As a Haitian American woman who grew up in the not so “United” States of America. I often think back on how privileged I too am, for being born here in America. When I go to Haiti, I realize things like pulling my own well water or having a generator for power are things that I not only don’t want to partake in but also don’t have to partake in because of the way of life in the US. I acknowledge that going to public school in the US no matter how inequitable it could be at times, is a blessing; when there are so many children in Haiti who can’t get an education because their families can’t afford it. Being able to go to Haiti for a couple of weeks and then go back home has always been a safe space for me. However, for those of us coming and going as we please. Do we realize that while we are privileged we are also still at risk?
During this summer, we have seen what others around the world think is “the land of opportunity” show the truth about itself. This land that so many people fight tooth and nail to get into is the same land that allows black and brown people to be killed, experimented on, treated in unfair and inequitable ways. But those things aren’t encouraging people from other nations to reshape their image of “The Great America”.
It wasn’t until I moved to Louisville, Kentucky that I realized there was a problem with my blackness, but also my Haitianness. It was the first time I had someone call me an “African booty scratcher and say my locs were dirty. That I was poor and needed to “go back to where I came from”. My first time even hearing someone use the word nigger towards me in a derogatory way. While many of these things are the same experience of our Black Americans, I wondered how do my fellow Haitian Americans feel about all that has been surfacing?
In a few of the networking groups, I have been a part of I stumbled upon conversations from Caribbean people who “don’t feel connected to the incidents that have been taking place” and I simply just want to know why? Although America may not be your birth home, maybe you were raised here and frequent your place of origin often. But, do you realize that no matter where that plane drops you off, you’re still a black person in the United States? Without an accent or you making others aware of your origin, people would assume you’re just another black man or woman. When thinking of it on those terms how can you not feel a sense of connection to the fact that you can too be unjustly killed, harmed, and threatened? That you’re mind and body are not valued here, in this place called “the land of the free”. That you are in a country that acknowledges that you are too a second-class citizen and when they find out you’re not an American native you’re nothing more than an “immigrant” or just, even more, less than.
I can’t answer the question am I an Haitian woman first or am a black woman first because in the eyes of the US... my skin is brown no matter which one I choose; I am still a threat to society. So, when we (Caribbean people) say we can’t relate, let’s look at the bigger picture and remember, it can be us too.