What would typically be a day of mourning for Haitian-Americans and Haitians all over the world has turned into a day of speaking out against yet another absurdly timed and painfully ignorant comment, reportedly said by the United States President Donald Trump. On the eve of the eight-year anniversary of the 2010 earthquake that killed at least 200,000 Haitians and devastated an estimated three million more, reports leaked of President Trump’s use of the expletive “sh*thole” to describe Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations during a meeting with lawmakers about immigration. In that same meeting, the President also reportedly questioned why the United States “need[s] more Haitians”, before suggesting the U.S. government “take them out.” Needless to say, Haitians, Haitian-Americans, and others — including the Haitian-American novelist and short story writer Edwidge Danticat — are responding.
“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… 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 shithole, I must also lament yet another insult to our dignity.”
An author and contributor to over a dozen books, and winner of the American Book Award for her 1999 novel The Farming of Bones, the National Book Critics Circle Award for her 2007 memoir Brother, I’m Dying, and others, Danticat continued to speak out against the president (offering him, and any Americans who might need it, a brief history lesson) writing:
“A few weeks ago, it was ‘All Haitians have AIDS.’ This week we are from a shithole 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 shithole country. It is a country that, for example, if France hadn’t grown tired of fighting, 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... 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.”
Danticat wasn't the only author to chime in today; Roxane Gay also added her voice, in an Op-Ed for the New York Times, headlined No One Is Coming to Save Us From Trump’s Racism. Still others, like writers Saeed Jones and Glennon Doyle, took to Twitter to condemn the President’s words.
In her Facebook post, Danticat went on to write about the rich literary, artistic, musical, and entrepreneurial tradition of Haiti and Haitian-Americans, before describing her father, a Haitian immigrant himself and Brooklyn taxicab driver, who worked 16-hour days to afford Danticat and her siblings a better life, before concluding — in direct response to President Trump’s reported “take them out” remark — with the words: “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.”