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#310: restavek : Barnes comments

From: J Barnes <jbarnes@massed.net>

I think the restavek problem is bigger than the issue itself.  It is based
on the poverty and on the belief that some people are superior to others.
As I was growing up in the Haitian bourgeoisie I had a play-mate at my
grand-mother's house who my grandmother had adopted.  She was not a
restavek.  He mother had been a cook at my grandmother's house and had been
hospitalized with a serious illness (maybe TB).  The girl had been left
there very young, maybe 4 years old.  My grandparents liked her very much
and decided to take care of her education.  She lived with them until
adulthood, when she left for the US.  I will never forget the day when we
went together to a relative's house to swim in the pool.  It turned out that
the relatives had strong objections to a child of a different social class
swimming in their pool.  They told my grandmother that a decision had to be
made as to the status of the child.  Was she family?  Would she be returning
to her biological family?  Would she be carrying the family name?  She was a
brilliant student and a very nice person and it was OK for her to be my
playmate, but there were things she was not allowed to do.
    There are many obstacles to justice and fairness in Haiti and one of the
strongest one is the society's insistence on creating classes.  One cannot
go into Haiti and break all the social norms but there are certainly too
many intending to create the belief that certain people deserve a certain
treatment, and others are much less important. There is too little respect
for life.   In fact, most people don't believe in equal opportunity in
anything in Haiti.  People resent having to stand in line for service if
they do at all.  People make decision about who can enter their home through
the front door, and who can enter through the back door, and who can sit in
their living room.  People are constantly building walls and fences to keep
the others out.  They claim it is a security problem but it is also a social
Josiane hudicourt-Barnes