Thursday, February 4, 2010

Black History Month: A Focus on Haiti

In honour of the fact that it is Black History Month, I wanted to highlight a couple of quotes from a very powerful article I recently read by Shannon Joyce Prince on Racialicious, called "Why Haiti Matters: Barack Obama and the Larger Discourse on Haiti." Ms. Prince hits on so many important points about what's going on politically and economically on that part of the island, and puts it all squarely within a historical framework. And since it is Black History Month, in my view, her essay points to exactly the kinds of things we should be reflecting on, in addition to award winners and the heroes of the past. In Haiti, there are heroes RIGHT NOW who are not winning any awards, and are looking for solidarity, for hope, and for those who can, to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their struggle...
Says Ms. Prince: "Let’s be clear, if you’re running a race I repeatedly trip you, it’s a bit rich for me to claim you’re “progress-resistant”[...] If I break in your house and steal all your possessions, it would be inaccurate for someone to say that your house is empty because you’re simply poor instead of that you’ve been robbed. If I repeatedly burglarize your house because I’m stronger and it profits me and you can’t fight back, I have no grounds to wonder what innate failing you have that leads to your house being perpetually empty. Nor can I legitimately tell others that if they want to help you have a furnished house they should ignore my past and continued plundering and focus on changing what’s allegedly wrong with you. If I regularly rob you, and those robberies are a matter of public record, it would be silly, to say the least, for your neighbors to wonder, perplexedly, why you don’t have any furniture. If I steal a fortune from you and then give you pennies, it’s ridiculous for me to claim that I’m giving you aid."

and this:

"We are responsible for overwhelming the television programs, newspapers, internet websites, and other forms of media that twist the story of Haiti with letters of protest and correction until the tale of the island is accurately told. We are responsible for sending resources to Haiti responsibly – and recognizing such transfers of resources as small payments on a very large debt – not aid. We are responsible for standing in watchful solidarity with Haiti as governments and investors seek to profit from its misery. It is not for our nation to tell Haiti what it should become – Haiti has never had a poverty of vision. We are responsible for helping the dream of those tortured and daring slaves who attained an improbable freedom, that dream that now belongs to the descendants of those slaves who elected a humble priest as president, to come true. At a time when the powerful will suggest that further domination of Haiti will actually mediate the damage that First World domination of Haiti has heretofore caused, we are responsible for ensuring respect for the nation’s sovereignty and dignity. Haiti is bravery and resistance and majesty and strength. That’s why Haiti matters."

The entire essay is powerful and illuminating. Go read it.

1 comment:

April (BooksandWine) said...

Those are some powerful quotes. I like that she is highlighting the exploitation of the impoverished by more powerful nations, it makes those Hatians who are courageous throughout their troubles all the more heroic. I also like that she isn't looking at history through rose-tinted glasses but reality.

Thanks for pointing the essay out!

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