The West, Not Hurricane Matthew, Is the True Devastator of Haiti
HAITI IS IN THE NEWS AGAIN as she, ill-prepared and incapacitated yet, deals with the ravaging affects of another natural disaster. My socially-conscious and activist friends on Facebook have been doing their best to raise awareness and direct people to ethical resources so as to help Haiti amidst a rising death toll and fear of another deadly outbreak of Cholera (which the UN just recently admitted their role in) in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. They have been sharing images that detail the devastation, forcing us to look at it, to care, to act.
But honestly, I feel we are too at ease with sharing the pictures of a hurricane in the shape of a skull headed towards the country, or of a decimated shanty with its rusted roof blown off, or of dead bodies strewn about, or of hungry and desperate people looking humbly into the camera, or of streets filled with crumbling houses and garbage, or arguing among ourselves over whether Haitians eat all those trees they cut down, rather than honestly connecting the dots between this devastation and the last: how Haiti hasn’t really truly recovered from the earthquake, or how the money that was supposed to go to help them, whether it was raised by a politician’s foundation or an international aid group, actually didn’t.
We revel in images of a bleak, broken, infantile Haiti because we know and care for no other, nor for the root cause of both the content of the images and our gaze, because it is easier to do that than to look for blame among ourselves.
I want more than just pictures of Haiti after the Hurricane. I want to hear stories on France’s media and their silence, on the lack of a Haitian flag filter offered by Facebook, of the west’s success and splendor at the expense of Haitians and the others they have colonized, of their apathy, instead of the dead bodies of Haitians. I want to see who is really responsible for this disaster, because it isn’t just nature.
Since acquiring her freedom and becoming the first free Black Republic in 1804, Haiti has been intentionally ostracized and left impoverished after the wealth and labor of her land and people were mined to exhaustion, both during slavery and afterwards in the form of payment to France. France owes reparations and for a bit seemed as if they would pay it back, but changed their tune, making excuses that no amount of reparations could heal the wounds of the past and that they wished to heal a “moral”, but not “finacial” debt. As if those are different from one another, as if the immorality of slavery wasn’t manifested explicitly through capitalism and financial dominance and exploitation.
To be sure, more than just France is to blame here. We must confront our own inconsistencies and admit their intrinsic bias and racism. We must admit that Haiti stays cruelly targeted. It is punished and stigmatized for being Black and for committing an act of treason against whiteness and white supremacy, even by other Black countries and peoples in the Caribbean like my parents’ homeland next door. The exploitation of aid, lack of infrastructure and our shared inhumanity towards Haiti and the conditions of the country and its people are no accident.
I want to see hash tags like “#JeSuisHaiti” and “#JeSuisColonialisme” trending. I want to see nations, organizations and politicians who have robbed Haiti — historically and up until the present day — called out, named and held responsible, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and financially. I want to see the voices and narratives of Haitian people, organizers, activists and community members elevated and heard as they speak to the unrest and turmoil, international and domestic, that they have endured due to these circumstances.
Haitians might have physically passed in this hurricane, but for hundreds of years of abuse and negligence, it is us around her who are truly dead inside.
This post was originally published on The Bullshit.ist