This week’s alert: The July 4 holiday in the U.S. is a great time to celebrate 231 years of freedom in the U.S., and the contributions that the U.S. has made to freedom in other countries. But it is also an opportunity to reflect on the limitations on this freedom- in our treatment both of our own compatriots and our global neighbors.
Frederick Douglass saw both sides of the U.S. commitment to freedom, as a slave and as a freed man and prominent intellectual. He also saw both sides of U.S. foreign policy, as the U.S. Minister and Consul General in Haiti, charged with carrying out that policy, and as a sympathetic observer of events in the country.
Mr. Douglass’ famous account of those two sides, delivered to the Chicago World’s Fair on January 2, 1893, eloquently recounted the contributions Haiti made to liberty for the African diaspora, for the United States and for the whole world. With equal eloquence he described how despite these contributions “we have not yet forgiven Haiti for being black or forgiven the Almighty for making her black.” Douglass cited the examples of mistreatment of Haitians in the U.S., distorted and discriminatory treatment of Haiti in our media, U.S. government efforts to undermine Haiti’s governments and economic violence imposed from the U.S.
Douglass’ critique is all too valid 114 years later. The U.S. government continues to discriminate against Haitians in the U.S., as exemplified by the disparate treatment given to Cubans and Haitians arriving in Miami. The mainstream media coverage of Haiti privileges the perspectives of international observers and Haitian elites, and ignores the views of the majority of Haitians who are poor. The U.S. government actively undermined and overthrew Haiti’s elected government in February 2004, and continues to intervene in the country to suppress grassroots democracy. Through trade policy, international financial institutions and “foreign aid,” the U.S. maintains a lethally unequal economic structure that leaves the majority of Haitians struggling to survive on less than a dollar a day.
This week’s action is to read Mr. Douglass’ speech, at http://haitiforever.com/windowsonhaiti/fdouglass1.shtml, or at the Haiti Justiceblog. Please let us know what you think of the speech by posting a comment on the blog.
For more information about the Half-Hour for Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, or human rights in Haiti, see http://www.HaitiJustice.org. To receive Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alerts once every other week, send an email to HalfHour4Haiti@ijdh.org.