Nearly seven years ago after an unprecedented earthquake devastated Haiti, famed evangelical Christian Pat Robertson believed it was God’s retribution. Referring to the Haitian Revolution, a 13-year-long war in which Haitians successfully fought the French for their independence, Robison declared the Haitians “got together and swore a pact to the devil,” promising to serve Satan if he would free them from the French. He continued, “You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.”
I guess the historic quake which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and wreaked havoc on the already impoverished nation wasn’t enough for God, though, because this week Hurricane Matthew unleashed its 145-mile-per-hour winds and torrential rains on Haiti, “the poorest” country in the Western hemisphere. Since Monday, most of the 11 million residents have been without running water and power. Thousands of homes were leveled and preliminary numbers list more than 100 people dead.
Certainly, I don’t subscribe to Pat Robertson outlandish, racist and callous declaration that Haitians are being assaulted by Mother Nature because they dared resist slavery. Whether you believe in God or not, the notion is preposterous. But what Robertson inadvertently got right is that the African inhabiting the Western part of the island of Hispaniola are being punished by a mighty force: white supremacy.
Back in January 2010, the Red Cross texted me asking for a $10 donation to help with the recovery from the earthquake. I gladly obliged as did just about everyone I know. In total, the Red Cross collected almost half a billion dollars to finance relief efforts. Of the massive amount donated, the “charitable” organization spent $125 million, or about a one quarter, on “program expenses” and built just six permanent homes for the millions displaced.
And still, after its gross mismanagement of funds and exploitation of the Haitian people’s desperation in the wake of the cataclysmic earthquake, the Red Cross is once again collecting donations, pledging to “help” Haiti recover. This is unsurprising as the tiny nation is a prime target for corruption orchestrated by the Western powers. Many Haitian-Americans have accused former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of defrauding Haiti by mismanaging funds ear-marked for recovery efforts, using her massive influence to get an unqualified candidate on the ballot for the country’s 2011 Presidential election, and making insider deals to help her brother-in-law get involved in Haitian business ventures.
But the greatest blow from the West against Haiti, the first Independent nation in the Caribbean, was dealt nearly two centuries ago when France bullied the Haitians into paying former French slave owners, who following the revolution had “submitted detailed tabulations of their losses to the French government,” for the loss of profits resulting from the successful revolt. The demand for the payment of 150 million gold francs, “ten times the fledgling nation’s annual revenue,” was delivered by war ships stockpiled with cannons. Under the threat of military assault which cost the newly independent Haiti lives and capital they could not afford, the Haitian government agreed to the illegal ultimatum, financing the payment through a French bank.
In 2003, then President Jean Bertrand Aristide sent a bill for reparations to France. He demanded $21 billion to compensate Haiti. Of course, France, still feigning its prosperity was not the direct result of history of colonialism, peddling flesh and the illegal bounty it collected from Haitians under the threat of re-enslavement, refused. A year later, Aristide was “coincidentally” ousted in a coup.
If ever there were proof that white supremacy’s vengeance, Haiti is it. The strength, strategy and perseverance Haitians showed in the fight for their freedom was and remains a narrative white supremacy cannot afford. If word had spread that a world power was ran out of the territory it had colonized by the Africans they sought to make perpetual chattel, the inspiration it would awaken all over the Americas would be uncontainable. The Haitian Revolution was white supremacy’s worst nightmare: the manifestation of the oppressed’s commitment to exacting freedom by any means necessary.
Thus, the West has remained committed to avenging France and the institutions of Western colonialism and capitalism — and affirming that the global subjugation of Black and brown people is non-negotiable — by not only turning its back on Haiti in times of need and aligning itself with Hatian leaders committed to loot whatever the country yields, but by permitting and silently acquiescing to the vulturous free-for-all sham charities engage in under the guise of humanitarian efforts to help, refusing to interrogate or hold accountable France for its crimes that cemented Haiti’s fate, and keeping its hands in the Haitian cookie (more appropriately “bonbon”) jar. Yes, earthquakes and hurricanes are catastrophic, but they are forces of nature which we have limited defenses with which to resists. The human disaster that is white supremacy is just as catastrophic, destructive and unyielding.
There is pact, unofficial and unspoken but understood, to ensure that Black and brown people never believe that they have the power to liberate themselves is signed in blood by white supremacy. It is enshrined, the Revolution eliminated from the Western curriculum lest Black children learn of the remedy for a regime set on maintaining total power. It is notarized with racist depictions of the Haitians sacred practices and rituals that serve to reduce them to devils married to the occult and evil. It is certified by the brazen dismissal of demands that the French acknowledge and remit the debt they owe. It is reinforced by the world’s sparse concern and empty prayers as Haitians wade through murky water and starve.
So Haiti stands, a “Beware of Retribution” sign for all to see. White supremacy neither forgives nor forgets. Haitians fought back, won and are still left with nothing more than the ashes of their ambition.