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Racism lives here and in Haiti

By Emmanuel W. VEDRINE, University of Rhode Island
Boston Haitian Reporter, Vol. 6, Issue #10
October 2007

Emmanuel Védrine

It is quite funny when reading on-line some Haitians who put so much emphasis on racism as if there was no racism back home. What would we conclude if we’d just take a trip back to Haiti and take a look at most of the students who attend top prestigious schools to see what color they are.

There was a light skinned Haitian couple who, in the 70's, moved to a white neighborhood in New York because they taught they'd pass for white (as they would with no problem in Haiti or in the Dominican Republic). But when white kids in the vicinity started shouting at them by calling them the “N” word, they had to move out quickly.

Racism can exist anywhere. We can talk about it, criticizing it, etc. But, hey, it will still exist. Just be proud of who we are, be proud of what we can accomplish or have accomplished in life to help others and our community.

I myself felt as a foreigner in my own native Haiti, when I could not live in certain areas or attend certain schools. This is a so-called “black country” where most dark skinned people are being mistreated because they are poor, low class, uneducated; in another word, the underdogs.

The opportunities I’ve enjoyed in my host country, the United States (since 1976), there is no way I'd have that back in my native land. So, all foreigners living in the US shouldn’t be ashamed of uttering one of the greatest American phrases, “God bless America!”.

Which banks in Haiti would lend students money to attend Universities? How many students in Haiti with top grades in secondary schools receive scholarships to study abroad? Summarizing from the Creole saying, Rayi chen, di dan l blan (Hate the dog, say its teeth are white).

Let’s learn to credit the host countries that give us some opportunities, let’s see the positive things we can get from them in order to live a better life in society and then to educate our children. Most Haitians that I know who brag of going back to Haiti to live, after few months there, they want to live the country. So, there’s a problem there and at the same time, we shouldn’t forget the native land; we must try to help it since the host country has given us some opportunities.

Let’s be realistic! If we have left Haiti for a political or economical cause, I am pretty sure that we’ve left it for a better life. In another word, we are not going to kalewès or sitting down doing nothing in the host country. But we must work hard in order to get the best from it. People who are complaining all the time by not doing anything to improve their living conditions are the ones who always have a miserable life.

But are we going to complain about racism here and there or focus on opportunities? So, if back home in Haiti, most Haitians are not being treated as human beings, how on earth we Haitians expect to be treated well even in the neighboring Dominican Republic, where a black Dominican would feel insulted if a Haitian would dare call him /her moreno or morena (“black)?

So, is there any racism in Haiti? A close friend of mine, from the upper class in Haiti, was telling me how some of her relatives tried their very best to get a divorce for one their daughters who married a darked skin, low class man who is a very intelligent guy and then went all the way to Brazil to find a poor white Brazilian to arrange a second marriage for her in order to “save” the race.

Even the darkest person in Haiti would call another one kaka dyab (devil shit). So, how do we, Haitians, expect a lighter skinned person to behave back home when most dark skinned Haitians are not proud of their own skin color?

So, the questions we must think of are: what do we, who suffer from racism, learn from our own experience? Are we going to cry all our lives or move on doing positive things in life, such as getting an education, pursuing a career, learn a trade, helping our community, volunteering our time to help our community, etc.?

E. W. Vedrine lives in Boston. He is the author of the forthcoming book “A healing paradigm for a new Haiti”.

* Recent article on the author’s writing career: Vedrine committed to bridging language gap 


e_vedrine@hotmail.com, e_vedrine@yahoo.com

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