As is most often the case, America again turns her attention to the people of Haiti because of profoundly tragic events. The massive earthquake … has devastated an entire community. Complete families have been lost outright. The whole infrastructure of the Haitian government, ordinarily fragile, has been decimated. Once more Haiti, one of our closest neighbors, has need of our support and encouragement. And once again an unrelenting question emerges: How is it that Haiti has suffered so deeply and for so long?
Having lived in Haiti on several occasions, I would like to offer a rather specific answer. I will ask the readers' pardon in advance for attempting such foolishness, since, truly, the question regarding Haiti's long history of despair is well beyond my expertise. However, my concern for and love of the Haitian people requires me to offer my opinion in this matter.
Just hours after the earthquake, Pat Robertson, compelled by his infamously rash and predictable malice, pointed to supernatural causes for the Haitians' plight. In a statement of palpably obscene coldness and banality, Robertson claimed that the deadly event was the punishing work of God, because, as he went on to explain, 300 years ago there occurred a "legendary" account of Haitian leaders entering into a covenant with Satan as a means of throwing off the oppression of their French slave masters.
There's absolutely no shred of historical evidence for Robertson's wholly mythological story. I refer to it however to emphasize one crucial point regarding the real reasons surrounding Haiti's long struggle with oppression: It has always been convenient for thoughtless people to blame the Haitians for the entirety of their own dilemma, though nothing could be further from the truth.
I am not suggesting that the Haitians themselves bear no responsibility for their own troubles. Most Haitian leaders of the 20th century were despots and murderers. The systemic violence of the leaders against their own people is certainly the foundation of much of Haiti's misfortune. But I am making two additional basic claims: that Haiti's crisis is wholly man-made and that her corrupt rulers could not have succeeded without the direct assistance of powerful American influences.
Let me focus briefly on a singular set of facts to make my point. At most American retailers you can purchase cute children's clothing with Disney characters printed on them. Some readers may have made such purchases themselves. Most of these products are manufactured in Port-au-Prince by some of the largest and most well-known American corporations by means of Haitian labor, and most of the workers are paid less than $1 or $2 per day. …
American business interests would not want it to become general knowledge that they practice such dishonorable business in the "poorest country in the Western Hemisphere." It is worse than scandalous. However, such abuse of the Haitian people has been the norm since the French first brought them on merchant ships to the once-pristine island. The people of Haiti have been the pawns of unscrupulous lords for centuries, and America has participated in this activity wholeheartedly.
So Americans may ask once again in this recent news-making crisis, "How is it that Haiti has suffered so deeply, and for so long?" The answers to these related questions are in part quite uncomplicated.
— Jeff Powers