‘Racists have needed Haiti to be poor since it was founded’

Dear Editor,

President Trump’s latest derogatory outburst with which he tends to litter his rants and twitter drive-bys managed to provoke condemnation around the world as usual. However, it has provided a teachable moment to those incurious about history. One Haitian national commented that she had never known that history at home.

Jonathan M Katz, a white freelance American journalist and author reacted with a Twitter storm of his own. He summarized a few hundred years of history (the Haitian Revolution itself took years in its unfolding) for the benefit of the world. He said to make such a statement as Trump did, “You have to first of all understand nothing about the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. You have to not understand anything about the systematic theft of African bodies and lives. And you have to not understand how that theft built the wealth we have today in Europe and the US.

“You’d have to not know that the French colony that became Haiti provided the wealth that fuelled the French Empire — and 2/3 of the sugar and 3/4 of the coffee that Europe consumed. You’d have to not know how rich slave traders got off their system of kidnapping, rape, and murder.

“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 have to not know that Haiti got recognition by agreeing to pay 150 million gold francs to French landowners in compensation for their own freedom. You’d have to not know that Haiti paid it, and that it took them almost all of the 19th century to do so.

“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… about the chaos that ensued, and the 19-year US military occupation of Haiti that followed (at a time when the US was invading and occupying much of Central America and the Caribbean). He and others 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 …

“… the use of the IMF and World Bank to impose new loans and destructive trade policies, including the now-famous rice tariff gutting that Bill Clinton apologized for but had been a policy since Reagan, and on and on …

“And you’d have to understand nothing about why the US (under George W Bush) pushed for and paid a quarter of the UN ‘stabilization mission’ that did little but keep Haiti’s presidents from being overthrown and kill 10,000 people by dumping cholera in its rivers. Etc.

“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 question I want to pose to the US President is this. If Haiti is a shithole, what does that make any country that sends in its troops to steal the entire treasury of a shithole? And could only do so after Haiti’s liberators had died? I have the answer: ‘Home of the Brave.’

Yours faithfully,
Frederick Collins