A US apology is in order for Haiti

The effect of the inappropriate depiction of Haiti, El Salvador and all African nations as “shithole” countries is a matter that the people of the United States of America and their government and Congress should contemplate seriously.

The responses have been swift, showing a mixture of outrage and shock. At the time of writing this commentary, there has been no expression of regret about the comment that has done nothing but injure the relations between the United States and many countries. Hopefully, representatives of the US in other countries will distance themselves from it, and apologize as discreetly as they can.

I am here concerned particularly with the remarks about Haiti, a member state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the current chair of the group’s Heads of Government caucus.  My colleague, the Ambassador of Haiti to the United States, Paul Altidor, rightly said, “We feel in the statements, if they were made, the president was either misinformed or miseducated about Haiti and its people”.  The United Nations spokesman Rupert Colville described the remarks as “racist”, adding that, “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Haiti, for us in the Caribbean, is more than just a member of our community, it is the first nation to rise up against slavery and oppression in our region. Importantly when the Republic of Haiti was established on January 1, 1804, it was the first free nation of free black people to rise in a world of Empires of Western European nations.

And, Haiti paid a very high price for its assertion that black people were born free, entitled to freedom and the right to fight for it.

In a real sense, from the moment of that assertion of freedom, Haiti was earmarked for the “shit hole” status now applied to it.  It was punished by every European nation, particularly France, and successive governments of the United States aided and abetted in the process.

France demanded huge reparations for the slaves and plantations it lost at the revolt of Toussaint L’Ouverture. In 1825, Haiti’s leaders were forced to agree to pay France the harsh levy of 90 million gold francs, which the country did not finish repaying until 1947.

For almost a hundred years, Haiti was pushed into poverty by the French demand, upheld by Western European nations and the US.   Indeed, the US, which continued to be a slave-owing nation after European nations outlawed it, did not recognize Haiti as a free nation until 1862 – the last major power at the time to do so.

But, even that recognition was meaningless.  Taking advantage of Haiti’s lack of capacity to defend itself from external intervention, US naval ships entered Haitian waters no less than 24 times between

1849 and 1913, ostensibly “to protect American lives and property”.  Finally, in 1915, the US invaded Haiti and ruled the country as an occupying force for 20 years.

During that period, Haiti and the Haitian people, already impoverished, exploited and isolated by what was then ‘the international community’ – Western European nations and the US – were further disadvantaged.  Their constitution was rewritten against their will, something the US State Department admitted in 1927. Under that constitution, laws preventing foreigners from owning land were scrapped, allowing US companies to take what they wanted.

In 1926, a New York business publication described Haiti as “a marvellous opportunity” for US investment, stating that “the run of the mill Haitian is handy, easily directed, and gives a hard day’s labour for 20 cents, while in Panama the same day’s work cost $3”.  US corporations grew from 13 in 1966 to 154 in 1981, enriching themselves, pauperizing the Haitian people even more and doing little to add wealth to the economy.

And, as with slavery, the excesses of US occupation by US companies were justified by the language of racial superiority. Haitians were described as “coons”, “mongrels”, “unwholesome”, “a horde of naked niggers”.  The New York Times reported US representatives as saying that Haiti needed “energetic Anglo-Saxon influence”.

The Haitians have also suffered from governments that suited foreign powers being put into office, only to be removed if their policies ceased to serve the interest of those foreign powers. Therefore, democracy in Haiti was emasculated, not by the Haitian people, but by external forces and Haitian elites that they suborned.

Incidentally, the US has had balance of trade surpluses with Haiti for many decades. For instance, in 2014, the US trade surplus with Haiti was $356.4 million; in 2015 and 2016 respectively it was $190.5 and $191.9 million. For the 11 months ending November 30, 2017, the surplus in favour of the US was already $385 million. So, for a ‘shit hole’ country it has provided annual revenues and employment to the US of some magnitude.

Sadly, from this entire experience, Haiti is the poorest country in all the Americas. But it is far from a “shithole”, possessing as it does some of the most beautiful landscapes and seascapes in the Caribbean; a remarkably talented and creative people – Haitian art and craft is natural, untrained aptitude; and hard workers.

Of Haiti’s population of 10.4 million people, only 500,000 have permanent employment. Yet, the Haitian people maintain stability in a continuing struggle.

If Haiti is a “shithole”, those who made it so, should acknowledge their devastating role, and in their shame, they should pledge to do better.

Every Caribbean person, at all levels, should make it abundantly and crystal clear that we resent this depiction of Haiti; we call for acknowledgement by all who have exploited it and kept it in poverty; and we urge that, instead of dismissing it in unfortunate language, they implement programmes to atone for their part in its pauperization.

For our part, the Caribbean should stand-up for Haiti with pride and gratitude.

Source: (The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the OAS.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are his own)Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com

57 Responses to A US apology is in order for Haiti

  1. Rosemary Iris Jones
    Rosemary Iris Jones January 13, 2018 at 1:21 am

    Does Haiti still have voodoo and voodoo dolls…just asking…..?

    Reply
  2. John Nicholls
    John Nicholls January 13, 2018 at 3:23 am

    Plain and simple this man is a racist was always a racist among other things. Hated and despised around the world and by the majority of those in his own country.

    Reply
  3. Sebastian Da Costa
    Sebastian Da Costa January 13, 2018 at 5:52 am

    He is insane plane and simple. He owes a lot of pepole an apology a lot of people

    Reply
  4. Daniel Forde
    Daniel Forde January 13, 2018 at 6:47 am

    Yeah where did all the money go. Billions sent hardly any received. Charity my arse

    Reply
  5. Cory Legall
    Cory Legall January 13, 2018 at 7:04 am

    Not only Haiti

    Reply
  6. Jeremy Cole
    Jeremy Cole January 13, 2018 at 7:47 am

    Well she couldn’t be any worse. I know people that didn’t vote at all as they didn’t like either candidate.

    Reply
  7. Kaiser Sose
    Kaiser Sose January 13, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Whats an opology if its not heartfelt. The man is a racist so america take what you get. Arent you all proud of him?

    Reply
  8. Claire Battershield
    Claire Battershield January 13, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Words spoken cannot be taken back. He said what he wanted to say.

    Reply
    • Gillian Skeete
      Gillian Skeete January 13, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      Laura Van Atten Bleimeyer you were there at the conference? Many people were there and heard him first hand

      Reply
    • Gillian Skeete
      Gillian Skeete January 13, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      He was wrong

      Reply
    • Bev Clarke
      Bev Clarke January 13, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      So true Clair Battershield

      Reply
    • Claire Battershield
      Claire Battershield January 13, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      This man is a first class liar. Even tells lies on himself. Keep defending this sick man . The world does not belong exclusively to melanin deficient people

      Reply
  9. Rawle Spooner
    Rawle Spooner January 13, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Come on there will be no apology and even if he gives one it’s a joke because it will not be sincere.

    Reply
  10. Diana Cummins
    Diana Cummins January 13, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Apology, not accepted, he meant what he said,wont be coming from the heart..

    Reply
  11. Kitkat Kalonji
    Kitkat Kalonji January 13, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Why we always begging fa r*******e friends? He said it, we know where he stands

    Reply
  12. bk January 13, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    smh, so Haiti isn’t a sh*ithole then?

    Reply
  13. Alisa Wilson
    Alisa Wilson January 13, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Yea wait for the apology via Twitter… Cuz you know… That’s where his office is located and all

    Reply
  14. Andre Cobham
    Andre Cobham January 13, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Bajans don’t know anything about Haiti , they don’t know the name of the Haitian leader,don’t research anything about haiti, can’t speak French ,don’t travel there, don’t have friends there, don’t have family there , don’t watch the news there. This is a discussion for Haitians and the diaspora, bajans should remain silent and focus on Barbadian issues like the sewage, potholes, ridiculously high tax rates, no tax returns, persistent downgrades and prime minister Stuart and getting to church early on Sunday’s

    Reply
    • Wendell Pinder
      Wendell Pinder January 13, 2018 at 12:48 pm

      You can’t speak for all Bajan I know lots of Haitian, where I do keep in contact with

      Reply
    • Ann Szebenyi
      Ann Szebenyi January 13, 2018 at 1:03 pm

      Joy Wharton Barbados will be included in that insult if the sewage problem is not dealt with properly..

      Reply
    • Vaneta Holder-Watson
      Vaneta Holder-Watson January 13, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      I am a Bajan and donate money to Haiti. I will now donate my money to countries that appreciate it.

      Reply
    • Bev Clarke
      Bev Clarke January 13, 2018 at 2:29 pm

      When I read comments like Mr. Cobham’s, it makes me shudder.

      Reply
    • Andre Cobham
      Andre Cobham January 13, 2018 at 5:34 pm

      Bev Clarke all the shuddering u doing u know that the majority of bajans fall into the category I described too. And by majority I mean over 95 percent too

      Reply
    • Vaneta Holder-Watson
      Vaneta Holder-Watson January 13, 2018 at 8:25 pm

      Andre Cobham I don’t know much about Haiti but what I do know is Haiti is a much poorer country than Barbados. I donate money regular to help the people of Haiti so from now on I will focus on helping my own Bajan people.

      Reply
    • Andre Cobham
      Andre Cobham January 13, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      Assistance to Haiti is good !! However I’m saying that only a few have info on the country

      Reply
    • Vaneta Holder-Watson
      Vaneta Holder-Watson January 13, 2018 at 8:33 pm

      I don’t think we need all the info you mentioned. The way I look at it is we are in the Caribbean island and should stick together and help each other and stop insulting each other.

      Reply
  15. Andre Cobham
    Andre Cobham January 13, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    So how did he get elected in a fair voting system then ?????

    Reply
  16. Jeremy Cole
    Jeremy Cole January 13, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    He won by a majority vote of the Electoral College not by the popular vote…which he lost.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_College_(United_States)

    Reply
  17. Jeremy Cole
    Jeremy Cole January 13, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    He lost the popular vote by close to 3 million votes.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2016

    Reply
  18. Skylar Prince
    Skylar Prince January 13, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Poor you Laura Van Atten Bleimeyer you are suffering from the same disease as Trump – Clintonitis!

    Reply
  19. Lynn Brett
    Lynn Brett January 13, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Why! His being honest.

    Reply
    • Gillian Skeete
      Gillian Skeete January 13, 2018 at 1:51 pm

      He is not nor has ever been honest

      Reply
    • Lynn Brett
      Lynn Brett January 13, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Gillian Skeete It’s his rite to speak as he sees fit.

      Reply
  20. Lynn Brett
    Lynn Brett January 13, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    They do he received majority vote. Now even more support him.

    Reply
  21. Gillian Skeete
    Gillian Skeete January 13, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Well enough voted for him to win and that’s the way it is sucks though

    Reply
  22. Lynn Brett
    Lynn Brett January 13, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Where’s that, I don’t know anything about monkeys.

    Reply
  23. Mike Talbot
    Mike Talbot January 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Most do he was elected.

    Reply
  24. Dusty Bleimeyer
    Dusty Bleimeyer January 13, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Barbados you need to worry about your own country and stay out of our business.

    Reply
  25. Linden Morris
    Linden Morris January 13, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    “When the farmer came for the ox the pig cool with it until the farmer had a market for pork…” That comment is not only about people from Haiti alone!! It is about ALL people of African descent!!

    Reply
  26. Othneal January 13, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    @Andre’ Cobham. I am trying to make sense of your comments. I have arrived at the conclusion that you belong to that group of people who are self-centered, incapable of empathy, in other words, shallow.
    When Western Europeans and North Americans see you they won’t be concerned with your nationality, they will see a Black man from a sh…… country. I would suggest you read this informative article again and join the human race.
    Solidarity with our Haitian kin is a moral imperative. It is the right thing to do. We owe them.
    The Haitian people deserve compensation from France and The USA. Someone with a special interest in Constitutional Law could check whether international law enacted subsequent to Haitian independence can be applied retrospectively. Haitian sovereignty has been violated with impunity by so called pillars of democracy. Hypocrites!
    I suspect the money donated as a demonstration of international charity after the disaster has all gone down the sh…… with the Americans waiting at the bottom to collect.

    Reply
  27. Bev Clarke
    Bev Clarke January 13, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Why would they want an apology from this liar, when it’s coming from his mouth and not his heart….if he has on.

    Reply
  28. Felicia Corbin
    Felicia Corbin January 13, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    ask the Clintons for all the money they stole from Haiti

    Reply
  29. Felicia Corbin
    Felicia Corbin January 13, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    And they stole millions

    Reply
  30. Belfast January 13, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    I wonder if Trump prefers the USA to welcome with open arms some of those bacra- red- neck- johnies from Eastern Europe, who resort to coming to these s******* countries and robbing their ATM ‘s and becoming high-end whores.
    Let’s Make America White again –A KKK in the White House.

    Have you noticed that Trump’s tirade has come on the heels of his side kick’s ,Israel’s PM Adolph Benjamin Netanayahu’s statement that “We have expelled about 20,000 and we want the rest out. Migrants present a threat to Israels’s social fabric and Jewish character .” (in reference to African migrants in Israel)

    And if they do not go, Israel could always resort to the ”Final Solution.”

    Reply
  31. Jenny Applewhaite
    Jenny Applewhaite January 13, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Up your ass

    Reply
  32. Norman Mcdonald
    Norman Mcdonald January 13, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    There are Haitians teachers who teaches American citizens from kids to adults

    Reply
  33. Norman Mcdonald
    Norman Mcdonald January 13, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    I am feeling bad about that my wife was born in Haiti may she Rip

    Reply
  34. Malchiel Ben Israel
    Malchiel Ben Israel January 13, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    I am glad all bajans don’t have your mind set Andre Cobham….smh

    Reply

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