Tag Archives: Haiti

Einstein: The Negro Question (1946) | On Being

Einstein: The Negro Question (1946) | On Being.

In 1946, Einstein wrote the following with regard to white Americans’ prejudice against Blacks. I believe we need to challenge ourselves today to consider the way in which we think about and treat people who migrate to our society from Haiti — and their children and grandchildren as well.

It would be foolish to despise tradition. But with our growing self-consciousness and increasing intelligence we must begin to control tradition and assume a critical attitude toward it, if human relations are ever to change for the better. We must try to recognize what in our accepted tradition is damaging to our fate and dignity—and shape our lives accordingly.

I believe that whoever tries to think things through honestly will soon recognize how unworthy and even fatal is the traditional bias against Negroes.

What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.

I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed. But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause.

Much of the discussion I hear about “illegal immigrants”, which clothes itself in trappings of patriotism and concern for Bahamian sovereignty, has plenty in common with the racist rhetoric directed by whites against blacks. I long for the day when we can discuss the issue of immigration without using the rhetoric of racism to do so.

Larry Smith on The Alternate Reality of Bahamian Squatter Settlements

This is an issue that needs research, reflection, and discussion, not knee-jerking. Larry Smith starts the ball rolling at Bahama Pundit.

… the deeper we delve into the so-called ‘Haitian problem’, the more we come face to face with ourselves. The squatter settlements that give rise to so much public angst are a clear example of the alternate reality that many Bahamians live in, and we are not the only ones grappling with these issues.

The reality is that squatters include indigenous Bahamians, Haitian-Bahamians, immigrants with work permits and illegal immigrants. But these one-dimensional labels merely mask the complexity of the problem, as the following three examples illustrate.

A 2003 news report on squatters focused on a young man who, although born here, was not a Bahamian because his parents are Haitians. He had never been to Haiti, and though he had applied three times for Bahamian citizenship and spent about $4,500 on paperwork and lawyers, he had nothing to show for his efforts.

A friend of mine knows of a “true-blood Bahamian” who works as a messenger and had a daughter with a Haitian woman. “The daughter was educated here and is hardworking, but has no status. She is confined to the fringes of society because her father can’t be bothered to help her get regularized.”

Then there is the Haitian who has worked here for years and become a permanent resident. “He has several children,” my friend told me. “One son is here on a work permit, a second son went to R M Bailey and appears to be a Bahamian, and a third son just arrived from Haiti and can’t speak English. The second son is intelligent and well-educated, but has no status and is very angry about it.”

These examples put a human face on the problem, and we can multiply them many times throughout our society. The root question is, how do we deal with them? One answer is to deport immigrant children who are born and raised here. Another is to regularize them to become productive members of our society.

The other key point to bear in mind is that squatting is often the only option for low-income people with no collateral or savings who subsist on temporary jobs. They can’t afford the cost of land or housing, so they are forced to rely on irregular arrangements facilitated by Bahamians.

Squatter settlements are the inevitable result.

via The Alternate Reality of Bahamian Squatter Settlements – Bahama Pundit.

A tiny ethnography of the earthquake

I want you to know that, before the earthquake, things in Haiti were normal. Outside Haiti, people only hear the worst — tales that are cherry-picked, tales that are exaggerated, tales that are lies. I want you to understand that there was poverty and oppression and injustice in Port-au-Prince, but there was also banality.

via Salon.com Mobile.

The writer of the above is Laura Wagner, an American PhD candidate in anthropology who was studying in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. She was injured in the quake, which killed at least one of her friends, and she still does not know what happened to the rest of them. Read the article. It gives a far more balanced account of what happened — and what still is happening — than most other writing, which focusses on the sensational, the (mostly foreign) heroics (because of course poor black people are incapable of their own heroism) and the predictable — “looting” and “social breakdown”.

Continue reading A tiny ethnography of the earthquake

The Gaulin Wife: Making Connections

This is not the crux of Helen’s post, but I chose it to inspire people to want to read the whole thing. It’s crucial reading.

I have to remind myself to continue making connections, and to look for the triumphant in the stories of disaster, to look for the survivance in them, for the ways people continue to refuse to be victims. I have to remind myself, because on the screen the stories being told are told with such potent images, of the dead and the dying, of the grieving, of those who have lost, and they are almost always brown skin people. And the people with microphones in front of their faces, telling the stories, and the people behind the camera lenses, making the pictures, are almost always beige, pale skin people. Beige, pale skin people who appear magically in these places of such pain, while they themselves appear untouched, able to leave when they want to, to smile even, in the midst of it all.

I have to remind myself because I am also beige, pale. And though my socialization is a complex thing – I was raised in a Caribbean country; my way of being in the world, my physical sense of relationship to others is both Africanized and Anglicized and both are rooted in my ancestral Greekness, Greeks from islands, Greeks who were peasants from villages and not aristocrats from the cities – I am still a beige person in a racially polarized society and my imagination is at stake. And what I know is our potential for human transformation depends on our ability to imagine.

via The Gaulin Wife: Making Connections.

Peter Hallward, “Securing Disaster in Haiti”

Well worth reposting, reading, and savouring in days to come. Sobering commentary indeed.

Nine days after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010, it’s now clear that the initial phase of the U.S.-led relief operation has conformed to the three fundamental tendencies that have shaped the more general course of the island’s recent history. It has adopted military priorities and strategies. It has sidelined Haiti’s own leaders and government, and ignored the needs of the majority of its people. And it has proceeded in ways that reinforce the already harrowing gap between rich and poor. All three tendencies aren’t just connected, they are mutually reinforcing. These same tendencies will continue to govern the imminent reconstruction effort as well, unless determined political action is taken to counteract them.

via Peter Hallward, “Securing Disaster in Haiti”.

Geoffrey Philp – Two More Ways to Help With Haiti Relief

And you know that I’ll be buying into the first of them for sure!!! Via Geoffrey Philp.

I’ll be making a contribution to Cafe Cocano because it represents some of the things in which I believe: the ability of Caribbean peoples to overcome any situation and that we are responsible for creating the changes we want to see. Unless we (InI) do it for ourselves, nothing will happen.

***

Because I also believe in the power of the Word and that with giving, we can also speak/write/do great good, I’m recommending a site–thanks Randy!– VWA{Poems for Haiti):

VWA: Poems For Haiti was created by Caper Literary Journal as a way to inspire people to think about the tragedy in Haiti. We want people — readers and writers alike — to generate hope through a time that is very dark. We have luxuries many do not, and though some of us cannot help in major ways, sharing your work in the name of their pain and strength is something we can do. VWA, the kreyòl word for voice, aims to turn the pain and inspiration into literary works.

via Two More Ways to Help With Haiti Relief.

The Bahamas & Haitians – WeblogBahamas.com

People who read this blog regularly know that Rick and I rarely agree on anything, and that when we do it’s a cause for commemoration. But there is not one thing in this article with which I take issue.

Here’s just a taste:

There has always been a love hate relationship between Bahamians and Haitians. We love them when they do the physical labour we don’t want to do, but hate them when they start to aspire to do more for themselves.

When we consider the reactions to the government documenting and releasing 119 Haitians from the detention centre here as a result of the earthquake devastation to Port au Prince, Haiti one wonders how we can call ourselves a “Christian” nation.

via The Bahamas & Haitians – WeblogBahamas.com

Go read the whole thing.

How we Bahamians are helping

All right, enough responding to the inappropriate reactions of Bahamians to the Haitian earthquake. You know what the old people say: don’t mind the noise in the market, just mind the price of the fish. So what the fish costing these days?

I thought I’d start a list of things that ordinary Bahamians are doing. As often happens, people involved in doing good are too busy working to make noise, and so it’s easy to get distracted by the more vocal among us and imagine that we Bahamians are not giving or assisting. So I thought I’d make a list of what we are doing. I am absolutely certain that I will miss many people out, so I invite anyone who wants to add to this list. Let’s make it as long as we can. (I’ve got a list over on FB too but let’s push it here to the blog, where it can last for a long long time).

We can start with these:

Use the comment thread to post more info! (one note – please be patient when you post your comment – you need to have had a comment approved for it to show up immediately — if you’re a first-time commenter your comment will be held for moderation till I approve it – but be patient, I will!)

How not to lead a nation

Before I post this, let me say two things. First, I have been informed by a reliable source (one of the editors) that the Tribune was not responsible for writing the article whose headline I slammed; it was an AP story that they re-ran as the lead.

And second, I am trusting that by reposting this I will find someone who will tell me that this is not what my Prime Minister actually said (the emphases are mine).

Ingraham added: “It is not appropriate for us to be collecting goods to send to Haiti because there is no means by which we can get [them] there. The port is in terrible shape. The airport is difficult to navigate. The ground transportation is terrible. The extent to which we in the region can provide assistance in terms of medical support, doctors, nurses, public health, pay for medicine, food, water, whatever it is, we are clearly prepared to do so.”

via The Nassau Guardian Online

Here’s my problem. If this is what he said, the message that our Prime Minister is sending is that it is all right to allow practical impediments get in the way of help. It is OK to let the fact that it’s difficult (not impossible, as Miami has demonstrated by getting Channel 10 news crews in and survivors out, or as Jamaica has demonstrated by flying its PM and the leader of the Opposition in) to get planes and boats into Haiti stop us from giving whatever we can. It’s OK for us, the wealthiest and most fortunate independent nation in our region, to keep our wealth and fortune to ourselves in this time of great need because it’s hard to do something different.

I cannot think of a worse message to be sending to a group of people already hidebound by greed and fear. I hold my leaders responsible for setting standards of behaviour. If this is what he said, our Prime Minister just gave his people license to exercise selfishness, to continue to breed prejudice, to continue to choose greed over generosity, to continue to seek the easiest paths to comfort.

I hold our leaders responsible for the way in which some of us behave. The stands they take influence the attitudes we display; monkey see, monkey do after all. I am calling on all responsible Bahamians in positions of influence and power to behave as they know we should all behave, to encourage us to make every effort to find ways to get to Haiti, to encourage us to give and give and give until it hurts, to ask us to share our wealth a little more, to ask us to give up a little of our comfort and safety to build true community and nurture compassion with our neighbours. I am calling on all talk show hosts to refuse to allow more hate and fear to infect the air waves, on all politicians to think about what is right instead of what is expedient and to model it, to all teachers to model the highest standards for behaviour, to all administrators to exercise fairness and compassion. I am not giving any of these people a free ride any more; real change comes when individuals take risks. From here on in, let us call them out.

O O Christian Bahamas, where’s the Christ in us?

I hardly know how to write about the Haitian earthquake. The situation is worse than any possible imagining. And what is worst for me is this: our Caribbean brethren in Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago are demonstrating far more compassion than we seem to be doing.

Before I go on, let me say that I’m not talking about ordinary people here. The first Bahamian responses I read were on Facebook and Twitter, and they were all one could hope for: expressions of horror and disbelief,  compassion and love, desires and movements to help.

But among the comments are others — the headlines of our foremost newspapers, for instance, which, rather than forcing us Bahamians to shake our deep, deep prejudices against our closest neighbours, against our cousins and brothers and sisters to the south, instead reinforce our prejudices and our fears. “PANIC, LOOTING AND TRIAGE AFTER MAJOR HAITI QUAKE“, screams the Tribune; the Guardian warns, “GOVT BRACES FOR HAITIAN INFLUX“.

Continue reading O O Christian Bahamas, where’s the Christ in us?