If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A black person's view of Haiti

Courtesy of Anna Raccoon, there is an interesting piece in the Botswana Sunday Standard. It's apparently written by a black person with no previous knowledge of Haiti until the earthquake struck and it became news. Here's the gist:

Let’s start with a few basic facts. Until the earthquake, I never knew there was a place called Haiti. I was taught geography at school but I cannot remember a time when the mistress told us about Haiti. It must have been one of those insignificant countries that we had no reason to know about. Finally, when I switched on the television, I was informed that Haiti is an island out in the Caribbean. Television pictures revealed a place populated by black people. Like all places populated by black people, Haiti is poor. As I watched the television images, I felt very sorry for that forsaken place. Then I was hit by a thunderbolt.

I wondered what if there were no white people. You see, when the earthquake hit Haiti somebody had to come to its assistance. There had to be a rescue effort. The Haitians who survived of course did their fair bit by digging out their families from the collapsed ramshackle buildings. But such was the scale of the devastation and the loss of human life that a bigger effort was needed. For that sort of work, you need heavy lifting gear and other sophisticated rescue equipment. I have been following the story of the earthquake keenly. I can attest to the fact that the first people to arrive with sniffer dogs were white crews from all over the world.

The aero planes that set off carrying water and food were from white countries. Not only that, the teams of volunteer doctors that I saw on television comprised white people from across the world. As the sniffer dogs went into action, the organized rescue teams that carried the stretchers were made up of white people.

It was announced that a mobile hospital was on the way. It was coming from a white country. For all intents and purposes in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haiti was literally swarming with white people. They had all arrived to save the poor blacks. And the locals were so happy to see them. Granted there were teams from the Orient such as the Chinese and Japanese. They too had quickly left their homes and families to go and assist the stricken people of Haiti.

It is obvious to everyone that this was a devastating earthquake and the work to repair Haiti and return it to a modicum of normalcy will take many years. Somebody had to commit funds to this effort. Most of the countries that have committed funds to aid the recovery are white. In fact, it would seem the whites are running the show in Haiti.

What is my point?

My point is that ever since Haiti was hit by the earthquake I have not seen any of my folks from Africa. Unless the television cameras deliberately ignored them, I never saw a rescue team from my motherland. Nor did I see any sniffer dogs from down here. Heck, I never saw a single traditional doctor busy divining where to find people buried under the rubble.

Haiti is a land of black people. I would have expected the place to be swarming with black people helping their own. They were nowhere to be seen. I never saw any ships from black countries pulling into the harbour.

As the air traffic circled above the small airport, none of the planes was reported as coming from Africa. The blacks were nowhere to be found. They issued tepid statements of condolence to the people of Haiti and a few of the African countries donated small amounts of cash.

I am so disappointed by the black leaders that I hope never to hear them again bleating about how bad white people are. The earthquake in Haiti was the most opportune time to show the whites, once and for all, that we don’t need them.

From now onwards, I want black leaders to shut up and never accuse ever white people of being bad. I am sick and tired of big words such as imperialism and neo colonialism which are unable to rescue victims of the earthquake.

There were plenty of people, mostly white if I recall correctly, who were very quick to accuse the US of imperialism and aggressive neo-colonialism when they took charge of the airport in Port au Prince and managed the relief effort. But until I read this piece, it hadn't occurred to me what should have been blindingly obvious - that the whole relief effort was conducted, financed and managed by white people. Of course, the majority of black countries are poor, and it is unreasonable to expect them to have the resources to leap into action like the Americans and Europeans did. But the fact that black nations did nothing but express condolence had not come across my radar at all.

Forget the miserable history of Haiti, in which the whites have a lot to answer for. When push came to shove, the whites were there, in large numbers, risking their own lives to help. That is something that can't be conveniently explained away by post-colonial guilt. We just did the right thing, we did it massively, and we did it quickly, without being asked.

Anna's response to some of the comments seems to sum the situation up well:

That article has made me realise that we have become like parents to ungrateful teenagers – there to be routinely abused until they want to borrow the family car.

I wish it weren't so, but this all has the ring of truth. What's the solution? I haven't a clue.

1 comment:

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