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US unleashed virulent form of racism in Haiti

Throughout its history Haiti was victimized by many, but it survived as an independent country until the US occupation of July 28, 1915.

From the outset, the invaders, mostly men from the former Southern Confederate States, still resentful of the outcome of the Civil War, began to treat Haiti as conquered territory and its inhabitants as “barbarians that need to be civilized.” They were given carte blanche by Woodrow Wilson, the first US President from the South since reconstruction, who took advantage of the diversion of the world attention to World War I to invade the first independent Black Republic of the world.

The atrocities committed back then are too painful to grasp by the accounts of many trusted sources. Haitian peasants became hunting prey for rednecks who boasted about the number they killed every day and even posing with photos. No one knows the exact amount that was killed since the press was censored. Some say 5,000; others say 50,000 or much more.

But one thing is certain: The ferocity of the massacre was so intense that it sent chills to Washington who demanded a cease to the operation and ordered an investigation. The Forbes Commission confirmed the accounts of the atrocities, including the heinous practice of “corvée”; a form of slavery whereby young Haitian men were indiscriminately raided, beaten and round up for hard labor camps. All this happened under a constitution, drafted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, which gave the invaders full immunity against prosecution.

The fabric of the country was drastically changed. Racial discrimination became the norm in the newly established societal order whereby the Mulattos occupied the upper echelon while the Negros relegated to the bottom. The “Nantis”, a newly arrived ethnic group from the Middle East, did not waste time to take advantage of the societal order to enrich themselves at the expenses of the masses. Expropriated from their lands and demoralized, the poor peasants began to migrate toward Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The successive Haitian governments (all puppets of the occupants) contracted to sell them as “braceros” in the bateys.

Since then, Haiti has lost its autonomy and became a dependent, welfare State. It is still functioning today under the same political and economic structure that was established in 1915. Nothing has changed for a full century.

Lucknet Bayas is deeply involved in the Haitian Diaspora community in Massachusetts. He can be reached at renkcul@gmail.com.