FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Struggling for Dignity and Survival in Haiti

I left the Dominican Republic on Monday, January 25, 2010 with a team of five people from Fondation Avenir to meet with members of Haitian civil society to assess the possibilities for rebuilding Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.

Driving from the border to Port-au-Prince, and around the city and outlying areas, we have found the city to be remarkably calm, especially at night. Many people sleep in the streets. Some do this because they have lost their homes, others because their homes are presently unsafe, and still others because they fear there will be another earthquake. At these tent cities, despite the poor conditions, there is order and community. People arrange their tents into straight lines, leave spaces for public use, and organize a security crew to watch over them at night and to ensure that cars do not trample the tents.

Port-au-Prince is a city filled with people searching for survival, organizing the few resources they have to provide much-needed services for their communities. I have not seen any evidence that people are hijacking cars on the roads and stealing provisions, as we had been warned by friends and the media. This trip has provided me with insight into many ways that the mass media misrepresents the current situation in Haiti.

The mass media’s portrayal of Haiti is sensationalist because major corporations need to make a profit. Advertising dollars flow with images of looters, destruction, and social disorder. The media’s perception of what will sell is one reason for the misleading portrayal. The other underlying reason is racism. The idea that Haiti is filled with robbers and rapists is one that fits into the racist mindset of many Americans. It is easy to believe that Haitians – black people in a poor country – are prone to violence and banditry.

It is harder for white Americans to believe that Haitians are actually working together to survive under very difficult conditions. The idea that Haiti has people organizing themselves into orderly tent cities and that the major role of the United States has been to patrol around with soldiers and guns is not one that fits the image of Haiti or of the US’s role there.

During the day in Port-au-Prince, some people continue with their daily routine. People with roadside stands set up shop where they can; police officers show up to work; doctors – Haitian and foreign – do what they can to ensure the survival of Haitians.

However, many others are idle. Many businesses have been shut down because the building has been destroyed or rendered unusable. Schools are not operational because of damage. Many people are not going to work because their job is not there any more.

At the same time, there is a lot of work to be done in Haiti. Some people are coordinating rescue efforts and cleaning up buildings. Others are providing security for those who must sleep on the streets or in tent cities. Others are rebuilding walls or salvaging bricks from destroyed buildings.

There is much more work to be done, and, as yet, no clear plan for how it will be accomplished. The three million people left homeless is a testament to how many buildings have been destroyed. The international community and the local government have yet to lay out or implement a plan even to clear the damage. There are a few sites with bulldozers, as portrayed in the media, but many more with people digging rubble with their bare hands. With all of the aid coming in, it is hard to believe so many people are working without even the most basic equipment – gloves and mason hammers.

There are a lot of soldiers all over the city. It is unclear what is their function might be. They patrol the streets with big guns at the ready, yet I have not seen any soldiers engaged in the clean up effort. And, it is clear that the function of the US soldiers is security. Some soldiers protect food deliveries, but there are far too few deliveries. Food distribution is a major problem in Haiti, in part because of widespread concern over security issues. There are not enough armed guards to protect food shipments on the street, so they do not go out.

The international community has to include the Haitian community in the food distribution system. That is the best way to maintain security. Part of the reason Haitians have not been organized in distribution efforts is a lack of confidence in Haitian people to organize themselves effectively and to share resources. Despite this perception, which is fueled by mass media portrayals of Haitians as looters and desperate, I have seen plenty of evidence that Haitians are capable of organizing themselves and distributing resources. Unfortunately, the calm streets and civic organization of Haitians does not seem to be newsworthy for mainstream media.

These efforts should be newsworthy, as it takes a tremendous amount of fortitude to maintain dignity in unimaginably difficult circumstances. The perseverance of Haitians should serve as an inspiration to rebuild the country as well as a beacon of hope.

Tanya Golash-Boza on the faculty at the University of Kansas and blogs at: http://tanyagolashboza.blogspot.com/

 

More articles by:

Tanya Golash-Boza is the author of: Yo Soy Negro Blackness in PeruImmigration Nation: Raids, Detentions and Deportations in Post-9/11 Americaand Due Process Denied: Detentions and Deportations in the United States. Her new book Deported: Immigrant Policing, Disposable Labor, and Global Capitalism will be published by NYU Press in 2015.

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail