Letters

An unfair comparison 

Dear Editor,

After reading the letter, “The spiritual foundation of Majority Rule Day and the Haitian Revolution,” I felt compelled to say that comparing Haiti’s development after independence to The Bahamas’ is like comparing apples and oranges.

Some facts to consider:

Haiti was the first successful revolution by a Black or brown oppressed people against European colonial powers.

Further, despite every effort by European powers and the United States (US) to undermine the revolution, to keep Haiti a slave colony, and keep it dependent and indebted to outside powers, Haitians were able to maintain their independence and serve as an inspiration for slave revolts and revolutionary efforts in the Caribbean and Latin America.

In 1790, Haiti’s population was approximately 600,000 with 90 percent of its people slaves experiencing perhaps the most brutal systems of chattel slavery in the Caribbean, indeed in the Americas.

During their revolutionary struggle, Haitians defeated British, French, and Spanish armies that wanted to ensure the survival of slavery and colonialism. The French invading force consisted of over 20,000 men and dozens of warships.

In 1804, after more than a decade of foreign invasions, civil war, and economic and political dislocation, Haiti became the Americas’ second independent nation.

It took the French more than 20 years to recognize Haiti’s independence and only after Haiti agreed to pay a debt of over $21 billion (in today’s dollars) to former slave owners and lenders such as the City Bank of New York (Citibank).

Great Britain recognized Haiti’s independence in 1833 and the US in 1862 (only after its southern states seceded, starting the US Civil War).

The US invaded Haiti in 1915 and remained until 1934. Yes, the country was unstable but the main reason for the invasion was to collect debt owed to and protect the interests of US corporations that controlled Haitian banking and export industries.

The country was also heavily indebted to Great Britain and Germany. While the occupying force made infrastructural improvements, during the occupation, Haitians, who opposed the occupation, were brutally suppressed — executed, tortured, imprisoned, forced to labor.

Yes, there have been brutal, corrupt dictatorships but many were provided arms, military training and other support by the US, including both Duvalier regimes.

Yes, The Bahamas enjoys a globally enviable position, politically and economically, but we must be careful about comparing our “quiet revolution” and its aftermath to the Haitian experience. We had a “quiet” independence with our colonial power happy to let us go. The same did not apply to Haiti.

Regarding Haitian wealth disparity (“the top 20 percent of Haitian households hold 64 percent of the total wealth”). It’s no excuse but, globally, wealth disparity is extreme.

For example, in the US, the top 10 percent hold 70 percent percent of total US net worth.

In The Bahamas, estimates suggest the top 10 percent control more than 60 percent of net wealth.

Globally, the top 10 percent control more than 80 percent of net wealth.

Chris Minns

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