Category: Politics

S**thole

As part of my diversity and inclusion work I am often called upon to share with students my own experiences with racism, xenophobia or bullying. To do so I often channel my experiences growing up as a Haitian-American in New York City in the 80s and early 90s where it was not uncommon to be blamed for the A.I.D.S. epidemic, or my favorite schoolyard yarn, having a classmate come up to me and ask “hey do you have HBO?” Of course, I say yes because I don’t want them to think my family’s too poor to afford cable, only to be undone because they were really just setting me up for the punchline, “you have Haitian Body Odor?” I can no less untangle these experiences from 1980s New York than I can graffiti, peep-shows on 42nd St, or ostentatious businessman Donald Trump.

While I grew up a stone’s throw away Trump’s neighborhood in Queens, age and socioeconomic class kept us from ever crossing paths in the schoolyard. But when I think of 80s New York, his over the top persona is one of the first things that comes to mind. Therefore, when I heard that now President Donald Trump had recently referred to Haiti as a “s**thole” country, and that in June he had allegedly declared “all Haitians have A.I.D.S.” I was surprised—not by the fact that this particular resident of the White House had uttered such a thing—but rather that it had taken so long for him to explicitly name drop Haiti.

You see what I know now, but what it took me some time to learn, are the nuances of how racism works. At seven, ten, thirteen, or even sixteen years old I thought that an appropriate way of dealing with denigrating comments toward Haitians was to either laugh them off, or downplay my Haitian identity in some way. This usually meant giving the impression I was Jamaican or from one of the other Anglophone islands, or by the time all traces of my Haitian accent were gone, simply asserting myself as an American.

However, once I was done laughing it off, or ingratiating myself to some kids at school as something other than Haitian, I would soon learn that not only would the crude jokes about Haitians not cease, but also that either Jamaicans, Ecuadoreans or Puerto Ricans (the other prominent ethnic groups in my neighborhood) would soon bear the brunt of similarly menacing barbs. I eventually learned over time that not only was it important to stand up for myself and my own nationality, but also that I had to be courageous enough to standup and voice my discontent when mine was not the group being denigrated.

This is part of a lesson that I seek to impart to students when recounting the derogatory comments about Haitians that I had to learn to overcome.

Whether the topic is microaggressions, racism, bullying, or the importance of being active bystanders, I share my experience with anti-Haitian bias to illustrate how over time the same person could be a victim, an accomplice, or the person who stands up to help repair the harm.

In terms of President’s Trump’s comments specifically, it should not surprise anyone that the same person who actively discriminated against African-American renters, viciously sought to cast Mexican immigrants as racists, and pursued a ban on Muslims, would likewise not think highly of Haiti. While it may be true that many of us think better of ourselves, and believe that there is far less than racial animus in the United States then there is, we can ill afford to treat the current presidency as a 4-year long Thanksgiving Dinner where an unhinged uncle is holding court dropping one racist, sexist, transphobic barb after another. We also cannot continue pretending that this unhinged uncle is an anomaly that came out of nowhere.

Put differently, for the bulk of President Trump’s adult life, and roughly my entire life, Haiti has been virtually absent from school curricula and pretty much been presented as a “s**thole country” in much of American popular culture. A perfunctory reference to the Haitian revolution and a current events check-in during the Duvalier coup in 1986 were the only mentions of Haiti in my classes that I can recall before entering college. Likewise, when I embarked on a quest to read every book in the children’s section of my local library, the only book I remember finding about Haiti essentially presented it as a once great island that is now…essentially…a “s**thole.” From an early age most of us are taught to think more favorably of certain countries than others and undoing the damage done from this work is an overwhelming task.

For some this may be a turning point moment and your support in countering demeaning characterizations of Haiti such as those uttered by President Trump is welcome. However, for far too many other people like me, this is not a new struggle and one that shall persist long after this media moment has passed.

In closing it is well worth us all remembering that Haiti is no more a “s**thole” than American city streets are paved with gold. And moreover, Americans’ struggle to embrace Haiti’s complex reality is akin to our fight to explicate what binds together, Abilene, Berkeley and Charleston.

Obama’s Lost Army | New Republic

But they never got that chance. In late December, Plouffe and a small group of senior staffers finally made the call, which was endorsed by Obama. The entire campaign machine, renamed Organizing for America, would be folded into the DNC, where it would operate as a fully controlled subsidiary of the Democratic Party. Plouffe stayed on as senior adviser, and put trusted field organizers Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird in charge of the new group. Bird says the OFA team was never even told about the idea for Mov

Source: Obama’s Lost Army | New Republic

No Racial Barrier Left to Break (Except All of Them) – The New York Times

It’s true that, in fulfilling the duties of the presidency with great dignity, Mr. Obama represents the highest expression of the goal of assimilation. But for African-Americans, he was also the ultimate lesson in how this antidote alone is insufficient to heal the gaping wounds of racial injustice in America. It’s clear that black leadership, in itself, isn’t enough to transform the country. So we must confront the end of an era and the dawn of a new one.

Source: No Racial Barrier Left to Break (Except All of Them) – The New York Times

Why it’s important to talk about successful black and Latino boys

Hardworking” is the most common word the teens interviewed for the report used to identify themselves. For them, success was defined not just by grades and college but the ability to help their families and the people around them.

Source: Why it’s important to talk about successful black and Latino boys

Presidents draw fire for postelection comments

“One of the key tenets of higher education is based on asking the important questions, and that means we have to be willing to work through the tough discussions to find common ground,” Valerio Parrot said. “I do think this is a place where faculty and administrators can set the stage and bring together the various options across campus and show through their leadership how you agree to disagree and still work together.”

Source: Presidents draw fire for postelection comments

Divisions in My Dorm Room – The New York Times

As a student at New York University and the daughter of a civil servant at the United States Department of State, I am familiar with political unrest and its potentially disastrous outcomes in the arms of ignorance and hysteria. I did not hold any particularly strong opinions about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. If I had voted, however, I would have picked Mr. Trump. I was focused on school. I had no idea that a few days later I would be dismissed as a “Trump supporter” and a person of “privilege” who “reflected an us versus them mind-set” in an essay by my college roommate in this publication — an essay that would go viral and change my life.

Source: Divisions in My Dorm Room – The New York Times

In new report, Education Department urges colleges to ensure campuses are safe, inclusive

“We’ve got to stand up on behalf of our students who are the most vulnerable,” King said. “We’ve got to stand up for our students of color and insist on safe environments for them. We’ve got to stand up for our female students and insist on environments free of sexism. We’ve got to stand up for our students who are in religious minority groups who may be wrongly persecuted based on their religion. We’ve got to stand up for our students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We’ve got to stand

Source: In new report, Education Department urges colleges to ensure campuses are safe, inclusive

Maverick Carter responds to Phil Jackson ‘posse’ reference about LeBron James

“I don’t care that he talks about LeBron,” Maverick Carter told ESPN.com. “He could say he’s not that good or the greatest in the world as a basketball player. I wouldn’t care. It’s the word ‘posse’ and the characterization I take offense to. If he would have said LeBron and his agent, LeBron and his business partners or LeBron and his friends, that’s one thing. Yet because you’re young and black, he can use that word. We’re grown men.”

Source: Maverick Carter responds to Phil Jackson ‘posse’ reference about LeBron James business partners

‘If we want comrades, we must be comrades.’ by Wahneema Lubiano | NewBlackMan (in Exile)