I agree that rape has most likely gone on for quite some time in Haiti and for many reasons. It seems to have begun being used as a more "official" political tool back in the early 90s, right after the first coup against Aristide, and has gotten worse. Rape is a disgusting and violent thing that turns an act of beauty into something ugly. It happens everywhere and I think especially in places where people have lost respect for one another, something I have seen happening in Haiti over the past 2 decades because of all the political instability. I'm sure little girls are raped in the slums and in the rural areas all the time in Haiti because the same things happens to little girls here in the U.S. And it happens among all races. It happens all over the world. It would be wonderful if the women of Haiti could unite to prevent it. But I also believe that the women of Haiti are the strongest thing about the country and it's a pity they can't get their foot in the door politically. Haiti would fall apart without the women and everyone, including the men, know this. They do the work, every bit and every kind of work. And I'd like to give them a little more credit for having self-respect. However, when a society is crumbling, lots of things fall apart including how people treat each other.
Would I deny that rape has occurred for centuries in Haiti? No, how do you think the elite class came to be? Frenchmen raped African women who were slaves and took the children into the "big house" to become their children and the seeds of the elite classes, a class borne of rape. Maybe it is this class that has set the tone of disrespect for people in general in Haiti.
I would like to add one more thought on this issue. What I have found in working in Haiti as a foreigner is that foreigners who work there tend to be the most judgmental. I have been to numerous dinners, had drinks, sat in interviews or photographed foreigners who sum up Haiti with a few words and think, because they have lived there for a good period of time, that they have the right to do this.
I happen to think outside criticism of a culture or country is a good thing---but I'm thinking about the U.S. when I say this because I think Americans need to open their eyes to what they are causing to happen in the world today....and they are deaf, DUMB, and blind to it. But when I hear foreigners criticize Haiti and Haitians, I lose all patience. Fuck 'em! Let them leave. Just what are they doing there anyway? If someone comes to help change things in a good and positive way, they are welcome. But if they come only to drink in the exotic juices of vodou and then live in and off the society and continue to live there (because they couldn't live as well elsewhere or be the gwo neg) even though they can do nothing but criticize, I don't have any interest in hearing their opinions.
That's one thing. However, she does raise an important issue, albeit I think some of the things she says are the rantings and ravings of a semi-mad woman. Rape and sexual habits are prevalent in the world everywhere, not just Haiti. And in a country where there is so much public modesty and so much true innocence...still, these are some of the ugly things that happen and sometimes remain hidden. It's certainly a topic which deserves great discussion---just as the issue of the restavek does. Put the topics out there. That's a good thing. But not in the accusatory, spiteful, hateful way she has.
I'm very glad so many Haitians were irate about her charges. I agree with what you said that people just think they can say anything about Haiti and Haitians and it doesn't matter, it's okay to do it. IN MY BOOK, Manbo Racine is a guest in Haiti and always will be and she behaves very badly. I've seen her behavior and I can attest to it. In the end, only a Haitian can really know Haiti and the rest of us have our noses pressed up against a window, looking in at it. Some of us see the potential of a great people and others vent their disappointment and frustration through misplaced attacks.
Thanks for bringing her opinion to light and for allowing us to comment on it.
I am greatly offended by Mambo Racine's post. I must say that I know no one who is as she says. Maybe she would say that I am not close enough to what she calls Majority Haitians. I was recently being interviewed by a Haitian graduate student about my "identity" and I remember telling her that I was proud of who I am: a Haitian woman. I think most people in that "category" are strong, determined, courageous. Most of us do not sell sex, and most of us will not accept violence from partners. As far as the Haitian men are concerned this student agreed with me that among friends and family we may find some who are not 100% faithful, but the aggressive black male portrayed in the USA and the mean men in Haiti, are not among the people we know. Where are they?
If rape was acceptable behavior why would it have it's own name: Kadejak. If it was "normal" as she says, it would just be called sex. Why would it be a threat?
I will concede that there are some violent and mean Haitians, but for the most part we are peaceful, loving, and respectful people.
There are some bad men in Haiti and there are some women who think of sex as a business. There is violence against women. But I don't think rape is part of Haitian culture.
There was really no room for rape in my personal experience of Haitian culture.
Extrapolating, however, from things like Edwidge Danticat's book, reports from Human Rights organizations working in war torn (or in Haiti's case, political upheaval turned "civil war," chimere attacks, or some other kind of political combat), rape definitely has a place in Haiti's recent history. Yet, I genuinely doubt that it's as prominent as trumpeted by Mambo Racine.
Those insulting stereotyping and blatant judgments of Haitian men and women are some of the most venomous lies I have ever read, and we all know that lies about the Haitian people abound!
Now, on to her prejudice against the Haitian people and their ideas about rape:
Most the Haitian women I know would never sit back and allow so
mething like that, let alone attack a fellow woman the way the post accused. Yes, they say things about other women, they call them bouzen, etc.. JUST LIKE AMERICANS DO. It's not different here when the first thing either a man or a woman does when they're mad at a woman is call her slut, whore, bitch etc... It's the same everywhere. And Haitian women do help each other -- a LOT. They are more to help each other than American women are! Good god, I'd rather have a Haitian woman friend any day. My Haitian friends have been much more supportive, more caring, more affectionate by leagues! American women are more afraid of each other by FAR.
Now on to the ideas about children. I will tell you from very very personal experience here -- rape a Haitian child and you are going to die. Each and every Haitian mother I know (quite a few!) will turn absolutely FERAL when it comes to their children, *especially* their baby girls! Oh my god -- one woman I knew found out her daughter had been molested and she and some of her friends re-arranged the molester's face for life and this was just a teenage boy that did this thing. The boy was ostracized from his family, nobody spoke to him other than to beat the living daylights out of him and threaten to cut off his gigit if he ever even thought about doing something so horrid again in all of his life. I mean it was absolutely shocking the way people turned on this young man and the severity of the community in getting the message across that this was NOT acceptable.
"Mambo Racine" couldn't be more wrong in my opinion. The word "kadejak" is a very very shameful word in Haitian culture and a person who does it is seen as a dog, a lowlife... the worst there is.
Haitian women being defined by their vaginas. So how is that different anywhere else? Of course women define themselves by how many men want them -- look at a US or European magazine if you don't believe it. We shave ourselves, die our hair, wear torture devices on our breasts and feet, and do all many of ridiculous things to make men want our vaginas. And how about men? Men don't judge themselves by the size and strength of their penises? Of course they do. That's just the name of the game, isn't it?
As for the remark about colonists, etc... I don't think it had anything to do with Aristide's anti-white, whatever that stupid accusation was... Using the things Haitian people have fought and died for in order to amass wealth is colonialism at its finest.
It's a smear on Haitian character. A woman's scorn that lashes out because Mambo Racine found her roots weren't that deep or authentic. As for the sexual accusations, reprobates come in all forms. But they are not the acceptable norm. At least not in the Haitian culture I was raised into.
Ce sont les mêmes constats et conclusions des organisations féministes travaillant sur la question de la violence contre les femmes chez nous. Les différents numéros du journal publié par ENFOFANM -Ayiti Fanm- vont dans le même sens. Au point que l'organisation KAY FANM a du organiser un Tribunal International symbolique en 1996, je crois, pour mobiliser le pays sur la question, surtout sur l`attitude des hommes culturellement éduqués -oui- pour *prendre ce qui est à eux* et sur l`impunité dont bénéficient le plus souvent les violeurs.
Je n'ai aucun projet de diffamation contre notre pays. Je n'ai qu'une chose à redire à l'opinion de Manbo Racine: d'après mon expérience d'Haitienne et d'activiste des droits des femmes, elle est encore en-deça de la vérité!
Les choses sont bien trop graves pour qu'on soit complaisant. Nous nous devons de regarder les problèmes en face afin de les résoudre. Certains hommes ne savent rien de ce qui est transmis aux femmes par les femmes ainées. Quand on nous apprend que *sa nou pote a se boutik nou*, de quoi on parle sinon de *capital goods*?
I speak as an American with a deep love for Haiti and her people. I support them in their struggle to live a decent life with opportunities to improve its quality by any degree. I see how the cruelties and humiliations they have suffered threatens to dehumanize them but amazingly, most of them choose to stay human. This is a great lesson to me and my admiration is enormous. This is not to say that some do not succumb to the horrors of continual war against their being. Their role models are cruel and vicious. They terrorize, and rape is terrorism. This is not about sexuality, it's about power. This is about someone stronger abusing someone weaker. Many times people with no personal power, in their frustration, will use any means to feel powerful, including the rape of someone. No matter how young, how old, how pretty or not, this woman/girl is a target because she is vulnerable. This is aberrant behavior, no doubt. This is not about culture.
Women using their sexuality to charm men into doing what they want is as old as time and, thank God, still goes on today. You heard me. We are different beings, men and women, and knowing how to interact in harmony is a beautiful dance that most Americans have forgotten, if they ever knew it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I'm not talking about sleeping your way to the top, I'm talking about flirting, building a man up, seeming to offer something while giving him the smile and lowered eyelashes, and that's it!
This is not the same thing as tolerating rape as a natural way of dealing with men. In my opinion, this is not what is happening. I believe these rapes happen in waves, coinciding with coups and attempted coups.
I can't say for sure what a Haitian woman's experience is in Haiti, but my experience was mostly in Port-au-Prince and I have often said that every Haitian man believes he is a great lover and in those days, I could walk the streets of the capital unmolested except for having to hold the lovers at bay. It was always said with a smile but with no fear that my wishes would not be respected. I never saw one bit of evidence that the men I met, in the majority class, were hostile towards women and I have pretty darn good radar. Nor were the women fearful in their presence. Easy banter, joking and pleasant conversation. Nothing like what Mambo Racine talks about. I am not disputing her experience but many things depend on how you deal with people. Do you treat them with respect or disdain? I suspect you get very different treatment depending on the answer to that question.
I haven't been to Haiti for several years so I can't speak of how things are today, I suspect much worse with much more anger towards people who look like I do. However, I'll bet that, my politics excluded, I would not have to worry about the threat of rape from the men of Haiti. Mostly, you respect others, they respect you.
I'm sorry for the pain this discussion has caused. However, it's not a bad thing to discuss and get our views and ideas out in the open. When society rejects a certain behavior, out loud, it lessens the occurrences of this behavior. But I still think rape is just one of the ways the powerful terrorize and hope to silence the majority. Killing young men and taking their bodies, never to be seen again, as well as violently invading a home and arresting old women and children is more of that terror.
While the "mambo" is correct that rape against women is a serious problem in Haiti, she completely undermines her point by supporting it with gross exaggerations, most of which are more reflective of her own prejudices/bigotry than they are of proven realities or trends. She implies that Haitian men are particularly rape-prone--a ridiculous insinuation at best. Sure, she supports it with several anecdotes, but any decent social scientist will tell you that collections of anecdotes simply can't be used to prove social trends. And most, moreover, will tell you that the anecdotes she gives could easily be gathered among certain social groups in virtually any nation in our world today. Is she aware that worldwide, 1 of every 3 women is abused physically and/or sexually (the stat is 1 of every 4 in our "liberated" United States)? As I say, rape is indeed a problem in Haiti, but not one that can be either understood or solved by demonizing Haitian men or Haitian culture. Or by ignoring the correlation between domestic violence and political and economic marginalization--but that's a bit too much to get into here.
A particularly offensive part of her rampage is where she compares her own treatment by Haitian men to the abuse of blacks in the U.S. South. "They view me the same way racist white Americans of bygone years might have viewed an 'uppity nigger', and to them rape is the ideal means by which to 'put me in my role'.") This statement totally ignores her own position in Haitian society, and all the social, economic, and political privilege it affords her. As self-serving as this comparison might be for her, I'm afraid her situation is NOTHING like the situation of young black men who were humiliated, jailed, beaten, castrated and/or hung from trees in my own homeland just a few years ago (and who, in other ways, continue to be sexually, physically, and socially humiliated by many of our social structures today).
To sum up, in my opinion, what she has written is little more than a collection of highly prejudiced and ill-founded, but none the less dangerous, accusations of an entire nation of people. This is nothing new for Haitians--they get it all the time. How tragic, though, that one who claims to be a spiritual guide trained in the wisdom of these very same people, would repeat the atrocity once again.
As a Haitian woman I felt deeply offended by Manbo Racine views on Haitian society.
It is one thing for someone to express their personal opinion, but to make general statements and attack the character of an entire people is assuming a very heavy responsibility that could bear devastating consequences for Haitian women in Haiti and abroad.
I will only address a few of Manbo Racine comments since every single one is more outrageous than the other is.
On one side she portrays Haitian men as a group of beasts who take pleasure in raping and beating women; on the other side she claims that Haitian women determine their worth by the number of men who desire their vagina. A couple of comments later, she deducts: "The fact is that Haitian men are raised to be rapists. So please, let's not have any more accusations of rape." Are we then to believe that the occurrence of rape in Haiti is a non issue that should be accepted as a fact of life? How sickening!
Manbo Racine states that rape is constantly used in Haiti against women and girls. According to her, for the right wing to accuse "Aristide people" of rape or vice-versa is hypocrisy, because "it is not as though any group of men is more guilty than any other." Are we having a contest? Rape is rape, regardless of who commits it. "Chimeres", right wingers, "tontons makout", if guilty of rape, should all pay for their actions.
Then talking about how sick Haiti is, she charges that "It won't change until Haitians want to change, but they don't-." How dare she downplay the courage and bravery of this group of Africans who, against all odds and with the motto "Libète ou Lanmò", broke the chains of slavery because they valued change more than their own lives? How can she ignore the struggle of the multitude that will not be intimidated and go away? How about the thousands who boldly took to the streets, under the gun, to fight against oppression? The Haitian people are still paying the price of change with their blood and will never stop fighting for change.
During slavery, mass raping of Black women was common practice. Manbo Racine took great care to identify the rapists as "white racists Americans of by gone years" and differentiate them from the rest of white America. Should not the same rule apply for Haitian rapists? Are all white Americans raised to rape Black women? Did the raping stop after slavery?
However, I admit that I entirely agree with Manbo Racine on one point: no amount of intervention is going to change the country. Not because the country is sick or because Haitians do not want change, but because intervention has never been about bringing changes. Quite the contrary!
Having said that, I think the rape problem in Haiti is extremely complex. Rape everywhere is an act of violence and should be addressed as such. In Haiti, violence against women is intimately connected with oppression, poverty, injustice and exploitation which have been the fate of most Haitians but particularly that of women as mothers, "bòn" or "restavèk".
I was shocked by what Mambo Racine wrote and the tone with which she wrote it which told a lot, though I don't doubt the sincerity of her experience. I have not had this kind of experience. I am not naive about rape that does exist in all levels, but not to the degree of what she expresses, ever.
The Haitian society has much history that we as white people have to understand and respect, if not bow down to in humility to the forgiveness we have been given just being allowed to walk their land. We, as white Americans, have much arrogance that is breathed into us at birth and need to see this log in our eye before we can see twigs in any one else's eye. If this is not done, Haiti can grind you up and spit you out and that is her right. Haiti tests all foreigners as it should. Haiti tests every day, every second a foreigner is here through all means. Foreigners can grow from these tests if they live in the light of respect and humility, I believe.
In many ancient traditions, when foreigners come into a new place, they are the ones to learn from it and adapt to it. As they say here, if you get to a place where everyone is dancing on one foot, you too, dance on the same foot. We Americans, in particular, tend to misunderstand and therefore be very defensive and angry at the Haitian society when we feel the distrust or the misunderstanding about who we are, especially when we don't work at demystifying ourselves or integrating, learning from and respecting Haiti's culture, in all its depths.
Haiti is Grann Bridgette, she is willing to suckle us, but we have to let go of our arrogance and western know it all before we wither up and die away wallowing in that selfish arrogance. There is pain involved, but if it's done the effects can reverberate down the centuries to begin the healing process that all our ancestors are waiting for. This is Haiti's gift for the world, it's sad when we miss it because of the veil over our foreign eyes.
Truths and untruths
Comments on the text of Racine's post
True: There is a tendency to incriminate the victim when anything bad happens "Se ti fi w ye, sa w ta p fe nan lari a a lè sa a?"
True: Going out at night, wearing mini-skirts or a large "dekòlte" by a woman are perceived and often interpreted as deliberated actions to seduce the males.
True: the Haitian society is more permissive for boys than for girls: "Se ti kòk m genyen. Manman ti poul veye ti poulèt ou!". Reason: when the boy has sex, there is no trace; it is the girl that loses her virginity and becomes pregnant. Thus, it is the girl (and her parents)' responsibility to protect the girl's honor and what is considered by most "her most precious gift".
What Manbo Racine reports about the police (both the joke and the rape) is often true. A lot of Haitian men abuse their position of power or authority (policemen, priests, pastors, hougans...) However, I am surprised that Manbo Racine has been threatened of rape "dozens of times". Not a lot of women in Haiti have experienced the same.
Untrue: Her statements on women considering their vagina as "capital goods" and about the curses they use are certainly not representative of everyone's social environment in Haiti.
Tendency to generalize: "every Haitian thinks that his fists are bigger... every woman thinks that her vagina is more attractive..." "Haitian men are raised to be rapists". Not only untrue, but her generalization is so huge that she has fallen into an awful trap. She is reproducing exactly the same behavior engaged in by sexists and racists.
Totally untrue when she pretends that "The idea of women working together to protect each other is not just unheard of, it is anathema". How is it that Manbo Racine has been in Haiti for so long and has never heard of all the "Gwoupman Fanm" ? There are women's organizations all over the country.
SOFA (Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen) targeted rape (Kadejak) as its Number One priority struggle for several years.
During the coup d'etat of 1991, several cases of rape were brought to the Human Rights organizations. Several of these cases were later brought to the Truth and Justice Commission. This proves that rape is not accepted as normal behavior by the Haitian people.
In an attempt to fight against impunity, several women associations (SOFA, KAY FANM, ENFOFANM and others have organized, a few years ago (1996, 1997 or 1998), an International Court of Justice to judge those crimes against women that had not been sanctioned by the Haitian Justice system.
The same organizations joined the Ministry for Women's Affairs and the female members of the Parliament to revise and change all the laws that treated women in a discriminatory way.
Two or three years ago, some of the above mentioned organizations ran a big campaign in solidarity with a little girl who had been raped by a prison guard while she was in the Women's jail in Port-au-Prince. The campaign was both against the man's behavior and the State apparatus that allowed something like that to happen. They also brought the case to a Haitian Court of Justice. I don't remember if the man was jailed but he lost his job at the prison and was forced to assume some responsibilities.
What did the author want to achieve with her text? Certainly not to help Haitian men and women! Her text reminds me and can be compared to the declaration made by an American that the Haitians have something wrong with their genes.
The text reveals more about the personality of the author than it does of the Haitian people.
Manbo Racine takes advantage of being in Haiti to try to shut the mouth of other people. She has been there since so and so.. As a result, she is supposed to know better and understand better the Haitian people. She truly believes that she knows it all. What a pity!
What is more unjust is the fact that most of the people that Manbo Racine talks about, have no idea what she is writing about them (most may have never seen a computer, may not be able to read and certainly would not understand English).
One thing that Manbo Racine has still to learn when a country and a people welcome you and let you make yourself at home on their soil, the very least that you should do is to pay Respect to them.
:( Onè! I hope that this post finds everyone in good health and high spirits. I believe that rape and sexual abuse is very prevalent in Haitian society. However, I feel that to take it a step further and contend that it is prevalent in Haitian culture is misleading. One can make a case for the prevalence of rape as a theme in Haitian tradition and popular culture. Still, I believe that we need social scientist trained in Haitian social science to do this research. My feeling is that whoever will be doing this research is the one who will set the tone for the findings and what the subjects admit to. We need a non partisan research agenda that does not seek to commit Haitian men to accusations of sexual crimes that are false. I feel that this issue is something that we need to deal with for the health of our culture and society.
I also want to add that Mambo racine is an irresponsible white liberal who wants to rule with the kinder and gentler grip. An oppressor is an oppressor no matter what her spots. She belongs to and represents a dominant group which continues to rule by force. When white people give up the role of bully and downpressor which they have held for the past millenia, then we can put black men in the same category as white men.
WHITE MEN have been the backers of a whole new race of people, thanks to rape. These were not just the mixed race gens de couleur who were half black and white but from other races too such as the yelllow Asians (Eurasians) the reddish brown Indians and Sri Lankans and Pakistanis and Bangledeshis, the black Aborigenis from Australia and New Zealand and so many others from other parts of the globe. I want to know when they will be taken to court for their massive rape around the world. Did they rape to perpetuate their whiteness upon realizing that they were in the minority around the world? No, Rape is a crime that is solely predicated on Power. Folks who rape do it because they have the power to do it and because they want to assert their power over the other person. This is also true for women rapists. The power that I write about can be manifested in many ways These include but are not limited to physical strength, class status, educational attainment, color, race, and gender status.
I was born in New York but I spent my formative years in Ayiti. I experience Haitian culture inside out and I don't feel that these problems are an instrinsic part of our culture or make up the threads of our social fabric. I feel that there are some bad apples who take advantage when there are no powerful structures who will step in to stop them. The "ti moun ki rete ak moun" syndrom is a problem which Aristide and Lavalas tried to deal with by giving these kids a voice through the media and education. What have others done?
I know of countless cases of kids who have been molested and raped by strangers, parents, family friends. I feel bad about these experiences. I am thankful that they made me aware of those occurences I just wish that I could help them heal from them and that they had been prevented. We can work to resolve these problems. First, folks like Mambo Racine need to deal with the dirt in their own backyard such as the role of whiteness in perpetuating abuse. White culture promotes oppression and we need to address how this makes us oppress and abuse each other.
Will keep reading and writing about this issue in the near future. For now this is all that I can write.
best regards and kenbe fem.
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