Haiti in Context: History
Note: This is a Partner Post to Haiti in Context: Voices. Please check out both. They represent some of the best information I’ve seen on Haiti that’s emerged over the past few days.
It has been a tough 4 days for Haiti and its Diaspora but from struggle emerges strength. I first want to say I am every renewed by the way I’ve seen folks in my own personal network and internationally begin to pull together for Haiti. I am clear that what we are doing now is small and late, but there is nothing like watching community form before your eyes and working together. Political differences become supplanted in the midst of crisis and when heavy lifting is occurring. A number of people have reached out to me regarding Haiti and the context surrounding the country that would allow an earthquake to do so much damage. In reality, like most “natural disasters” there are very human causes that lead to such catastrophic consequences. I have assembled some of the best writing I’ve seen on the context and figured I’d let you read the experts words moreso than mine.
Alternet covers the emergence of Haiti and the deep connections between the United States, Haiti and the globe:
However, more than two centuries ago, Haiti represented one of the most important neighbors of the new American Republic and played a central role in enabling the United States to expand westward. If not for Haiti, the course of U.S. history could have been very different, with the United States possibly never expanding much beyond the Appalachian Mountains.
The Socialist Worker has a good article on the policies that helped produces deep issues of political and economic infrastructure.
“The media coverage of the earthquake is marked by an almost complete divorce of the disaster from the social and political history of Haiti,” Canadian Haiti solidarity activist Yves Engler said in an interview. “They repeatedly state that the government was completely unprepared to deal with the crisis. This is true. But they left out why.”
To understand these facts, we have to look at a second fault line–U.S. imperial policy toward Haiti. The U.S. government, the UN, and other powers have aided the Haitian elite in subjecting the country to neoliberal economic plans that have impoverished the masses, deforested the land, wrecked the infrastructure and incapacitated the government.
Democracy Now features a good discussion of how US Policy has shaped the “underdeveloped” state that Haiti was in prior to the Earthquake
And they got there because they or their parents or grandparents were pushed out of Haiti’s countryside, where most Haitians used to live. And they were pushed out of there by policies thirty years ago, when it was decided by the international experts that Haiti’s economic salvation lay in assembly manufacture plants. And in order to advance that, it was decided that Haiti needed to have a captive labor force in the cities. So a whole bunch of aid policies, trade policies and political policies were implemented, designed to move people from the countryside to places like Martissant and the hills—hillsides that we’ve seen in those photos.
Watch the video here or read the transcript beneath the video.
Make sure to check out the piece in the UK Guardian by Peter Hallward on OUR ROLE in the creation of the Haiti we know today. And the interview on Democracy Now with Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica, who explains the sick irony in the appeal to George Bush for assistance.
I certainly acknowledge there is a lot to read and watch there but while the media concentrates on framing this as a unconscionable “natural disaster” as if Haiti is perpetually “bad luck” there needs to be a deeper conversation about Ayiti (Haiti) and her people. The strength and resilience that formed Haiti will be what allow it to return to being the Pearl of the liberated African Diaspora. Please read the partner post to this Haiti in Context: Voices which capture the voices of the people.
*please pardon me for not citing where all these pieces came from. Folks have forwarded me so many things. Charge it to my head not my heart.