The views expressed with in this editorial dont necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com or its staff.
AllHipHop.com and other sites,
activists, entities and caring people are scrambling to create Hip-Hop for
Haiti. What it is exactly, we'll let you know soon, but we know we will
continue to help the nation and support people like Wyclef that are more saints
than rappers these days, wrote AllHipHop
CEO Chuck Creekmur last Friday.
In his editorial, Creekmur castigated the apathy he believes certain well-to-do
Hip-Hop artists have displayed since news broke last Tuesday night of the 7.0 Mw
earthquake which leveled large parts of Haiti, claimed thousands of lives, and
I applaud Creekmur for his charitable
endeavors at this time of need, but its also worth noting that aid alone never
goes far enoughmore so in this specific scenario. Haiti needs more than aidit
needs allies ready to carry as many crosses in not only helping rebuild broken
infrastructures, but ensuring political stability once the rubble clears, the
dead bodies have been disposed of, and mainstream media has turned its camera
lenses to more titillating topics.
In dark times like this, especially when
concerning darker people of the world, the liberal capitalists come out in
droves, ready to give as much tax-deductible money their accountants agree to.
As philosopher Slavoj iek wrote three years ago, this crewof movie stars, TV
personalities, news anchors, entertainers, executives, wealthy philanthropists,
etc.love a humanitarian crisis; it brings out the best in them. They never
hesitate to take a moment from their busy lives to urge everyone watching
whatever PSA theyre staring in this
time to give as much as possible; to spear a dime; to empty their pockets
for a good cause. But, to ieks
point, more often than not, whatever aid is accumulated not only fails to reach
populations most in need, but also works to mask the underlying economic
exploitation exacerbating the disasters: There is a chocolate-flavoured
laxative available on the shelves of US stores which is publicised with the
paradoxical injunction: Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate!i.e.
eat more of something that itself causes constipation.
And, it seems, the laxative-pushing has
already begun. The conservative Heritage Foundation was quick to remind patrons
that Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S.
(Later renamed: Things to Remember While Helping Haiti.) In a blog post for
the foundation, an author describes why this life-altering (and life-stopping)
moment must be used, amidst the aid efforts of course, to interrupt the
nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the
Venezuelan coast, to prevent any large-scale movement by Haitians to take to
the sea in dangerous and rickety watercraft to try to enter the U.S.
illegally, to insist that the Haiti government work closely with the U.S. to
insure that corruption does not infect the humanitarian assistance, and to
implement a strong and vigorous public diplomacy effort to counter the
negative propaganda certain to emanate from the Castro-Chavez camp. All these
are critical since [l]ong-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy
are badly overdue.
This is why aid is never innocent. There
are almost always political incentives tied to foreign aid. Its not enough
merely to cut checks or text a few numbers; its critical to know into whose
handsand toward what endsones cash is going.
Haiti has suffered enoughfrom the
bellicosity of its affluent neighborsand as if to punish Haitians further, mainstream
media has made a circus of the crisis.
Once word of the disaster hit newsrooms
across the country, the big networks dispatched their celebrity correspondents with
swiftness. Anderson Cooper, Ann Curry, Brian Williams, Bill Hemmeryou name them.
Of course very few of the big-name bobbleheads were prepared for reality as it
stared them down. Take, for example, FOX News minion Bill Hemmer who whined,
I've had the good fortune of seeing a good part of this world, and a lot of
the 3rd world, and this is the most inaccessible story I have ever covered. He
went on: It's inaccessible in so many ways: our ability to communicate, our
ability to move around, our ability to get information.
Oh, you dont say, Bill. Inaccessible? In a country systematically destroyedand
turned upside downby economic foreign policies!Inaccessible? NBCs Brian
Williams was less caustic: This is just a colossal calamity.
The celebrity news men and women, with sleeves rolled up, made sure to
dramatize and document every aspect of their sojourn in Haitifrom sleeping in baggage containers, to inhaling
the toxic smell of dead bodies. These are the stories of their lives, as
Williams put it.
But wheres Haitis story?
Starting last Tuesday night, viewers were
informed Haiti is such a poor country. Poor Haiti. Why this country is poor
has hardly gotten a second of address. Why a country only 500 miles from
Florida had, long before the earthquake, 50% of its citizens malnourished, with
70% making less than $1 a day, couldnt be of lesser concern.
In recent times, one other similar eventdramatically affecting the lives of
poor Black folkcomes to mind: Katrina.
The parallels are unmistakable:
historical antecedents which made both natural disasters even worse are almost
entirely ignored. In Katrinas case, for a state with the third highest rate of
children living in poverty, and whose illiteracy rate was 40%, many, educated
by popular press, wondered why residents couldnt simply drive out of the
impending storm. For Haiti, the most financially disempowered country in the
Western hemisphere, dilapidated by decades of political instability (sponsored
by certain governments), and flooded with foreign food imports and
subsidizationwhich inevitably led to famine, which inevitably led to street
riots and violent protests in mid-2008: little of this history has found solace
in the shock-and-awe broadcasts of network news and cable chatter.
Instead, we are simply told that Haiti is a poor country. Poor by nature. Worse yet, the vibrant
history of successful revolt against former colonizers, of economic
independence, of genuine democracywhich spans centuriesis unknown to most
raised on Cable Network News.
same news channels who sensationalized every bit of the Katrina debacle, and
then patted each others backs warmly for reportedlythough sufficient proof
doesnt existholding accountable elected officials responsible, are back at
it. Sticking microphones into the faces of hapless victims, holding up babies
as props, shedding insincere tearsback at it. One wonders where the crocodile
tears were before relatives were picking and pulling out family members from
beneath bricks and buildings. The rain of salt water could have done greater
good when Haitis peoples were catching hell, for decades, due in large part to
the economic policies of a few superpowers.[8 ]
hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says,
Theyre looting. You see a white family, it says, They're looking for
food, Kanye West eloquently protested five years ago, in wake of images,
disseminated by TV, web, and print media, describing Black New Orleans families
disproportionately (in stark contrast to those of Whites) as lootersrather
than harmless citizens starving of hunger.
And, though the disparity of racial representation hasnt been featured in the same
sense this time, news folk have already gotten down to the business of fixating
on a few Haitian men armed with machetes, and on reports of food-looting, than
the hungry bellies left unfilled and the lost ones unrecovered. Not only does
this thoughtless practice offer a very unfortunate and unfair presentation of
the real reality, it also discourages
some from giving any further since, they figure, their charitable dollars are
likely to end up being misused or looted by street thugs and rogues. Just as
with the many unsubstantiated reports of babies raped in the Superdome and
mothers sexually assaulted, news of widespread, uncontrollable crimes are also
dominating mainstream reports.
this, of course, comes the rationalization of military boots on the ground. For
Katrina, it was the criminal gang Blackwater dispatched.
For Haiti, it is the U.S. Army and U.N. Peacekeeping forcesand, to be sure, backup private security. 5 years ago,
police forces ran amok, with unfettered and unrestricted power, imprisoning (or
attacking) any citizen who even looked suspicious (Black and male).
Theres no reason to believe the same wouldnt happenor isnt already
happeningagain in Haiti. And reports of Blackwater employees blowing off heads and clashing with innocent civilians
should dispel the mistruth that military might can do the job of relief organizations.
cranks of the religious right never disappoint in helping translate Gods thoughts. Just last week, Rev. Pat
Robertson informed millions of viewerswho, I can only assume, he believes are
dumber than 5th gradersthat the people of Haiti are simply paying
for their pact to the devil. Theyve been cursed, he lamented. Not economic
exploitation; not hazardous architectural decisions forced by economic
exploitation; not a natural disaster aided by an abused planet; but divine retributionas was also said
following Katrina. Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people
might not want to talk about it, Rev. Robertson explained on his international
program, The 700 Club. They were under the heel of the Frenchyou know,
Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil.
They said, We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True
story. And so, the devil said, Okay, it's a deal.
Its obvious Robertsons twisted theological thinking is steeped in racism, in
a belief, much like slave masters convinced themselves centuries ago, that
white domination of Black savages was divine ordinance. But it also bespeaks
an extremist philosophy of Christianityfar from the redemptive gospel of Jesus
Christthat preaches eternal damnation of every sinfulbetter yet liberalsoul.
When Katrina struck and dead Black bodies were shown swimming in muddied waters,
popular preacher John Hagee, another press secretary for God, explained why it was wrong to feel sorry for the victims (in
both cases, predominantly Black): What happened in New Orleans looked like the
curse of God. In time, if New Orleans recovers and becomes [a] pristine city,
it can be called a blessing. But at this time its called a curse.
But for all the parallels between
Katrina and Haiti, one difference shatters all similarities: the Bush gang was
well-equipped, financially and infrastructurally, to provide relief efforts for
dying citizens. Haiti was in no such shape. Even if all government agencies
were functioning faultlessly, there still was a great gap in what could be done
and what should be done. The apathy of cold-hearted, insecure nitwits like Rush
Limbaugh notwithstanding: [ W]e've already donated to Haiti. It's called the
U.S. income tax.
Katrina victims, however, deserved more from a government fully capable of
providing adequate evacuation plans ... [and] transportation for people
[lacking] money, cars, or help to get them out of the city.
The indifference of brain-dead megaphones like Bill OReilly notwithstanding:
Many, many, many of the poor in New Orleans ... weren't going to leave no
matter what you did. They were drug-addicted. They weren't going to get turned
off from their source. They were thugs.
Haitians, it is true, need all the help
they can get, but, as Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, warns, crises are often used now as the
pretext for pushing through policies that you cannot push through under times
of stability. Countries in periods of extreme crisis are desperate for any kind
of aid, any kind of money, and are not in a position to negotiate fairly the
terms of that exchange.
Desperation ought not to be abused by
oligarchic governments to drown Haiti into more debt or hold that sovereign
nation economically hostage. Desperation
ought not to be abused to enforce even more draconian mandates that only
promote further instability. Desperation
ought not to be abused to enhance specific political policies that only service
imperialistic ambitions. Unless one still believes in fairy tales, its almost
unthinkable to assume many foreign governments, whove already come bearing
gifts, dont see this as an opportunity to accomplish all three.
Katrina should serve a sobering
While human beings were hanging from
rooftops and stranded in water-packed houses, Republican leaders were promoting
relief measures to achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social
If Haitians are to lead lives of dignity, devoid of foreign intrusion, allies
would have to do more than just donate money or relief resources in the coming
months and years. Though the earthquake as a natural disaster was almost
unpreventable, it also stands true that, as was written post-Katrina, a
long-gathering storm of misguided policies and priorities preceded the
And this is where Harry Reid comes in.
Reid made news recently for comments underlying why Obamas light skin and Ivy
League parlancelack of Negro dialecthelped endear him to a mainstream
(white) majority. Flip that and the implications are obvious: Haitians, like
many New Orleans residents, are of dark skin and, most likely, speak in non-purified vernacular. Thus, their
concernsindeed their humanitieswere never of top priority in the hearts and
minds of those now rushing to shell out cash for these poor people. They arent clean and nice-looking, as
Vice President Biden might put it; thus, for decades and even centuries, their
plights were ignoredrendered inconsequential.
But now that the earth has opened up to swallow a people long-neglected and
forgotten, we witness a stumbling-over of communities and countries, worldwide,
to help out at this most unfortunate of times.
But this charade would only last a few
weeksas always. In but a little while, the people of Haiti, like New Orleans
residents, would be left to fend for themselves and, most tragically, left to
defend themselves against neoliberal capitalists with insidious intents. And
the game has only just begun.
Last week, House speaker Nancy Pelosi
expressed hope to see this tragedy transformed into a new, fresh start for
Haitian opportunity to build a boom economy. Pelosi drew from personal
history: From my own experience with earthquakes, being from San Francisco, I
think that this can be an opportunity for a real boom economy in Haiti.
The same was said post-Katrina, and, within 2 years, permanent changes were
already instituted to reframe the city of New Orleans into a Disney-like
tourist attractionwiped clean of its rich, Black history (and residents). None
of this was easy, of course. But it worked with a systematic plan including criminally
contaminated trailers for Katrina-stuck families, hotel evictions, displacement
of communities [through] the demolition of public housing projects, rampant
homelessness, and forced evacuation [of] helpless families.
There are no reasons to believe Haiti
isnt headed for the same fate. With George W. Bush and Bill Clinton
spearheading official relief efforts in Haiti, it seems, in fact, almost the
inevitable fate. Only a courageous countervailing movement that stands strong
for the dignities and humanities of Haitiansduring the aftermath and beyond: when
TV channels have moved on to the next circus, when people have stopped giving
and relief organizations are running out of aidwould save Haiti from an even
greater earthquake already rattling the ground beneath.
Tolu Olorunda is a cultural critic whose
work regularly appears on TheDailyVoice.com
and other online journals. He can be reached at: Tolu.Olorunda@gmail.com.
 Chuck Creekmur,
Haiti: Does Hip-Hop Care, All Hip Hop
(January 15, 2010). Online:
 Slavoj iek,
Nobody has to be vile, London Review of
Books (April 6, 2006). Online:
 Jim Roberts,
Things to Remember While Helping Haiti, The
Foundry (January 13, 2010). Online: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/01/13/things-to-remember-while-helping-haiti/
 Danny Shea,
Bill Hemmer From Haiti: This Is The Most Inaccessible Story I Have Ever
Covered, The Huffington Post
(January 14, 2010). Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/14/bill-hemmer-from-haiti-th_n_424094.html
 Danny Shea,
Brian Williams In Haiti: This Is Just A Colossal Calamity, The Huffington Post (January 14, 2010).
 Lenore Daniels,
The U.S.s Fidelity to Our Values is Haitis Tragedy, The Black Commentator (January 14,
2010). Online (Subscription Required): http://www.blackcommentator.com/358/358_ror_fidelity_to_values_haiti.php
 Earl Ofari
Hutchinson, Where was the world when Haiti really needed it? The Daily Voice (January 14, 2010).
[ 8] Garry
Pierre-Pierre, As Haiti Embargo Tightens, Poor Children Get Hungrier, The New York Times (July 3, 1994).
 Aaron Kinney,
Looting or finding? Bloggers are outraged over the different captions on
photos of blacks and whites in New Orleans, Salon (September 1, 2005). Online:
 Gary Younge,
Murder and rape - fact or fiction? The
Guardian (September 6, 2005). Online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/sep/06/hurricanekatrina.usa3
 Daniela Crespo
and Jeremy Scahill, Overkill in New Orleans, Alternet (September 12, 2005). Online: http://www.alternet.org/katrina/25320/
report detailing questionable shootings of 10 civilians, following Katrina:
 Amanda Terkel,
Pat Robertson Cites Haitis Earthquake As What Happens When You Swear A Pact
To The Devil, Think Progress
(January 13, 2010). Online: http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/13/robertson-haiti/
 Matt Corley,
Hagee Says Hurricane Katrina Struck New Orleans Because It Was Planning A
Sinful Homosexual Rally, Think
Progress (April 23, 2008). Online: http://thinkprogress.org/2008/04/23/hagee-katrina-mccain/
 Audio: http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201001130022
 Henry A. Giroux,
Stormy Weather: Katrina and the Politics
of Disposability (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2006), p. 43.
 Audio and
 Naomi Klein
Issues Haiti Disaster Capitalism Alert: Stop Them Before They Shock Again,
Democracy Now! (January 14, 2010). Online: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/14/naomi_klein_issues_haiti_disaster_capitalism
 Noam Chomsky, Interventions (San Francisco, CA: City
Lights Publishers, 2007), p. 149.
 Ibid., p. 147.
 Ibid., The
U.S.s Fidelity to Our Values is Haitis Tragedy, The Black Commentator.
 Top US
lawmaker: Quake aid may give Haiti new fresh start, AFP (January 16, 2010). Online: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jUdiiS9N1b_tKyvG6QWqj69grSqw
 Tolu Olorunda,
Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of apathy, The Daily Voice (August 28, 2009). Online: http://thedailyvoice.com/voice/2009/08/this-is-working-very-well-for-002230.php