The Haitians I knew at my South Florida high school were not exactly the devil-dealing types. Thousands of them had arrived by boat in the early 1990s following Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s (first) ouster. Most knew little English and had not been introduced to such luxuries as deodorant or a high-top fade. Their clothes were out of date. They didn’t know the latest lingo or styles.
In the American high school social order of things, they raced for the bottom. As their enrollment hit critical mass at my high school, the meaning of the word “Haitian” was transformed from a sign of national identity, into a catchall insult. “Shut up, Haitian!” “Ooooh, you got a Haitian haircut!” “You smell Haitian!”
As a transfer student from the Midwest grappling with culture shock of my own, I was mostly confused. Why the scorn-tinged pity from my white classmates and teachers? Why the utter disdain from my black classmates? How did they come to be in such a wretched predicament?
Most of all, why the hate?
You won’t find satisfying answers in most world history texts.
In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake that has claimed thousands of lives, the tenor and emotional response to the people of Haiti has returned to a familiar place: Mostly pity, but from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, disdain. And Pat Robertson has a theory of where the hate is coming from: It’s the devil!
As a black female host nodded reverently, Robertson’s voice grew into hushed, conspiratorial tone as he explained on Christian Broadcasting Network’s The 700 Club why the people of Haiti have suffered.
“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it,” he said. “They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘we will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’
“True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’”