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.
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 fate of migrants is the same – Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, does it matter?
Laila Lalami linked to this photo-essay taken in Italy of North African migrants.
The similarities between the essay and what we see here with Haitian migrants are striking.
I’ve been carrying around Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits for days now, trying to make time for it. I will keep you posted.
Thanks to Erica James at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, I was led to seek out this series on the statelessness of children of Haitian parentage growing up in The Bahamas. You’ll find it on YouTube. I don’t know who made the movies, but every Bahamian should watch them — especially those Bahamians who view their society through the lenses of “Us” and “Them”.
Can You See Us? Part I
Can You See Us? Part II
Can You See Us? Part III
I’ll embed the videos later.
Edit: The video was made by the Bahamas Human Rights Network. Kudos.