The History They Didn’t Teach in Grade School

turtle2-01My grandparents came here from Ireland through Ellis Island in the early 1900’s. Someone welcomed them, changed the spelling of their last name, and they were in. Neither had any appreciable skills, but they were willing to work hard to make a better life for their kids. America as we are today was built by hard working immigrants like them.

Now we have a President who wants only people from rich countries, only people with skills. In particular, he does not want people from Haiti. So I thought it was time to learn a little about the history of Haiti – the stuff they do not teach in grade school, because it doesn’t make the US look good.

So today’s blog was written by Jonathan M Katz (@KatzOnEarth) – Author, Fellow . Dir., Media & Journalism

“In order to do a victory lap around the GDP difference between, say, Norway and Haiti, you have to know nothing about the history of the world. That includes, especially, knowing nothing real about the history of the United States.

“You have to first of all understand nothing about the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. You have to not understand anything about the systematic theft of African bodies and lives. And you have to not understand how that theft built the wealth we have today in Europe and the US.

“You’d have to not know that the French colony that became Haiti provided the wealth that fueled the French Empire — and 2/3 of the sugar and 3/4 of the coffee that Europe consumed. You’d have to not know how rich slave traders got off their system of kidnapping, rape, and murder.

“You’d have to not realize that Haiti was founded in a revolution against that system, and that European countries and the United States punished them for their temerity by refusing to recognize or trade with them for decades.

“You’d have to not know that Haiti got recognition by agreeing to pay 150 million gold francs to French landowners in compensation for their own freedom. You’d have to not know that Haiti paid it, and that it took them almost all of the 19th century to do so.

“You’d then have to not know that Haiti was forced to borrow some money to pay back that ridiculous debt, some of it from banks in the United States. And you’d have to not know that in 1914 those banks got President Wilson to send the US Marines to empty the Haitian gold reserve.

“You would have to not know about the chaos that ensued, and the 19-year US military occupation of Haiti that followed (at a time when the US was invading and occupying much of Central America and the Caribbean).

“You have to not know about the rest of the 20th century either—the systematic theft and oppression, US support for dictators and coups, the US invasions of Haiti in 1994-95 and 2004, the use of the IMF and World Bank to impose new loans and destructive trade policies, including the now-famous rice tariff gutting that Bill Clinton apologized for but had been a policy since Reagan, and on and on …

“And you’d have to understand nothing about why the US (under George W. Bush) pushed for and paid a quarter of the UN “stabilization mission” that did little but keep Haiti’s presidents from being overthrown and kill 10,000 people by dumping cholera in its rivers. Etc.

“In short, you’d have to know nothing about WHY Haiti is poor (or El Salvador in kind), and WHY the United States (and Norway) are wealthy. But far worse than that, you’d have to not even be interested in asking the question.

“Because what they are showing is that they ASSUME that Haiti is just naturally poor, that it’s an inherent state borne of the corruption of the people there, in all senses of the word. And let’s just say out loud why that is: It’s because Haitians are black.

“Racists have needed Haiti to be poor since it was founded. They pushed for its poverty. They have celebrated its poverty. They have tried to profit from its poverty. They wanted it to be a shithole. And they still do.

“If Haiti is a shithole, then they can say that black freedom and sovereignty are bad. They can hold it up as proof that white countries—and what’s whiter than Norway—are better, because white people are better. They wanted that in 1804, and in 1915, and they want it now.

“So if anyone tonight tries to trap you in a contest of “where would you rather live”—or “what about cholera” or “yeah but isn’t poverty bad?”—ask them what they know about how things got that way. And then ask them why they’re ok with it.”

They fought for their freedom against insane odds, and never gave up. After the earthquake hit in 2010, an estimated 160, 000 people died. An additional 9500 died afterwards from Cholera.

The people of Haiti are exactly the sort of people who have always made America great. Who better to be welcomed by the “Mother of Exiles,” then these “tired … poor …huddled masses yearning to breathe free?” A wealthy engineer from Norway? Not what America is all about.

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