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#3217: Durban Response on Haitian Stereotyping (fwd)

From: Lance Durban <lpdurban@yahoo.com>

Sabine Albert's recent rant at Kathy Grey for 'insulting
the integrity of the whole nation' shows us that Ms Grey 
still knows how to find those hot buttons.  Although I find
I almost never agree with Kathy Grey, I've got to admit she
does keep Corbettville interesting.  I also like Sabine's
Oct 1998 letter to a "Blan" which Guy Antoine references
for us.  Nevertheless, as a foreigner with some years in
Haiti, let me make two points to Ms Albert.

Stereotypes ARE unfair in that they cause people to make
assumptions about individuals that are simply not justified
(My favorite example:  shortly after my marriage to a
Bahraini Arabic woman my long-time family doctor in New
York... an educated man to be sure... commented to her that
ingrown toenails in the Middle East must be quite rare
since relatively few people in that part of the world wear
shoes, a primary cause of that malady!  My wife was so
incensed by this unintended put-down of Arabs that she
almost divorced me based on my common nationality with that

Yet many stereotypes do contain a grain of truth.  When Ms
Albert talks of Haitians being "honest" and "hard-working"
I will certainly agree with the latter.  BUT, take 100
randomly selected Americans and 100 randomly selected
Haitians.  While the Haitians might work harder, I'm
betting the Americans would be, statisically-speaking, far
more honest with strangers.

If then, a level of dishonesty in Haiti exists (which many
on this list will surely dispute), why could it be so?  I
would argue that casual acceptance of dishonesty at all
levels of Haitian society... government for sure, business,
religion (Catholic acceptance of voodoo, which in turn is
weak on moral teachings)... is to blame.  And because the
wealthier, educated levels of society are generally in a
position to be more influential, they probably should
receive most of the blame.  That's my first point, and I
expect lots of disagreement in the underlying premise. 

Point #2 is a response to Ms Albert's rigid categorization
of nationalities... "No, Guy, they (foreigners) do not know
more than US about US".  

Who, exactly, is American and who is Haitian?  Seems
entirely reasonable to me to assume that a Haitian-American
living in the States for the last 20 years may have lost
touch with his Haitian roots.  I have heard from more than
one returning Haitian-American how astonished they were at
the physical AND CULTURAL changes in Haiti in these 20

On the other hand, as an American who has spent more time
in Haiti than outside since 1979, I feel I know this place
and its culture better than many Haitians!  I don't mean
this to sound arrogant, but as a 50 year old person who has
seen different cultures and lived in many of them for
extended periods (until I sort of got stuck on Haiti) I am
better able to make an observation now than many Haitians
who have not travelled as much.  OK Sabine, I may still
miss a few cultural nuances in Haiti.  Curiously however,
my stateside friends tell me that I have been out of the
U.S. for so long that I have lost touch with the United
States culture, something you would probably argue is

L.P. Durban

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