|"Warrior" Jean-Michel Basquiat|
The massacre of the whites was a tragedy; not for the whites. For these old slave-owners, those who burnt a little powder in the arse of a Negro, who buried him alive for insects to eat, who were well treated by Toussaint, and who, as soon as they got the chance, began their old cruelties again; for these there is no need to waste one tear or one drop of ink. The tragedy was for the blacks and the Mulattoes. It was not policy but revenge, and revenge has no place in politics. The whites were no longer to be feared, and such purposeless massacres degrade and brutalize a population, especially one which was just beginning as a nation and had had so bitter a past. The people did not want it--all they wanted was freedom, and independence seemed to promise that. Christophe and other generals strongly disapproved. Had the British and the Americans thrown their weight on the side of humanity, Dessalines might have been curbed. As it was Haiti suffered terribly from the resulting isolation. Whites were banished from Haiti for generations, and the unfortunate country, ruined economically, its population lacking in social culture, had its inevitable difficulties doubled by this massacre. That the new nation survived at all is forever to its credit for if the Haitians thought that imperialism was finished with them, they were mistaken.
- C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938)
The speed with which these decontextualized images then circulate across many linguistic and national frontiers has increased dramatically with the globalization of mass culture, reinforcing the quasi-universal perception of Haiti as a place of abuse, violence, and lawlessness. In Derrida’s terms, a false ontology of “presence” has been created, one that mimics the real but only succeeds in offering the illusion of transparency and the erroneous understanding of Haiti as pure chaos and mere surface. As Laënnec Hurbon has put it, Haiti is a site of “fantasmic tropes” that have served to justify the US occupation of 1915–34 or the intervention during the Clinton years in the 1990s (1994–95) against the Aristide regime, and that continue today to undermine the “quest for the expression of human dignity and liberty.” These tropes construct Haiti as a paradoxical object, fascinating, haunting, and repulsive, but also “spectacular” and desirable: on the one hand, a commodity with no real value, clad in ridicule or made abject, and of no interest to potential consumers; on the other, a highly coveted exotic colonial space with magical practices that have inspired artists, writers, and filmmakers – and indeed what could be more mesmerizing than Vodou rituals and zombies as numerous horror films have shown.
- Françoise Lionnet, "Postcolonialism, language, and the visual: By way of Haiti" (2008)
David Barsamian: The United States invaded Haiti in 1915 and remained there until 1934. Decades of dictatorship followed. What kind of legacy has that left on Haiti?
Edwidge Danticat: It had a very potent legacy that we’re still living with today. For example, the whole military structure in Haiti that existed until the early 1990s was put in place by the American occupation. At the top there were Southern white officers, who led an army that crushed the indigenous resistance—the cacos. A high-ranking U.S. officer said when he arrived, “To think these niggers speak French!” Later, Haitian officers attended the notorious School of the Americas at Fort Benning. The threat from the U.S. is something that is always hanging over people’s heads: If we don’t behave, we’ll have occupation again.
- "Edwidge Danticat Interview," The Progressive (2003)