I wish that I could say that the tragedy in Haiti has caused people to recognize Western culpability in the state of that country. I wish I could say that now that eyes have been opened, that the worldview of Haiti will change but such thoughts are utopian at best. Even in the worst of circumstances there are always going to be those that hold onto their privilege with a death grip because to do otherwise would mean recognizing that they are not entitled to the life of ease to which they have become accustomed. Paul Shirley wrote the following at Flip Collective:
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.
However, it is not outside the realm of imagination to think that the citizens of a country might be able to: A) avoid putting themselves into a situation that might result in such catastrophic loss of life. And B) provide for their own aid, in the event of such a catastrophe.
And if this were not enough of a stunning display of complete and utter ignorance, he finished with this letter to the Haitian people:
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
Only White masculinity (note: the most privileged group in history) would have the nerve to suggest that it had the right to speak on behalf of the entire population of the Globe. Haiti is poor because its capitol is used to support the hate speech of this former basketball player turned writer. The problem isn’t that some insist on consuming more than their share, the problem obviously is over sexed Black people breeding at will. Unlike White children, Black kids are not viewed with hope and love because to do so would mean placing value on Black lives. Tonight, I will hold my babies and love them all the more because the armour of my mothers love, is all that stands between them and men like Shirley. If you cannot find room in your heart for the suffering of children, then you have no heart at all.
Nothing that he said was reasonable or “polite” and in fact, he managed to serve as a shining white beacon to the world, that community and service only apply to those who have White privilege. Children have no home, people are starving and the dead now lie in mass graves but Shirley seeks to shame these people who have less than nothing for their very existence. Such is the privilege of Whiteness, that it is possible for those who have power to devalue the lives of others.
What more can be said in response to this? Unlike Shirley who has no pity and clearly no shame, the people of Haiti sent aid after Hurricane Katrina to the U.S. This is a country were the majority of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day and yet they sent aid. Each year in remittance payments, Haiti sends more money to the U.S. than it receives in aid. These brave people have the heart that most western citizens have never developed. Instead of wishing that Haiti will not rise from the ashes, Shirley should instead pray that Western citizens (or in his case Americans) develop the same sort of compassion and hope. The one certainty about empires is their eventual failure; the same people you see on the way up, are the same ones you see on the way down.
If you are as sickened by Paul Shirley as I am, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org