Caribbean dignity unbowed; UWI vice-chancellor explains what Trump and USA really owe Haiti

“Haiti’s Caribbean vision illuminated America’s way out of its colonial darkness. This is the debt President Trump’s America owes Toussaint L’Ouverture’s Haiti.

“It’s a debt of philosophical clarity and political maturity. It’s a debt of how to rise to its best human potential. It’s a debt of exposure to higher standards. Haiti is really America’s Statue of Liberty.”

The following Letter to the Editor, a response to United States President Donald Trump’s disparaging comment about Haiti and other “shithole” countries, was penned by University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice Chancellor, Professor Hilary Beckles:

Photo: United States president Donald Trump.
(Copyright Business Insider)

The democratic, nation-building debt the American nation owes the Caribbean, and the Haitian nation in particular that resides at its core, is not expected to be repaid but must be respected. Any nation without a nominal notion of its own making can never comprehend the forces that fashioned its origins.

Haiti’s Caribbean vision illuminated America’s way out of its colonial darkness. This is the debt President Trump’s America owes Toussaint L’Ouverture’s Haiti.

It’s a debt of philosophical clarity and political maturity. It’s a debt of how to rise to its best human potential. It’s a debt of exposure to higher standards. Haiti is really America’s Statue of Liberty.

The President’s truth-making troops might not know–and probably care little for the fact–that Haitian people were the first in this modern world to build a nation completely free of the human scourge of slavery and native genocide.

It might be worthless in their world view that Haiti’s leadership made the Caribbean the first civilisation in modernity to criminalise and constitutionally uproot such crimes against humanity and to proceed with sustainability to build a nation on the basis of universal freedom.

Photo: Toussaint Louverture was the best known leader of the Haitian Revolution.

The tale of their two constitutions tells this truth. The American Independence Declaration of 2 July, 1776, reinforced slavery as the national development model for the future. The Haitian Independence Declaration, 1 January, 1804, defined slavery as a crime and banished it from its borders.

Haiti, then, became the first nation in the world to enforce a provision of personal democratic freedom for all and did so at a time when America was deepening its slavery roots.

The USA, therefore, should daily bow before Haiti and thank it for the lessons it taught in how to conceptualise and create a democratic political and social order. Having built their nation on the pillars of property rights in humans and, realising a century later that slavery and freedom could not co-exist in the same nation, Americans returned to the battlefield to litigate the century’s bloodiest defining and deciding civil war.

Haiti was and will remain this hemisphere’s mother of modern democracy and the Caribbean the cradle of the first ethical civilisation. For President Trump, therefore, to define the Caribbean’s noble heroes of human freedom, whose sacrifice was to empower and enlighten his nation in its darkest days, as a site of human degradation is beyond comprehension. It is a brutal bashing of basic truths that are in need of not violation but celebration.

Photo: United States president Donald Trump.
(Copyright Gawker)

Haiti, then, is mankind’s monument to the triumphant rise from the demonic descent into despair to the forging of its first democratic dispensation. It is home to humanity’s most resilient people who are the persistent proof of the unrelenting intent of the species to let freedom rain and reign.

Thankfully, many fine souls dedicated to social justice have risen to ‘write this wrong’ into the public record. Let’s take comfort in recalling one such line drawn on the highway of history. In this 2018 White House attempt to diminish Caribbean Civilisation, let’s read aloud a part of William Wordsworth’s 1802 celebratory sonnet to Toussaint Louverture of Haiti, the greatest democracy mind of modernity:

Photo: An artistic recreation of the Battle for Palm Tree Hill during the Haitian Revolution.

“…though fallen thyself, never to rise again,

Live and take comfort. Thou have left behind

Powers that will work for thee,

Air, earth, and skies;

There’s not a breathing of the common wind

that will forget thee; thou have

great allies;

thy friends are exultation, agonies, and love,

and man’s unconquerable mind.”

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  1. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    “Haiti is the only member of CARICOM whose citizens require a visa to travel to any other CARICOM nation. In other words, although CARICOM leaders pay lip service to Haiti, they also know that Haitians might leave their failed state—which is the diplomatic way of calling a country a ‘shithole’—and settle in CARICOM member states to the outrage of those Caribbean countries’ citizens and with a potential consequent backlash on the politicians in office.
    “And, tellingly, the most accomplished Haitians also show by their feet that they share Trump’s view of their country: in 2016, Haiti was ranked 7th in the world among countries with the highest brain drain, with over two-thirds of the Haitians leaving their country having a university degree; unsurprisingly, their preferred destination is America.”
    Columnist Kevin Baldeosingh declares UWI Vice-Chancellor Hilary Beckles’ Haiti op-ed—which responded to US President Donald Trump’s ‘shithole’ comment—to be a ‘flawed argument… divorced from any sort of fact or even coherent philosophy’

  2. we the 3rd richest country in the americas btw …if we one usa is one too

  3. It’s obvious to me that he is talking about T&T as well, isn’t it obvious to anyone else?

  4. I don’t encourage these types of things but I think I can laugh. ?

  5. Damian R. Scott lol well look trouble if he only reach there. When’s his next trip? Ggggrrrrr lol

  6. Allyuh keep worrying bout the Trump enigma..just a set of planned distractions. Look they just had a false flag dry run in Hawaii yesterday lol.

  7. ..And where is the Caricom statement in solidarity with haiti and condemning Trump’s racist nonsense? Indeed, where is the statement from the TT government? We do not have a foreign policy. The last TT government to have a clear foreign policy was headed by Dr. Eric Williams. We are REALLY shit hole countries if we do not show some bravery and stand with Haiti….

  8. Sign of the hour.
    The president of America has described African countries in the most derogatory manner.
    Persons from those countries slaved to build America. He lives and works in the White House which was built by slaves,according to Michelle Obama.
    Ponder over the sign given to us by the Prophet saw:
    “The slave girl will give birth to the mistress.”

  9. We all have to stand together as one Caribbean and not allow the disruptive and corruptive governments to put our countries in distress, as it is happening slowly but surely.
    All people in the Caribbean should stand for righteousness and democracy and eliminate the corruptive nature of any government who choose to impoverish our nation. And we can be first world countries in our own rights. God helps those who help themselves live by it and be guided by it.

  10. That’s not a genuine smile like you are forcing that or you are in pain

  11. I thought Trump was referring to modern day Haiti. The writer references 1800’s Haiti.

  12. Haiti’s worst demonisation is from it’s own brothers and sisters of the Caribbean a master plan similar to what defines and escapes a unified Africa. Knowing and helping Haiti with its enviable rich history as reminded by Prof Beckles is the least we can do in apology. Visiting Haiti reveals a rich history from the art displayed and available on the streets etc. Haiti people are highly educated and extremely entrepreneurial as I have met taxi drivers in Miami who have University degrees and are just waiting for their time in the sun – even where other weather persists. Some have already shone in high positions of politics, sport, medicine, law and entertainment. We in TT continue to be impressed from time to time at the competitiveness of Haitian soccer underestimating their capability over and over by our own biases. Haiti is indelibly etched in our early world cup bid history when we were stopped on the verge of qualifying in a game marred in controversy…Haiti deserves our respect ✊ then building on this…onward to deal in black unison with Trump’s fake world…

    • Good points Ronald Marcano. The Caribbean man continues to be his own worst enemy. We feed at the bosom of ignorance in the post colonial west. Little understanding of Caribbean history and a general unwillingness to understand our interwoven and storied past has given credence to the verbal diarrhea that continue to spew from men like Trump.

    • Watching these people express sentiments, the word hypocrisy comes to mind. Haitians need a Visa to travel to TT. Their graduates are the only ones in CARICOM who do not qualify for a CSME skills certificate. The situation with Haiti and DR – for CARICOM it had been business as usual despite the injustice. I don’t think any influencers in the Caribbean have the moral authority to comment on President Trump’s statements.

  13. Its amazing how people work, they convince the powerful they are powerless and the weak are a threat. Their strategy is simple convince working and middle class whites that the rich are thier allies and the poor and underclass who have no power are thier enemy.

  14. ppl are rightfully complaining about Trump comment and ignoring the recent actions under Obama Clinton and Bush against the rest of the world

    • “[…] Haiti paid a very high price for its assertion that black people were born free, entitled to freedom and the right to fight for it.

      In a real sense, from the moment of that assertion of freedom, Haiti was earmarked for the “shithole” status now applied to it. It was punished by every European nation, particularly France, and successive governments of the United States aided and abetted in the process.

      France demanded huge reparations for the slaves and plantations it lost at the revolt of Toussaint L’Ouverture. In 1825, Haiti’s leaders were forced to agree to pay France the harsh levy of 90 million gold francs, which the country did not finish repaying until 1947.

      For almost 100 years, Haiti was pushed into poverty by the French demand, upheld by Western European nations and the US. Indeed, the US, which continued to be a slave-owning nation after European nations outlawed it, did not recognise Haiti as a free nation until 1862 – the last major power at the time to do so.

      But, even that recognition was meaningless. Taking advantage of Haiti’s lack of capacity to defend itself from external intervention, US naval ships entered Haitian waters no less than 24 times between 1849 and 1913, ostensibly “to protect American lives and property”. Finally, in 1915, the US invaded Haiti and ruled the country as an occupying force for 20 years.

      During that period, Haiti and the Haitian people, already impoverished, exploited and isolated by what was then ‘the international community’ — Western European nations and the US – were further disadvantaged…”

  15. the americans turned around and blockaded haiti trade and then invaded and massacred hundreds while suppressing their democracy

  16. Illiterate, ignorant and a moron. In one year this POTUS has destroyed US standing in the world and severed relationship built by former Presidents. What an embarrassment. YOU GET THE GOVERNMENT YOU DESERVE. Remember he was democratically elected. What does say about the mind of the People who elected him and those who refused to vote. That is the end result an inept , incompetent and runaway horse for a leader of the free world.

    • What US standing by the way? The little they had left? Lmao ?

    • Regardless of this moron , the US is the SUPERPOWER. Whenever disasters happen across the globe the US military is first on hand. They control the international financial institutions and they contribute the most to the UN. All that is in limbo with the inept and insane POTUS who has overturned many of former President OBAMAS. President Bush once asked “why don’t they like us? referring to countries across the globe relations to the the US. . Most countries economies are pegged against the US dollar. Remember the saying when the US sneeze, we catch cold. In international relations, political scientist posits that the US has considered Latin America and the Caribbean in its’ backyard. the CARICOM need to be more unified. We may not like them,but they hold the power. POTUS Trump has divided the world and the US stands alone, In this global village we ALL need each other,

  17. Yup. And Jefferson refused to recognize Haiti even after they were “gifted” with the Louisiana Purchase because of Haiti.

  18. Anyone who truly studies and appreciates history will understand that Haiti is how it is not by its own choices but through colonial and imperialist spire. While other European countries rejoiced as the jewel of the French Caribbean plucked themselves away from Napoleon, none of those countries wanted the same to happen to their substantial Caribbean portfolios. So they made it extremely difficult to legally trade and interact with Haiti lest those black upstarts inspire rebellion and revolution in the other territories. Coupled with a crippling debt imposed on them by France as the ‘price’ to remain emancipated (debt that saddles their development to this day, 200 years later), Haiti was punished most fiercely in all aspects for its defiance of colonialism. And America played its part in this multiple times over the years in further crippling them.

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