Why My Non-American Relatives Love MAGA

It’s time for some early spring cleaning

Jeremy Helligar
LEVEL
Published in
5 min readFeb 20, 2021

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Photo: jidaley/pixabay.com/FreeIMG

I was only four years old when my family left the U.S. Virgin Islands to pursue the mainland American dream in Florida. Since then, I’ve been back just once, for my cousin’s wedding in 1994. I’m sure it was a beautiful ceremony, but I don’t recall much about the nuptials other than something the bride’s father, my uncle, said during his reception speech. He warned the local guests — particularly the ones prominent in business, as he was — not to allow White people to disrupt the Black heritage of the island of St. Thomas and infringe upon their Black success. The future of the predominantly Black island depended on it.

I recently thought about my uncle’s words while watching the Netflix documentary series Amend: The Fight for America, which featured decades-old newsreels of White political leaders and civilians pleading with their constituents and communities to uphold segregation. As they saw it, the future of their majority-White country depended on it. I’ve grown accustomed to sentiments of White supremacy — but until my uncle’s speech, I’d never heard it in reverse.

Back on the U.S. mainland, Black people had no collective upper hand for protection and still don’t. Living in a U.S. territory with a Black majority and a largely Black-run government had created a different racial dynamic for my uncle, one that seems to have influenced the political ideology of so many of my Caribbean relatives. It’s especially apparent in the non-American relatives and has led a disturbingly large number of them to Team Trump.

Yesterday, my sister told me about a tense phone conversation our mother had with her baby brother, who lives on the island of St. Martin. They talked about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home Covid-19 controversy, and my uncle insisted that Cuomo needs to be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

They can afford to overlook the racism — it’s not really their problem.

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Jeremy Helligar
LEVEL
Writer for

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj