Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Oh Those Poor People"


*I hesitated making the below post because I didn't want it to be mistaken for a lack of concern for the devastation Isaac caused but I was talking to a Haitian friend of mine in Port au Prince and they encouraged me to post it saying "if thats what you believe then post it, if you don't post it then you don't really believe it"

I was talking to someone earlier this week and the issue of tropical storm Isaac approaching Haiti came up. As surprising as this might be for some of you, I didn't bring up the Haiti topic. They were telling me that Isaac was going to hit Haiti and "Oh those poor people." It is a phrase that I have heard over and over again when people talk about Haiti - "Oh those poor people"

Every time I hear this or similar comments it drives me absolutely crazy. It's not that I don't think that Haitians gets more than its fair share of bad luck. They do (Earthquake, Hurricanes, Cholera and the list goes on) and its Too Much. It's not that I don't empathize with the people in Haiti, particularly those still living in Tents or with unsuitable housing. I do and they have constantly been in my thoughts. And it's not that I haven't been worried about my friends and god-daughter. I have been worried and have been on the phone and facebooking throughout the past couple of days to see how they are doing. And I am sure in the coming weeks I will be posting about the devastating effects of the storm. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about those "poor people"

When Americans say "Oh those poor people" it's said out of pity. It's a throw away statement. "Oh those poor people." They feel bad but they don't really care or know Haitians. If they did, they wouldn't be saying "Oh those poor people." It's said in a way that implies that Haitians and Haiti can't help themselves, that they are bystanders to their own fate. "Oh those poor people" suggests that they just let things happen to them. "Oh those poor people" suggests a people who are poor in spirit, depressed, in-active, and weak.

These aren't the Haitians I know.

At orientation this week I heard a quote from Einstein that went something like "you do not really know something, unless you can explain it to your grandmother." So this is how I would explain the Haiti and its people, that I think I know, to a grandparent - Haitians are resilient. They are strong and don't take things just sitting down. They are the farthest thing from poor.

There is a picture taken by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti of a woman walking through chin high water caused by flooding from Isaac. Its a striking photo and you immediately worry about the woman (and hope that the person taking the picture helped her). It's a picture where you could easily pity that woman caught in the storm and say "oh that poor woman" but then you read the caption. This woman is going back to her home to get her belongings. She is strong. She is fighting back. She is Haitian.

And just in case I haven't sufficiently made my point, heres just one more thing. Recently the brunt of the storm ended in Port au Prince and there are already photos out of Haitians clearing the streets and helping each other. Of girls going out in the floods to get drinking water. I even saw one photo of a RaRa (like a parade) through the streets of Port au Prince playing music and celebrating the storms passing. I don't understand how anyone can see Haitians and think "Oh those poor people."

I hope you will keep Haitians in your thoughts and prayers as they work to recover from Isaac and as they continue to work to get people out of the tents and combat Cholera. If you would like to read more about Isaac and its effects on Haiti you should check out Sister Sarah's Excellent Adventure. Her blog has some great coverage of Isaac's impact.

RaRa in the streets after Isaac by @joshjobitz

Cleaning up Champs Mars after Isaac by @isabellemorse

Carrying drinking water after Isaac by
@RAMHaiti

No comments:

Post a Comment