[News] Trump's Racism Toward Haiti is not an Aberration

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 24 15:01:54 EST 2018

*Trump’s Racism Toward Haiti Is not an Aberration **
by Nia Imara <https://www.niaimara.com/> *- January 24, 2018

Trump’s racist comments about Haiti and African countries—made January 
11 on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the terrible earthquake in 
Haiti—were vulgar and unacceptable, but they are not an aberration. 
Rather they reflect the reality of U.S. policy toward so-called 
“underdeveloped” black and brown nations.

In the wake of Trump’s comments, politicians and media figures rushed to 
defend Haitian and African immigrants, asserting how hardworking they 
are; what unique, important contributions they make to America; and 
reminding us of the hackneyed fallacy that “America was built by 
immigrants.” By reasoning on these grounds, commentators allow Trump and 
those with similar anti-immigration rhetoric to dictate the terms of the 

*U.S. policy toward Haiti has been consistently racist, violent, 
oppressive, and exploitative.* Trump’s particularly crude brand of 
racism is only the most recent manifestation of timeworn, bipartisan 
discrimination against black and brown people.

*The exclusion of Haiti by the United States began with the Haitian 
Revolution, more than 200 years ago.* Between 1791 and 1810, more than 
25,000 whites and free blacks who supported the old regime fled the 
to port cities like New Orleans and Philadelphia, sparking an early 
American refugee crisis. The free black migrants were viewed with 
suspicion by slaveholding politicians, including President Washington 
and his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson.

After Haiti defeated France in 1804, President Jefferson refused to give 
the new nation diplomatic recognition. France’s coffers were drained by 
years of war to preserve its most valuable colony, and Jefferson 
exploited this opportunity by acquiring the Louisiana Territory (stolen 
Native American land) for a song. The United States, predisposed to be 
conciliatory toward a fellow slave-holding nation, aided France and 
other European powers in implementing a diplomatic quarantine of the new 
black nation.

As noted by Robert Lawless in Haiti’s Bad Press and Paul Farmer in The 
Uses of Haiti, the United States prevented Haiti’s participation in the 
Western Hemisphere Panama Conference of 1825. U.S. slavery continued for 
more than half a century following its abolition in Haiti; it wasn’t 
until 1862 that the U.S. Government recognized Haiti’s independence.

Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, widely known as a racist, 
sent the U.S. Marines to invade Haiti in 1915. The Marines transported 
Jim Crow customs to the island, instituted forced labor, and massacred 
thousands of Haitians 
<https://www.thenation.com/article/self-determining-haiti/>, all in the 
name of “stability.” In 1919, the troops murdered thirty-two-year-old 
Charlemagne Peralte, leader of the Cacos peasant movement that resisted 
the occupation. As a warning against continued rebellion, they attached 
his dead body to a wooden door for public display. Washington’s lasting 
legacy was the creation of the Haitian Army.
For decades after the official end of the nineteen-year-old occupation, 
dictators used the American-made army as an instrument of repression 
against the people.

The infamous dictator, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, was given 
tens of millions of dollars by Washington during the first four years of 
his reign, which coincided with the Eisenhower Administration. In his 
book, An Unbroken Agony, Randall Robinson discusses how Papa Doc and his 
notorious Tontons Macoutes killed an estimated 50,000 people during his 
rule. Later on, in Paul Farmer’s words, JFK “provided the bloodthirsty 
killer with military assistance as part of the general program of 
extending US control over the security forces in Latin America.”

After Papa Doc died in 1971, U.S. support of the dictatorship under his 
son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, became even more entrenched. In 
the 1970s, both Haiti and El Salvador—another poor Latin American 
country maligned by Trump—were ruled by U.S.-backed regimes that 
violently repressed their populations, in order to ensure a submissive, 
cheap labor force for U.S. companies.
Under the repressive Duvalier dictatorship, which denied labor rights, 
the assembly sector proliferated in Haiti, and by 1980 the country 
became the ninth largest manufacturer of assembled goods for U.S. 

Under the repressive Duvalier dictatorship, which denied labor rights, 
the assembly sector proliferated in Haiti, and by 1980 the country 
became the ninth largest manufacturer of assembled goods for U.S. 
consumption. Today, Haiti’s export economy is dominated by apparel 
manufacture—such as cheap clothes sold at Walmart, and even parts of 
U.S. military uniforms. More recently, after the earthquake, the State 
Department under Hillary Clinton pushed to build 
a new sweatshop in Haiti with money from USAID.

Even after the Haitian masses successfully ousted Baby Doc in 1986, the 
momentum of Duvalierism persisted, as the American-trained and -armed 
military continued its brutal terrorism against the people.

In the next two decades, Washington sponsored and actively participated 
in two coup d’états against the democratically elected governments of 
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Each resulted in years of violence and 
repression; each resulted in the killings of thousands of people; tens 
of thousands more were imprisoned without due process or were forced to 
flee their homes.
Soon after the first coup in 1991, President Bush ordered the Coast 
Guard to return refugees to Haiti. As a presidential candidate, Clinton 
denounced Bush’s handling of the crisis, but upon taking office he 
further extended the blockade. In a cynical move, he conveniently 
defined fleeing Haitians as “economic refugees,” in order to deny them 
political asylum.

In early 1992, acclaimed dancer Katherine Dunham went on a 
forty-seven-day hunger strike, 
<http://people.com/archive/hunger-strike-vol-37-no-12/> urging George H. 
Bush to change U.S. policy toward Haitian refugees who, under his 
administration, were being held in deplorable conditions at the U.S. 
base on Guantanamo. Among other actions, a series of hunger strikes by 
students and faculty, as well as one by Randall Robinson that lasted 
nearly a month in 1994, were undertaken to pressure President Clinton to 
change U.S. policy toward Haitian refugees.

Many gains made under President Aristide’s second administration were 
reversed after the allegedly U.S.-led coup in 2004. The Aristide 
government, for the first time in Haiti’s history, implemented a 
universal schooling program. Between 1994 and 2000, more public schools 
were built in Haiti than during the entire period following the 1804 
Revolution—195 primary schools and 104 high schools.
In 2001, Aristide mandated that 20 percent of the government budget go 
toward education. The aborted Aristide administrations also dedicated a 
greater percentage of the national budget on health care than any 
previous administration. His government advocated for improved labor 
rights and, in 2003, it doubled the minimum wage to 70 gourdes a day 
(about $1 today), affecting the livelihoods of more than 20,000 assembly 
factory workers.

But after the 2004 coup, many considered Haiti to be under a continued 
state of occupation. The country’s infrastructure steadily worsened over 
the next several years, and the 2010 earthquake was devastating. Far too 
many homes and lives were lost, and the Haitian people continue to 
suffer the consequences.

Obama’s response to the initial natural disaster was to send troops to 
Haiti. Let’s recall how the U.S. military held up thousands of tons of 
life-saving aid at the Port-au-Prince airport, since its first priority 
was to provide “stability.” Let’s remember, too, the stories and 
images—reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina—in which Haitians searching for 
food and supplies were depicted as “looters” or as members of “gangs.” 
But ultimately, perhaps, the more significant parallel between Katrina 
and the Obama Administration’s response to the earthquake is that the 
U.S. Government used reconstruction as a tool to aid the Haitian elite 
and multinationals.

If we consider Trump’s racism in the light of history, it is quite in 
keeping with that of his forty-four predecessors. Black and brown 
immigrants do not have to prove their worth. When people try to defend 
them by asserting how hardworking and deserving they are, these 
assertions conveniently skirt around the looming truth that centuries of 
American and European colonialism, neocolonialism, and capitalist 
exploitation are responsible for the impoverishment that is so 
widespread amongst today’s black and brown nations. *It’s as if a band 
of robbers looted a home, set it on fire, and then magnanimously 
defended the fleeing family’s right to sanctuary.*

Additionally, the idea that “America was built by immigrants” conceals a 
larger, racist myth about the origins of this country. This country was 
built, in the first place, on genocide. It was built on stolen labor, on 
centuries of kidnap and the brutal separation of families, on the 
systematic oppression of the descendants of Africa.

It is not an accident that Trump mentioned Haiti and Africa together; 
the exploitation of African nations and Haiti by the United States and 
European allies is historically inseparable. Haiti has always proudly 
identified with its African roots, and the Africa in Haiti is still 
evident today.

In order to forge strong, meaningful bonds of solidarity with movements 
in Haiti and Africa struggling to rebuild their nations, after centuries 
of exploitation, let’s model ourselves after Katherine Dunham, who 
understood that our ties to each other go far deeper than any man-made 
/Nia Imara <https://www.niaimara.com/> is an artist, an astrophysicist, 
and an activist working with the Haiti Action Committee 
sent by Haiti Action Committee
www.haitisolidarity.net <http://www.haitisolidarity.net>

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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