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The Earthquake of Right Wing Racism towards Haiti

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Joseph Glatzer

Most people probably think of Haiti as the poverty-stricken, island nation recently devastated by January’s earthquake. They’ve probably also heard some hateful explanations from right wing Republican commentators as to why the quake devastated the island so badly; namely that it is the people’s fault.

“We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax….You just can’t keep throwing money at it,” Rush Limbaugh growled recently.

Televangelist Pat Robertson imagined a Satanic explanation: Haitians “swore a pact to the devil” to get freed from the French, and ever since “they have been cursed by one thing after the other”.

Just days after the quake, New York Times columnist David Brooks pounced on the Haitian people, explaining the “influence of the voodoo religion” spreads the message that planning is futile.  Haiti’s tragedy was “exacerbated” by its “progress-resistant” culture.  Haitians didn’t plan ahead because they’re a bunch of crazy people afraid of progress due to an irrational dedication to voodoo!

Fox Political Commentator Bill O’Reilly chimed in with some of his own hate, “No matter how much charity is given Haiti will remain chaotic until discipline is imposed.”  We have to be hard on these lazy black people for their own good, right Bill!?  Can’t these black people just get their acts together and stop stealing our good white tax dollars!?

Cue the US Marines storming and occupying Port Au Prince Airport: the white soldiers invading to save the island idiots from their voodoo induced stupidity.  Thank God the white hero is here to save the day.  God Bless White-Christian America!

Stop the racism people.  It’s time the US and France take some “personal responsibility” for their past and continuing torture and enslavement of Haiti.  In the wall-to-wall coverage we’ve seen, where’s the honest explanation of why Haiti is so poor?

In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on the island and declared it the Spanish Colony of Hispaniola.  After he enslaved and killed off the indigenous inhabitants, France took over the colony and populated it with slaves kidnapped from Africa.  The Haitian revolution began in the late 1700’s. Even the legendary French warrior Napoleon Bonaparte couldn’t put down the slave uprising.

Haiti became a nation of self-emancipated slaves.  In 1804 Haiti declared independence, becoming the first black Republic in the world and the first Republic in the Western Hemisphere besides the US.  Neither France nor then President Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration of Independence) recognized Haiti’s independence.

Naomi Klein describes the reaction of the French, “Haitians had stolen the property of slave owners by refusing to work for free.”  Haiti was extorted into paying France the equivalent of $21 billion for taking away its free labor.  It took them 122 years to do it, but Haiti accomplished the impossible.  They paid off the debt and regained their freedom in 1947; or so they thought…

Starting in 1910, the US strangled Haiti’s economy by seizing its central bank.  French and American backed military dictators ran up Haiti’s debt.  The US occupation of the island began in 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson sent in the Marines to “protect American and foreign interests”.  The US military presence finally ended in 1934; while we still maintained economic control until 1947.

The US then supported the brutal Duvalier dictatorships of “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc”.  In 1983 Pope John Paul II condemned the brutal regime, sparking rebellion.

In 1988, Haitian lawyers won a case in the US District Court in Miami, finding that the US backed dictator “Baby Doc” “misappropriated more than $504,000,000 from public monies”.

The “Doc” dictators incurred $844 million in debt.  Haiti has again been re-enslaved.  This time the IMF and World Bank loan sharks are hounding Haiti to “pay up”.  We’re talking about debt incurred against the country’s will; Haitians were victims of the fast-spending dictatorships themselves.  This is like making the victims of the Holocaust pay back Hitler’s debts.

In 1990, a Catholic priest known for preaching liberation theology, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected in a free and fair election.  Of course when he decided to chart an independent course which benefited his own people more than US corporations, the US overthrew him.

Subsequent US-backed puppet governments ran up more debt to benefit the US, and were forced to sell off Haiti’s infrastructure to private corporations.

Far from being the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti would be rich if it wasn’t robbed and pillaged by its foreign torturers for centuries.  France and the US need to cut a fat check to pay back Haiti for the wealth, lives, and dreams they’ve stolen.

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Joseph Glatzer

I am a political writer and activist.

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6 Comments

  1. bankruptcy Oct 27, 2010

    Poor Haiti, we just have to pray that it would not happen again.

  2. James Mar 1, 2010

    Bill O’Reilly, Pat Robertson, and Rush Limbaugh are incredible douchebags, but they’re right once in a while. If they had said that Canada needs to be more disciplined, then you’d say they’re jerks, but since it’s a nation of predominantly black people, you arbitrarily slap a tag of “racism” on there. Extremely sad.

    You think they’re not responsible for debts incurred by their leaders? The Iraq war is debt incurred largely against America’s will, and Obamacare will be too. Are we as a country not responsible for that debt just because we decide later that we don’t like those ideas?

    Agreed with Limbaugh though – it’s not a legitimate role of government to take my tax dollars and give them to people in Haiti.

  3. sarah Feb 25, 2010

    It seems that you keep avoiding what the article is about and just keep going on and on about the left-wing. If this is what we want to then we can go for hours bashing the right the center and all sides. Why dont you comment on things what is actually mentioned in the article, like what was done to Hait and the history.

    1. David Feb 26, 2010

      Sarah: Look at the title and the tenor of the piece. That’s what I was responding to.

  4. David Feb 24, 2010

    Wow. It’s amazing how many on the left manage to find hate and racism where most others don’t.

    The U.S. government gives Haiti millions of dollars in aid annually and has done so for decades. That’s not counting private charities that give their money and labor and the aid from other governments. Now you belittle our additional life-saving efforts to Haiti by saying our “white” Marines are “storming and occupying” the airport. Shameful, really.

    So Bill O’Reilly’s statement “No matter how much charity is given Haiti will remain chaotic until discipline is imposed” is proof of his “hate” of Haitians–or maybe all black people? Rush Limbaugh “growled”–presumably hatefully: “We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax…. You just can’t keep throwing money at it.”

    Mr. Glatzer, have you ever considered that they might be correct in their analysis? Or is it as I suspect, that they are hate-filled racists because they don’t agree with you? That’s a tired left-wing tactic intended to stifle debate. Do you not think that Haiti’s third-world culture has nothing to do with its poverty and dysfunction? No, it’s all the U.S.’s fault, oh, and France’s.

    Yes, Pat Robertson’s comments are nutty. In fact, they’re just as nutty as those by your left-wing, antiwar, activist friend Mr. Danny Glover who blamed the earthquake on Haiti’s failure to address global warming. I think you’ll find that most of us right-wingers don’t agree with Mr. Robertson on this and a number of issues.

    Please Mr. Glatzer, enough with your ad hominem attacks. Let’s hear your solutions to Haiti’s troubles while maintaining a level of civility, or will just a bigger, fatter check do the trick? Just curious: Do you have any level of shame for what you’ve written? I’d be very interested to know what you’d have to say about this piece in 20 years should you decide to review it.

  5. Commenter Feb 24, 2010

    This is all very true, but the real question is why does the West exploit Haiti?

    Answer: because it creates profits for businesses.

    The political system in the USA functions in the same way as the political system in every other capitalist country does. What we think of as “left wing” and “right wing” parties are just two different blocs of investors with a few conflicting areas of interest, and the politicians they support are there to protect their business interests. This topic is far too complicated to spill out on here, but it should be said that our politicians are there to serve the interests of large industries, not to serve the interests of the common people. The way the exploitation of Haiti and other third-world countries plays into this is simply the fact that keeping the third world down is the way American businesses (like the Fortune 500) remain rich.

    If you want to solve the problem, study marxist and anarchist philosophy. All of your answers are in there.

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