Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti: Race, Colonialism, and Univision

Krikorian's comments on Haiti are incredibly offensive. Here's his actual quote:

"My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough…But, unlike Jamaicans and Bajans and Guadeloupeans, et al., after experiencing the worst of tropical colonial slavery, the Haitians didn’t stick around long enough to benefit from it. (Haiti became independent in 1804.). And by benefit I mean develop a local culture significantly shaped by the more-advanced civilization of the colonizers."



-Angela

Haiti: Race, Colonialism, and Univision
By Maegan la Mamita Mala
Vivirlatino Blog (January 25, 2010)


I watched pedazos of the Unidos Por Haiti telethon on Univision on Saturday night. According to Don Francisco, who hosted the event as part of his usual Sabado Gigante time slot, the event raised $50 million. While stars like Thalia, Alejandro Sanz, and Ricky Martin sang their hearts out, images of the aftermath of the earthquake played on a screen behind them. That screen was where most of the black faces were seen as Univision couldn't find one Afro-Latino to perform. While a lack of black faces is nothing new for Univision or for Spanish language television in general, the use of Haiti's faces and "races" if you will, demonstrates the huge issues that Latin America and Latinos still have with race.

Black and Latino are seen as mutually exclusive and are presented in one of two ways. If you watch the faux news shows like Primer Impacto and even the real news shows, Haiti is shown as violent and out of control with little historical or actual context. My mother, saturated herself with the coverage asked me why there wasn't more military intervention/control. Our own la Macha explored some of the issues with this, and I would add that the perception of the media, English and Spanish language is that Haiti wasn't colonized enough, meaning it wasn't made "white" enough. All people need to do, according to the Spanish language coverage is look to the other side of Hispaniola, to the Dominican Republic, where even Sammy Sosa has learned that whiter and righter and great pains are taken to separate the Dominican from the Haitian, the "white" from the "black" even though as I told my friend the other night there is only one letter difference between "rara" and "gaga", an Afro-Caribbean musical and religious tradition.

When the Haitians aren't criminalized on the Spanish networks, they are infantilized, also in racist and stereotypical ways. Take recent comments from the hate group masked as legitimate organization, The Center for Immigration Studies.

CIS Fellow David North has attacked the idea of waiving TPS fees for Haitian "illegals" who are probably struggling to send every extra penny they have back home right now. Last week North suggested that Haitian refugees would be best culturally absorbed by other Caribbean countries and any refugees accepted by the U.S. should be directed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which according to North, "have never lifted a finger to help America to resettle refugees."...Today, Krikorian is arguing against the U.S. taking in more refugees because "there are many countries poorer and more screwed-up than Haiti," despite the fact that he is generally opposed to accepting any refugees from even the most "screwed-up" countries. However, Krikorian hit a new intellectual low yesterday when he suggested that the reason Haiti is "so screwed up" (though apparently not screwed up enough), is because it's home to a "progress-resistant culture" that simply "wasn't colonized long enough".


Yes, that's exactly it. They needed to be broken down more, taught their place. Why does this remind me so much of what Pat Robertson said immediately following the quake.

And finally when the media isn't infantilizing the Haitian people, we return to Univision who resorts to "mammy"'ing Hatians. la doctora Nancy Alvarez of the show, Quien Tiene la Razon, where she refers to sex as "chaca chaca" (yes, I have seen the show), actually said that she felt a special connection to Haiti because her 'nana' (read nanny) was Haitian. Cuz well you know having a Haitian caregiver, a black woman taking care of you, a light skinned Latin American woman parents were privileged enough to afford a nanny is exactly like living her life or like the lives of so many of the Haitian people now.

Someone responded to a tweet VivirLatino posted saying that stereotypes are the least of Haiti's problems now and here is why I disagree : alot of the necessary outpouring of help being given to Haiti now has been given with no real context or sense of who Haiti is, who it's people are and why shit was so fucked to begin with. While watching the Univision telethon I heard Don Francisco say at least half a dozen times how "forgotten" Haiti was. This to me is like saying Columbus fucking "discovered" America. Haiti is not some mythical place that suddenly appeared in the Caribbean as the result of violent seismic shift. It has been for thousands of years, evolving, growing, surviving and beyond surviving over there and here, wherever your here is. If you never saw it before, you weren't paying attention.

VivirLatino is a daily publication published by 2 Mujeres Media, dedicated to featuring all the latest politics, culture, entertainment of interest to the diverse and influential Latino and Latina community in the U.S. They can be contacted at info@vivirlatino.com.

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