MIAMI - There is no box on U.S. Census forms that accurately describes Ray Gongora.

The Belize-born naturalized citizen grew up in an English-speaking Central American country, a former British colony where African slaves were once sold. He emigrated in 1986 to a country that deemed him Hispanic based on the geography of his birth.

"I identify myself as 'other'," Gongora says. "I am black, so to speak - a brown-skinned Caribbean person. You cannot identify yourself as a black American because our cultures are so totally different."
He doesn't worry about not being counted, though. Not with President-elect Barack Obama set to take office Jan. 20.

Obama, the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, will be the first black U.S. president, fulfilling the dreams and promise of the civil rights era. But for black immigrants and their children, Obama's swearing-in realizes other dreams.

In Obama, they recognize their own parents, who saw themselves as outsiders, and the children they raised to believe that education was the road to success. His election superseded not only color, but also economics, family divisions, government failures and nagging questions of identity.

"It's an individual accomplishment for each of us," Gongora said.

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