Oprah: "slavery" in Haiti and Ghana

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Oprah: "slavery" in Haiti and Ghana

Post by Chantalle » Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:17 pm

Open Letter to Ms. Oprah Winfrey:

I write to you in the name of social justice for Africans. As a Haitian and a woman of African ancestry, I reject your program's use of the provocative, political and incendiary term “slavery” to describe child domestics or indentured servants in Ghana and Haiti. Oprah, if you only knew what really goes on behind the shameless propaganda that paints Africans/Haitians as unable, unwilling and unequipped to help themselves, you would understand why I am so concerned, as I am sure you would be.

Your portrayal unwittingly, and, no doubt, unintentionally, victimized the victims of corporate global greed and exploitation (see John Perkins' book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”). Obviously, no parent willingly plans to send their children off with strangers who will mistreat them. Your program brought to light the horrors these proud Africans are exposed to, including the vilification and recrimination by the forces that seek to keep Haiti and Africa under-developed and a slave to the ravenous consumer economy that is America. I sometimes wonder if this merciless, greedy beast is fed by the multi-national corporations, supported and subsidized by a U.S. government that is beholden to their special interests.

If Americans don't know or understand African/Haitian history, the U.S. media and U.S. educational system must be held accountable for misrepresenting and misinforming the American public. The global North has an unfortunate tendency to slander and stigmatize the evolving cultural disease of under-developed countries as a matter of course. This is especially true for Haiti, a country which has been under "attack" by the ex-colonial powers and their American allies from its inception.

Oprah, your show's portrayal of this particular aspect of Haitian/Ghanaian shame and cultural degradation unintentionally does deep and abiding disservice to Haitian/Ghanaian people and Africans of the Diaspora. I know that as a compassionate human being you will want to address this injustice at length to set the record straight.

Your core constituency or “base” – the rich White suburban “stay-at-home” mom comes off the hero in this pathetic piece of orchestrated opera. Mrs. Universal Mother is the White rescuer that these children await, would that she could “save” them all from their heinous African parents. While I applaud the compassion and initiative of this wonderful woman who rescued the young Ghanaian child David, I am concerned about the further damage done to the image of Africans in the minds of Americans and your global audience who are unaware of the context for the atrocities visited on these children. As Dr. King said “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” This is not an issue that can be addressed fully on a one hour program. I would have hoped that the question would be asked; “What are economical, social and political factors at work?” “What possible circumstance would drive parents to send a child into servitude?” More time and effort should have been spent analyzing and depicting the parent's dire circumstances and the historical and current global issues that compelled the parents to resort to this shameful practice.

This issue needs a major airing in an unbiased and unemotional way. Perhaps your show has the heart to rescue children piecemeal. But do you have the soul to care what happens to their parents and to the African continent as a whole? We are all citizens of the world. In the final analysis what happens in Africa, does not stay in Africa. Their pain is our pain. Their shame is our shame. Wise words from Dr. King, who said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”.

Just this past Tues, June 26 an article from Oneworld.net by Haider Rizvi on Yahoo! News headlines; “U.S. Cotton Subsidies Cost W. Africa Millions – Report”. The first paragraph reads:

[quote]“New York, June 25 (OneWorld) – More than 1 million children in West Africa would not go to bed hungry if Washington stopped providing subsidies to America's cotton growers, according to a study released Thursday by an influential development organization.”[/quote]

I wonder if the Haitian man Jean-Robert Cadet's story of “slavery” in Haiti as a restavek will hold up under scrutiny? I do find it rather improbable that he allegedly had “no name” until coming to the states. I could be wrong, but it only seems reasonable that his “masters” would from necessity have to address their “slave”, if only to have him perform a task. I guess all will come to light. I look forward to reading his autobiography at my local library soon.

Dr Roger Malebranche

the "restavek" subject in Haiti

Post by Dr Roger Malebranche » Sat Jan 19, 2008 9:35 pm

My adoptive mother (Jeanne Malebranche Anthony) in the 40s lived in a parish called "St Therese" in the heights of Morne l'Hopital, the mountain overlooking Port au Prince. Originally from Anse a Veau, Tante Jeanne and Grande Dede ( her mother and my grandmother ) had moved to P-au-P after the death of Joseh Malebranche, my grandfather. Tante Jeanne taught school and religion to the local peasants and cared for their illnesses. Many of them suffered from slow healing legs ulcers, probably filiariasis but we did not know about things like that in those days. Priests from churches in the capital would come up once a month (on horses and mules) to celebrate mass. That time for me was paradise.

Morne l'Hopital was green and fertile then and there were many well to do local peasant/farmers. They insisted that their younger children stayed with our family in order to get a better education and upbringing. These children were schooled by Tante Jeanne and Grande Dede and they were a vibrant and integral part of the family. They had chores just like I had and the children of American farmers and people all over the world have but they also received an education and many went to trade school to become carpenters, masons, small businessmen or more educated farmers. Some of the girls stayed long enough to be given in marriage by Tante Jeanne at our house. Their families came to visit occasionally but for all purpose they were Tante Jeanne's children. I am 75 years old now and left Haiti in 1961 but I still keep in touch with that extended family of mine and many of their children are physicians, accountants, lawyers, businessmen, nurses etc... in Haiti, Canada, the USA, France, Germany etc... I know there were problems with children being abused by people they were living with but problems like that occur all over the world not specifically and uniquely in Haiti. Giving our country one more black eye is not fair. Abuse of children, your own or others is a universal problem and the abused " RESTAVEKS " situation is not limited to our land. Some enterprising, self serving writer found a juicy tidbit and milked it for all it was worth, bringing shame and guilt to many loving people who contributed a great deal to the betterment of our peasant class. The old Haitian proverb "ou wè pis (puces) fasilman sou chen mèg" shines here. Please don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Haitians are vilified enough in this world. Give them a break. Enough sensationalism.

Dr Roger Malebranche.

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Post by Barb » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:57 pm

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self centered men have torn down, other centered men can build up.” Martin Luther King

I am puzzled and bothered by the defensiveness shown in the responses to Oprah's program on child slavery. Having lived through the Catholic clergy scandal, I get really nervous when people start telling me I shouldn't be questioning what goes on behind closed doors. “I know there were problems with children being abused by people they were living with but problems like that occur all over the world not specifically and uniquely in Haiti. Giving our country one more black eye is not fair.” Sounds too much to me like, “Those priests are such good and holy people. Why must you question what they are doing? It is not fair to try to drag their names into the mud. Just keep quiet about what happened.”

Education, culture, dignity, equality and freedom. Too much to ask, especially for peasant children?

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Restavek= Slavery

Post by Leoneljb » Fri Jan 25, 2008 5:26 pm

Sorry Guys, Restavek is Slavery to me.-
I remember that almost everyone in Haiti had one. I can not find the right word to describe how cruel and unjust it was when one had a little KID doing all the the chores grown-ups wouldn't dare to do.
Come on Guys, when the Great Maurice Sixto came with Ti Saintanise a lot of People were upset while They were more than guilty for inflicting Forced Labor to a Minor. Some of them were not even eight years old...
Mesye ze Dam, Fò nou aksepte kout tanbou Verite. Menm lè sa fè nou mal.
Mwen te toujou ap mande si Gran papa Ti lèzanj sa yo pa't goumen pou lendepandans tou.
Se youn nan wont nasyonal li ye. E mwen kwè jiska prezan gen bagay sa toujou an Ayiti.
Sa'k pi rèd, Moun ki fè yo'a, toujou panse ke se ede ke yo ap ede ti Moun yo.
Sorry once more. Lan liv pa'm lan, Restavek=SLAVERY.
L'Union fait la Force

Dr Roger Malebranche

the restavek situation

Post by Dr Roger Malebranche » Sun Jan 27, 2008 4:22 pm

As a young physician living in America in the early 70s I went through the panic caused by the Aids specter. Haiti then was all over the news. Haitians were supposed to be the carriers of that terrible disease because they drank the blood of chicken killed during voodoo ceremonies. There were lists of people not allowed to give blood and Haitians were at the top of the list, even Haitian doctors and members of the so called Haitian elite.

I get worried and with good reasons every time I see Haiti in the news like on that Oprah's show, the show on RESTAVEKS. I don't condone the exploitation of children and I spent my life taking care of them. Their abuse by anyone, clergy, family members, governments etc... is repugnant and I want the subject to get world attention. But I cannot let Haiti be again portrayed as the ultimate bad guy while India, China, and even the good old U S of A get a free ride. As a black woman and a world wide known face Oprah should be even in her distribution of scorn. Haiti is not the only nor the bigger fish. Let's bring the world to task for abusing children. Then I will applaud and respect her show.


Re: Oprah: "slavery" in Haiti and Ghana

Post by Gelin_ » Sun Jan 27, 2008 8:21 pm

[quote]...I do find it rather improbable that he allegedly had “no name” until coming to the states...[/quote]
Did he really write that or did somebody else say that of him? That would be a joke.


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