Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Please Know Something about That of Which You Speak

Thinking of getting that inked on my forehead so people stop saying stupid sh*t--to me, at least.

Of course, that won't stop me from reading stupidity, things like, oh, say, this article by Paul Shirley. Shirley feels the need to tell us why he won't donate to Haiti relief efforts, and infuses his story with meaningful personal insights like:
I haven’t donated to the Haitian relief effort for the same reason that I don’t give money to homeless men on the street. Based on past experiences, I don’t think the guy with the sign that reads “Need You’re Help” is going to do anything constructive with the dollar I might give him. If I use history as my guide, I don’t think the people of Haiti will do much with my money either.

And historically clueless rhetoric flavored with a touch of social darwinism and a smidge of eugenics* such as:
Dear Haitians –

First of all, kudos on developing the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Your commitment to human rights, infrastructure, and birth control should be applauded.

As we prepare to assist you in this difficult time, a polite request: If it’s possible, could you not re-build your island home in the image of its predecessor? Could you not resort to the creation of flimsy shanty- and shack-towns? And could some of you maybe use a condom once in a while?


The Rest of the World
Oh, Mr. Shirley, might I, in my boldness, point you to two brief observations? First from Kai:
It’s not just a natural disaster, it’s a disaster of the modern neo-colonial social order. Earthquakes need to happen, but this doesn’t need to happen. It’s a devastating unfolding of institutionalized racism. Not only rhetorical or interpersonal or representational aspects, but perhaps more importantly the vital economic, infrastructural, and human consequences of several centuries of the very gunships-n-slaves imperialism which generated the modern concept of race.

Then, from Summer:
Haiti was born of a slave rebellion. They didn't seek or wait for permission. No one wrote a speech declaring their freedom. They claimed it for themselves. They were their own saviors. Their own, I suppose, personal Jesus. (All those white men they killed, must have been a deal with the devil.) And so, Haiti couldn't survive or be successful. Haiti concerned Thomas Jefferson--and rightfully so. Can't have those kinds of examples floating around the Caribbean circa early 19th century. What kind of message would that send to other enslaved people on this side of the Middle Passage? Haiti fought the law and won. That couldn't have been good for business. So the powers meddled with the land until the seeds sprouted nothing but "flimsy" stalks, ushering in the refrain "Haiti is the most impoverished..." Straight dissonance to my ears. They treat it like a bastard child. Father France, Mother Africa, or something like that.

A flourishing Haiti is white supremacy's greatest fear. Haiti cannot survive. If Haiti endures, if it succeeds, then the slaves win, right? Haiti's continued endurance would prove that everything they've ever taught us is false. If we only understand Haiti as a perpetually impoverished nation, and have no comprehension of Haiti as symbol of black resistance and survival then what have we learned? We will have learned that Haiti is poor because its citizens are lazy, culturally backwards, wary of outsiders, lawless, lascivious. What we should know is that even in these dark days of desperation, Haiti has survived, despite even the most powerful acts of a most angry God and world powers that imagine themselves in His likeness.

They don't like the message, so they don't want Haiti to survive--but it will.

Haiti will survive, Paul Shirley, without your donation and in spite of your condescension and ignorance.
*Is that (the oh-so-new blend of social darwinism and eugenics) the flavor of the month or something???

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Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...