As you probably know, I haven't posted in a while. At first it was because I've been unpacking, something that I thought was a miserable task. Than, a week ago, the earth quake happened in Haiti. It reminded me that I am extraordinarily fortunate to have a roof to unpack under. After the quake happened I realized that my next post would have to be about Haiti (In my head it is pronounced "High Tee", which is how it is pronounced in Spanish Speaking countries.) but I wasn't sure what to write. This is clearly one of the most devastating human catastrophes of my lifetime. Only the 2004 Tsunami seems to have reached the same level of intensity since I've been around. (Check out this article that compares the Tsunami releif effort to the current Haiti releif effort and offers an optomistic outlook for the future.)
There is so much to discuss that I don't know where to begin. I feel tongue tied. I will say that everyone should donate something, even five dollars. I have no idea what the best organizations are to donate towards but I believe that any money earmarked for Haiti is well spent at this point.
I will say that I am extraordinarily sad and don't know what to do with these feelings. I feel silly, considering how much I have, and how much others have lost. I'm personally wary of hollow tears and worry that mine are tears of guilt and privilege. I think an event like this can shine a magnifying glass on the social institutions of privilege in our society. Few of us are immune to critiques that can come about as a result.
It's with this in mind that I will analyze a particular fact that I just learned that can shed light on the concept of privilege and how it is obtained.
After the slaves successfully expelled the French and created the independent nation of Haiti and repelled all French attempts to re-colonize it, the Haitian government was facing a crippling blockade from the Spanish, French and British governments. France agreed to lift the blockade and recognize Haiti as an independent nation in return for "reparations" in the sum of 90 million Francs (or 21 billion US dollars today). The reparations, of course, were to pay back the French for its loss of resources during the Haitian Revolution, primarily the loss of commodities, i.e. slaves. So the Haitian Government slowly paid these debts by securing high interest loans from countries like the United States and completed these payments in 1948.
Here are my thoughts on this:
Are you F*&%ING KIDDING ME?!
Who in the hell do these governments think they are by applauding themselves for giving $100 million hear, $200 million there? I have an idea; how about the French Government pays Haiti $21 Billion Dollars and the US and other governments pay back Haiti for the interest it collected on their despicable loans. After these repayments, said governments can than kick in additional millions out of the kindness of their hearts to address the current catastrophe, after having paid for the original tragedy. This of course would only be the beginning of the repayment for the: reprehensible acts perpetrated on African people and the Diaspora and compensation for the privileges bestowed upon the ancestors of their colonizers.
So tonight when you go to sleep in your comfortable bed and think about the Haitian People. Please don't stop there. Think about the dollar bills in your pocket. Ask yourself about the lineage of this currency. I want you to picture the interest paid to the United States. Envision how some of those dollars found their way to your pocket as you lay your head on your Martha Stewart Pillow. As you prepare to dream, remember how you've gotten the privileges you have and the death and misery of those on the other end of your subconscious. I promise you, I will do the same.
Next: The Massachusetts Senate Race (AKA Why I didn't vote for Barack Obama part 25)