In case you missed it, the President of the United States called Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries “shitholes,” then pretended like he didn’t say it, but basically said it all over again.
This matters not just because it’s racist (the President is racist, in fact, he is professionally racist), because it’s vulgar (“shithole,” one of the all-time great swear words, is forever sullied by this), and because it’s catastrophically bad for foreign and domestic relations. It matters in part because of the history of Haiti, and the history of racist discourse about Haiti.
Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, a professor of education and scholar who’s closely studied these narratives, writes:
The reason why White nationalists like 45 always name Haiti because the Haitian nation & people are unique. Haiti defeated Napoleon, threw off the chains of slavery, and exposed the lie of White supremacy & European imperialism. So there’s no end to their hatred for Haiti.
Jonathan Katz, a journalist and former AP correspondent in Haiti who wrote The Big Truck That Went By about Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and the cholera epidemic that followed, has a longer thread spelling out how these narratives about Haiti were generated and how they work. Here’s a thick excerpt:
In order to do a victory lap around the GDP difference between, say, Norway and Haiti, you have to know nothing about the history of the world. That includes, especially, knowing nothing real about the history of the United States… You’d have to not know that the French colony that became Haiti provided the wealth that fueled the French Empire — and 2/3 of the sugar and 3/4 of the coffee that Europe consumed…
You’d have to not realize that Haiti was founded in a revolution against that system, and that European countries and the United States punished them for their temerity by refusing to recognize or trade with them for decades. You’d then have to not know that Haiti was forced to borrow some money to pay back that ridiculous debt, some of it from banks in the United States. And you’d have to not know that in 1914 those banks got President Wilson to send the US Marines to empty the Haitian gold reserve… [You’d] have to not know about the rest of the 20th century either—the systematic theft and oppression, US support for dictators and coups, the US invasions of Haiti in 1994-95 and 2004…
In short, you’d have to know nothing about WHY Haiti is poor (or El Salvador in kind), and WHY the United States (and Norway) are wealthy. But far worse than that, you’d have to not even be interested in asking the question. And that’s where they really tell on themselves… Because what they are showing is that they ASSUME that Haiti is just naturally poor, that it’s an inherent state borne of the corruption of the people there, in all senses of the word.
And let’s just say out loud why that is: It’s because Haitians are black.
Racists have needed Haiti to be poor since it was founded. They pushed for its poverty. They have celebrated its poverty. They have tried to profit from its poverty. They wanted it to be a shithole. And they still do.
If Haiti is a shithole, then they can say that black freedom and sovereignty are bad. They can hold it up as proof that white countries—and what’s whiter than Norway—are better, because white people are better. They wanted that in 1804, and in 1915, and they want it now.
The history of Haiti is weird because it is absurdly well-documented, yet totally poorly known. It’s hard not to attribute that to ideology. We don’t teach the Haitian Revolution the way we teach the American, or the French, or the Mexican, because it’s a complicated story. Kids are more likely to hear variations of “Haiti formed a pact with the devil to defeat Napoleon” (this is real thing, I swear) than Toussaint Louverture’s or Jean-Jacques Dessalines’s names.
Also, while Haiti’s revolution was an early, signature event in world history-the first time a European power would be overthrown by an indigenous army (but not the last)-the causes of Haiti’s poverty are basically identical with those of almost every poor nation around the world: a history of exploitation, bad debt, bad geopolitics, and bad people profiting off of that poverty (almost all of them living elsewhere). And this is basically true about poverty in American cities as well (with all the same attendant racist myths).
Some recommended reading:
The internet is a magical place with loads of interesting information and entertainment, along with an easy way to connect with people all over the world. But if there is one thing the internet is awful at, it’s catering to children. Yes, it can be a vile place where even the sacred YouTube comments often become infested with offensive and just plain gross content.
But there has been talk of Google creating versions of its products just for kids, specially designed to avoid trolls and weirdos from tainting them. And we may be seeing the efforts of that project come to life really soon, as USA Today reports that a kid-friendly version of YouTube will be coming to Android on February 23rd.
Though YouTube seems like an awful service to start with, as much of the content is for mature audiences, Google will impose strict limits on what kids can watch. The search function is even there, even with voice search, though it will of course be limited. Comments will be hidden entirely (which sounds like a great idea even for regular YouTube!). Plus, parental control like viewing timers will be added.
It sounds like Google has a good strategy going, but only time will tell how well the censors and limits work to prevent adult content from infiltrating the app. If you want to give it a try, it should be releasing this Monday on the Play Store. Will you give it a shot with your kids?
There is a famous story told in Chassidic literature that addresses this very question. The Master teaches the student that God created everything in the world to be appreciated, since everything is here to teach us a lesson.
One clever student asks “What lesson can we learn from atheists? Why did God create them?”
The Master responds “God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all — the lesson of true compassion. You see, when an atheist performs and act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that god commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. And look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right.”
“This means,” the Master continued “that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say ‘I pray that God will help you.’ Instead for the moment, you should become an atheist, imagine that there is no God who can help, and say ‘I will help you.’”
ETA source: Tales of Hasidim Vol. 2 by Mar
I started reading this and was worried it would be something attacking atheists, or bashing religion, but this makes me really, really happy.
"Blacks represent 13% of the population but commit 50% of the murders; 90% of black victims are murdered by other blacks," writes Time's Joe Klein, calling for "provocative" thinking on race in America. "The facts suggest that history is not enough to explain this social disaster."
there are many countries where white people murder each other at a much lower rate than you see here in the United States
Yet the disturbing truth, according to the FBI's most recent homicide statistics, is that the United States is in the wake of an epidemic of white-on-white crime. Back in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, a staggering 83 percent of white murder victims were killed by fellow Caucasians.
This is not to say that white people are inherently prone to violence. Most whites, obviously, manage to get through life without murdering anyone. And there are many countries full of white people — Norway, Iceland, France, Denmark, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — where white people murder each other at a much lower rate than you see here in the United States. On the other hand, although people often see criminal behavior as a symptom of poverty, the quantity of murder committed by white people specifically in the United States casts some doubt on this. Per capita GDP is considerably higher here than in France — and the white population in America is considerably richer than the national average — and yet we have more white murderers.
To understand the level of cultural pathology at work here, it's important to understand that 36 percent of those killed by whites are women — a far higher share than you see with black murderers.
Clearly, the social disaster of white violence has complicated roots. But the beginning of an answer is to admit that we have a problem. It's striking that President Obama, who's frequently found time to comment on the height of black men's waistlines, seems oblivious to this torrent of white killing. To be fair to the White House, however, it would be uniquely difficult for Obama to address this delicate issue. The real tragedy is that none of Obama's 43 white predecessors have addressed it either. Indeed, looking back on America's political iconography, there are disturbing trends toward the glorification of white violence. Peer inside the US Capitol building, and you'll find a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis — the leader of an insurgency that caused an unprecedented quantity of violent white deaths.
But whatever the causes or past mistakes, the important thing is to confront this important subject in the future. As we look ahead to a 2016 matchup that should give us two Euro-American major party nominees for the first time in a decade, perhaps America can finally get the debate about white violence it deserves.
On May 13 an MRI found 20 tumors in my husbands brain. On May 15 he could barely breathe and was in a lot of pain. A CT scan that day revealed he had a softball-sized tumor in his lung, tumors in his other lung, his liver and possibly his bones. On our way home from the imaging center our primary care doc called and told us to turn around and get to the hospital right away. My husband was admitted and they promptly removed more than a pint of fluid from his lungs, which helped him breathe better. We were there for 6 days while they performed a bronchoscopy, did more scans, gave him drugs to stop his brain from swelling and administered emergency chemo.
Today I got a letter from Anthem Blue Cross regarding his hospital stay:
"Coverage for the requested service is denied because the service does not meet the criteria for “medical necessity” under your description of benefits. To assist our Medical Director in making this decision, we have put a process in place to send all information about the service to a clinical reviewer with appropriate credentials. Based on their opinion, we have determined that covered for the requested service is denied. Our Medical Reviewer Layma Jarjour MD has determined we cannot approve your hospital stay for cancer. We do not have enough facts to show that it was medically necessary. "
Anthem is owned by WellPoint. Did you know Wellpoint CEO Joseph Swedish earned almost $17 million during his first year on the job? Now you know how they can afford to pay him.
I am so angry right now, I want to burn down the world.