Recently a friend of mine posted an article from The Washington Post announcing "This Is How Ignorant You Have To Be To Call Haiti A Shithole" By Jonathan M. Katz. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/01/12/this-is-how-ignorant-you-have-to-be-to-call-haiti-a-shithole/?utm_term=.92d1c2d5a39c) Willing to consider articles from diverse sources in an effort to be informed, I read it, hoping to learn something.
This APPEARS to be an authoritative article full of what seemed to be statements of historical relevance, which also happened to support the ignorance of Trump, his racist rationale, and his lack of knowledge about Haitian history. And then I came to the section about Francois Duvalier - Papa Doc - who the author says was an "American trained physician", a "black nationalist" who opposed "U.S. Imperialism" and "knew how to handle a nearby superpower (the U.S.)". The author also says that the U.S. gave support to Duvalier "when they weren’t trying to sponsor coups against him", until the end of the regime in 1986. End of story.
This section on Duvalier paints him as being educated, a man of the people, and willing to be the David against the imperialistic U.S. Goliath, which would make him the best case scenario for Haiti. That makes it all good, right? WRONG. I've known enough Haitians (In New York in the 1980s) and read enough on my own to know that the Duvalier regime of almost 30 years was a reign of conflict, power-plays, indulgence, misappropriation of foreign aid and government funds, repression, intimidation, confiscation of peasant land holdings, torture, etc. Francois imbibed in the traditions of VooDoo and mainstreamed it into Haitian politics. (https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-19920-4_8) VooDoo is still widely practiced in the country today. The article makes it appear that his dictatorship ended in 1986. Wrong again. Francois died in 1971 from heart disease and diabetes. His son, Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) succeeded him, and carried on in his father's fashion, embezzling government money into his own private coffers. HIS reign ended in 1986, overthrown by a POPULIST uprising, after which he and his wife abandoned Haiti and went into exile in France, along with their stolen riches. (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/world/americas/jean-claude-duvalier-haitis-baby-doc-dies-at-63.html)
The Duvaliers were not saviors of Haiti. Thousands of Haitians were detained, tortured, killed, or fled the country during those years. Yet nothing....NOTHING... of these atrocities was mentioned in this article. The article just makes Francois Duvalier appear as a leader that was good for the country, and should be lauded, never mentioning the reign of Jean-Claude, and getting the dates of their dictatorships wrong. The author actually amalgamates two separate leaders into only one that it mentions...one (the father) whose reign the article says ended in the year that was the actual overthrow of the son.
And then there are the "invasions" the author points to, such as when U.S. troops entered Haiti in 2004. The author derides the U.S. as being invaders at a time when yet another abusive Haitian tyrant-president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was on the brink of being overthrown by armed rebels. The U.S. put pressure on him to resign in an effort to forego more violence. U.S. President Bush sent in Marines to "restore order". It should be known that Canada and France also agreed to send troops(http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/29/international/americas/haitis-president-forced-out-marines-sent-to-keep.html). So much for an "invasion".
Did I learn something from this article? To some degree, yes. The erroneous Duvalier "facts" as stated in the article, and the "invasions" never accurately defined, made me question the veracity of the other points the author makes. I did more research of my own to understand the plight of our Haitian neighbors to the south. News articles are meant to enlighten us, make us curious, and give us a desire to become informed. But the reader having to seek further information on a subject should not have to be carried out in order to fact-check the writer. Katz' story is the kind of mixed bag of fact and shadow that continues to stir the pot of racial strife in America. If one doesn't know any of the history, they'll swallow this article and the authors bias hook, line and sinker. I feel I'd need to research the whole article to know what points are true and what are not. And that is mainstream media misleading and manipulating the public. Let the reader beware! May we read with both eyes open, and learn the history for ourselves.
Susan Parlato Revels
links to other sites