Tuesday 24 April 2018

'Today we mourn, tomorrow we fight' - Acclaimed Haitian-American novelist responds to Trump's 'racist' remarks in powerful speech

  • Donald Trump reportedly questioned why the US would accept more people from Haiti and "sh*thole countries" in Africa
  • Trump's 'racist' comments were denounced across the world
  • Acclaimed Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat issued a powerful statement saying that Haitians "today we mourn, tomorrow we fight"
Donald Trump and Edwidge Danticat
Donald Trump and Edwidge Danticat
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Haitians across the world reacted with outrage to reports that US President Donald Trump questioned why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "sh*thole countries" in Africa.

Mr Trump spoke during an Oval Office meeting on the eve of the anniversary of the 2010 earthquake, one of the deadliest disasters in modern history.

US President Donald Trump gestures as he boards Airforce One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland on January 12, 2018, for a weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas KammNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump gestures as he boards Airforce One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland on January 12, 2018, for a weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas KammNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

President Jovenel Moise's government issued a strongly worded statement denouncing what it called a "racist" view of Haitian immigrants and people from African countries.

"The Haitian government condemns in the strongest terms these abhorrent and obnoxious remarks which, if proven, reflect a totally erroneous and racist view of the Haitian community and its contribution to the United States," it said.

Mr Trump was in a closed meeting with members of Congress to discuss immigration on Thursday when he reportedly questioned why the US would accept more people from Haiti and "sh*thole countries" in Africa, rather than places like Norway.

At first the White House did not deny that the remark was made. On Friday the president tweeted that his language was "tough" but insisted he did not say anything derogatory about Haitians aside from noting it is a poor country.

Edwidge Danticat
Edwidge Danticat

Haitians at home and abroad were stunned, and internet message boards and radio stations were flooded with angry and anguished comments.

Acclaimed Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat issued a powerful statement through her Facebook page saying that Haitians "today we mourn, tomorrow we fight".

"Today, like many of my fellow Haitians and Haitian-Americans, I planned to mourn the dead. I planned to do my mourning quietly and in small doses. I planned to stay busy so I wouldn’t spend the whole day in pain. I planned to check on the children in my family who lost their father and baby brother in the catastrophic earthquake eight years ago.

"I planned to hold my two daughters a little bit tighter tonight, especially my youngest who was the baby I kept in my arms to keep myself from curling up in a fetal position each time I saw a child being pulled from under a school or house on my television screen. Instead, because the President of the United States, who seems determined to insult Haitians every chance he gets, has said that Haiti--along with “Africa”--is a sh*thole, I must also lament yet another insult to our dignity."

Ms Danticat continued to say that Haitians have endured a lot of suffering at the hands of other countries, including the US.

"A few weeks ago, it was “All Haitians have AIDS.” This week we are from a sh*thole country. Haiti is not unacquainted with racists or white supremacists. We defeated our share of them in 1804 when we became the world’s first black republic. Haiti is not a sh*thole country. It is a country that, for example, if France hadn’t grown tired of fighting, it would have never sold 828,000 square miles of land to the US, from the western banks of the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, nearly doubling the size of this country. Alexander Hamilton said that the Louisiana Purchase would have never happened were it not for the “courage and obstinate resistance of the black inhabitants” of Haiti.

"We are also the country that the United States has invaded several times, preventing us from consistently ruling ourselves. If we are a poor country, then our poverty comes in part from pillage and plunder. In the 1980s, the US government--claiming that Haitian pigs had swine fever--participated in the extermination of nearly every native black pig, which represented some families’ entire life savings. These same farmers were then “encouraged” to buy the pampered pink pigs of US farmers. This is only one of many examples I could list."

The acclaimed novelist said that Haiti is  a country of great art and culture.

"We are also a country where great art, music, and literature have risen from these and a slew of other woes. We are entrepreneurs, big and small, dreamers, workers. We are a country that created people like my father, who drove a taxicab in Brooklyn, sometimes sixteen hours a day, so that my three brothers (two teachers and an IT specialist) and I could have a better life.

"We are the country that eight years ago lost over 300,000 people whose lives and memory we should be commemorating today, rather than trying to hold our heads up wherever in the world we happen to be. Apparently, the President’s remarks came out of a discussion about Temporary Protected Status, during which he is reported to have said “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” Mr. President, so many have tried to take us out before. Eight years ago, the earth itself tried to take Haiti out. Yet the courage and obstinate resistance of Haitians remain. We survive, and when given the opportunity, we THRIVE. To borrow a slogan that many Americans of different backgrounds have been using since the beginning of this presidency, today we mourn, tomorrow we fight."

With reporting from PA

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