Shitholes: A Haitian History Lesson

Bill Hamway

Bill Hamway

In a meeting on January 11, 2017 the 45th president of the United States of America was reported as saying, “Why are we having all of these people from shithole countries come here?” before suggesting that the United States bring in more people from countries like Norway. The people from “shithole” countries in which he was referencing are immigrants from like Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries. The president has yet to deny the sentiment but is quoted as saying, “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”  

His comments reflect a level of ignorance shared by far too many in the United States. At best they demonstrate a sever misunderstanding of global history and America’s involvement in creating, or at least perpetuating the current negative social- political-and economic situations of more than a handful of countries. At worst his comments are an outright refusal to recognize basic human decency and are representative of the U.S.’s ongoing and growing issues with racism and xenophobia on an international level.

So, just to be clear: 

Haiti was stolen by the French and its people were abused, tortured, killed, and raped. Its lands were pillaged and used to provide 2/3 of the sugar and 3/4ths of the coffee that Europe consumed which fueled the economic wealth of the French Empire while driving the island deeper into poverty. Haiti negotiated their freedom to the tune of 150 million gold francs and spent the better part of the 19th century paying it off. The U.S. Marines emptied out their gold reserves in 1914 and followed it up with a 19yr military occupation. Between 1994 and 2004 the U.S. invaded the island three times and 10,000 people were killed when cholera was dumped in the rivers during a UN peacekeeping mission.

In 2010 an earthquake struck the island, killing 230,000 people and displacing close to 3 million others in 2010. The U.S. pledged $13.4 billion in aid, of which less than half has been released while millions have been misappropriated. In 2017 the president of a country which aided in its global disenfranchisement which continues to this day- called Haiti- a country of resilient fighters who led the only slave uprising which resulted in the founding of a free state, free of slavery and ruled by non-whites and former slaves- a shithole.

Haiti is a country not defined by its hardships, but forged from the fires of resistance and toughened by its trials. 

Patrick SpringerComment