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
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail