Hurricane Matthew is another reminder how disposable my body can be. The impact of Matthew on Haiti reminds me that black bodies are still disposable. The crises after the wake of Hurricane Matthew should not be viewed as the misfortune of the Haitian people, we need to start calling it how it is. Many people wonder why Haiti is so poor. I plan on getting straight to the point Haiti is poor because of Western imperialism and anti-blackness. The discourse of race and economic oppression is implicit in the conditions of Haiti today.
I was born on the island of Haiti and migrated to the United States when I was three years old. I still have family in Haiti and because of the tumultuous nature of the country I fear for my family in Haiti. Sometimes I am afraid to pick up the phone when my parents call because of fear that I may have lost someone close to me. When Matthew happened I just thought it was just another hurricane that passed through Haiti. It was not until I heard the death toll that I started panicking. I called my parents to see if everything was okay back home. My family was lucky they were able to move inland before the Matthew destroyed the coastline of the country. Ninety percent of the South was destroyed and fear of cholera and food scarcity is now a concern for the locals and health experts on the ground. Natural disasters do not affect us the same way many third world countries suffer, experiencing great casualties at the hands of natural disasters. I hate to say this but my family in Haiti is disposable, just like my body in America. Being black to some people carries a mark of outsider and one of the most abject creatures. That’s why our communities, because of systematic exclusion and genocide, are off to the peripheries where some of the worst calamities take place.
In 1804, Haiti became the first black republic in the New World. As the first black slave army to rebel against colonist and win, that was major news. With a black state in existence, many countries in the old world—France, England and Portugal—saw the newly-freed Haitians as a threat to slavery in the New World. They feared that the news of the first black republic would ignite slave rebellions in North America and other Caribbean colonies. In order to stop that from happening the western countries introduced economic embargos to Haiti. Haiti was not allowed to trade with any other country and was forced to pay debt to France which weakened the economy. The imperialism and suppression did not stop there. In 1915 The United States used military forces to invade Haiti. This was the United States’ way of taking control over the regime because it was unstable. Prominent Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat recounts the lasting effects of that occupation in an article in The New York Times. In her article “The Long Legacy of Occupation in Haiti”, Danticat talks about the Massacre of La Cayes and American interest in the country. In this article Danticat argues how the United Sates wanted to make Haiti a de-facto colony in the first place.
The 1915 Occupation of Haiti was intended to strengthen America’s dominance over the country and weaken French and German influence.
The Western world doomed Haiti to damnation. The cholera epidemic that was brought to Haiti, which started in my home town, was introduced by the United Nation. HIV was introduced through sex tourism and fetishization of black bodies. Haiti is a perfect example of how very powerful nations have exploited so much of periphery nations. Haiti is now known as the Republic of NGOs, because NGOs with competing interests along with missionaries have monopolized the feeble country.
Being the first black nation-state in a world dominated by racist Western states at that point was close to impossible. Haiti is a subject of anti-black violence on the national scale. Their very act to resist a white supremacist colonial order is the very reason why Haiti is in this position, because they dared to dream of freedom. The Island of Hispaniola—Haiti and Dominican Republic—has been constructed in that oppositional light, which helps explain the Haitian-Dominican conflict, where forced deportation and the genocide of Haitians is taking place. The large numbers of casualties in the wake of the earthquake and Hurricane Matthew should not be blamed on just Matthew. Blame Western imperialism for crippling the Haitian economy. Imperialism led to poor heath, poor building infrastructure and no schooling. Scholars such as Paul Farmers talk about how Haitians are dying from what he calls “stupid deaths,” which is the large number of Haitian deaths from diseases that could be cured or prevented but, for a lack of resources and access, cannot.
Anti-blackness and imperialism is implicit in the conditions of Haiti. This is for all the white humanitarians, Haitians and those that are anti-imperialist to call it how it is. The history is there, the facts are there, we need to start calling anti-blackness when we see it. Just like America needs to admit that structurally and culturally the nation is built on anti-blackness. In my Economic Anthropology class, my professor made an interesting point. We are not isolated from the economic sphere, human activity drives the economy.
The people that drive the economy have their own dominant set of beliefs that dominate the world and we live in a world where anti-blackness and the accumulation of wealth are dominant and powerful ideologies. These ideologies affect others in very negative ways In Haiti‘s case the natural disaster is the calamity of the now poor orphan children waiting to be taken from their land. So stop pretending Haiti is poor out of misfortune and call how it is.