“The Problem of Our Shame:On the Crisis of Black and Haitian Professionals, Academics, and Intellectuals in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora”
Black intellectuals both in the United States and Haiti are alienated from the people they claim to represent. They’re unable to relate to the black masses nor do they have the will to power to empathize with their pain and ameliorate the black condition in both societies.
There exists a wide gap between Black and Haitian professionals, academics, and public intellectuals and the Haitian people–the Haitian masses, the Black masses, the common people, the illiterate, those who work low-paying jobs, etc.–who live in the Haitian Diaspora in the United States of America and Haiti, correspondingly.
The wall of alienation is a psychological fence that separates the Haitian intellectual from the rest of the Haitian masses. The Haitian intellectual intentionally alienates himself or herself from the common people by reason, lifestyle, taste, intellectual pedigree, cultural pride, tradition, and other preferences in life. They’re also alienated from each other by class, color, and economic distinctions. Elitism–cultural, intellectual, and ideological– is equally an enduring mark of Haitian intellectualism and professionalism, resulting in a disengaged intellectual culture, disconnected intellectual class, and underrepresented peoples in the Haitian society–both in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora. This separation and walls of prejudice and increasing alienation grow higher and disastrously affect every sphere of social dynamics and human interactions between the two groups.
There has to be a better or healthy way for Black and Haitian professionals, academics, and public intellectuals to engage the Haitian people and the black masses constructively without promoting a relationship of paternalism and dependence. What’s desperately needed in our society is the cultivation of a relationship that champions mutual reciprocity, respect, and interdependence.
What’s the meaning or use of your influential academic books and dazzling rhetoric, whose primary subject is black people and your Haitian people, if you’re distancing yourself from them and remain unmoved by their dehumanization, suffering, and pain. Such action will foster a politics of alienation and humiliation, and a relationship of superiority and inferiority–between “You” and “Them” (“The Other”).
Regrettably, the life of the black intellectual (i.e.Haitian intellectual) and black professional suffers from three great mischiefs or shortcomings: elitism, alienation, and disengagement.
* On a personal note: I always try to remember where I came from. I’m a son of two Haitian peasants whose parents and grandparents were also peasants. My father did not have a college degree. My mother did not graduate from high school. They worked the land in Haiti and in the U.S.A. all kinds of dirty jobs to put food on the table and send all of their seven children to school and college. I am one of their lucky sons who was the first one in the family to get a PhD. In fact, I graduated with 3 Masters degrees and 2 PhDs.
In 1979, my father came to the United States on a “boat” to seek for a better life for his family. He would spend almost twenty years of his life working two jobs–working as a construction worker, meat cutter at Publix, parking attendant, etc… in order to support and give us a better life than he had in Haiti. He was an honest and disciplined man who believed in the integrity of work and the dignity of every individual. Likewise, my mother is the most incredible person I’ve ever known. She worked her entire life to support us and provide for her children. She treats everyone with kindness, respect, care, and understanding. Both my father and mother never perceive themselves to be higher than their friends, neighbors, the people they meet in their everyday transactions or activities, or even those who were poorer than them.
What I learn from them is that no matter who I have become today, (1) I should always remember that my origins and roots are from the masses and the underclass, and that (2) I need to treat people with kindness, respect, care, and understanding. They have also taught me that (3) to neglect the masses, the poor, underprivileged families, and the least among us is to forget my origins and humble beginnings. (4) I have also learned from them that not to regard myself as a superior individual than anyone else around me– despite my successes and academic credentials. Finally, my parents have taught me that (5) knowledge comes with accountability; opportunity comes with sacrifice; and success leads to a life of giving and service.
The souls and resources of the Haitian people and peasants are not for sale. We would rather die in dignity and honor like our valiant African ancestors who sacrificed their lives, not their dignity, for our freedom and independence. If we must die today, let us die with grace like men and women of value. To be Haitian means to unashamedly proclaim our humanity and dignity in the face of aggressive imperialism, neocolonization, white supremacy, and all forces of oppression and subjugation in the twenty-first century.
We will not be shamed and disrespected. Our glory is our dignity and humanity. Our shame is the refusal to stand in solidarity with the Haitian masses and illiterate peasants and our reluctance to affirm unapologetically our common values and shared history of suffering and humiliation. Our shame is also our cowardness to resist the oppressors of our people and to say no to alienation, elitism, and disengagement.