A Matter of Gratitude and Respect - Open letter to President Donald Trump
Boca Raton, Florida
President Donald Trump
The White House
Mr. President, several years ago, I wrote an open letter to President Ronald Reagan on behalf of Haitian expatriates fleeing the murderous Duvalier regime who were seeking refuge in our country but were being deported. A similar situation is occurring today with the presence here under temporary protection status granted by President Obama of some of the victims of the terrible earthquake that killed 300,000, wounded thousands, left more than a million homeless and destroyed the infrastructures of many areas. After that disaster and the non-delivery of most of the international help that was offered, Haiti is far from recovering. To add insult to pain and suffering, you have reportedly qualified Haitians and their nation with a vulgar, blatantly mean expletive. Should you and your Government decide to deport them, Mr. President, they and their nation at least deserve respect and an apology. Many have been the arguments invoked in favor of allowing those few people to remain here - compassion, justice, human rights, protection of lives, family unification, etc. Unfortunately, all that is being defeated in the name of "law and order" and "defense of our borders". I am taking the initiative to write to you, Mr. President, not just as a request for compassion or justice, but also in defense of the honor of my native Haiti, a glorious country whose epopee is the most heroic in History, a nation to whom the whole world and the United-States in particular owe a debt of gratitude.
As an American citizen from Haitian origin proud of my heritage, I want to loudly proclaim, while using your own favorite phrase that Haiti has indeed contributed a lot to MAKE AMERICA GREAT. Hereafter are some facts unknown by the many who are ignorant of her past, that illustrate the debt owed to that small nation by us, the richest and most powerful ever.
Those same Haitians that you reportedly called by a vulgar cuss word are the descendants of the 1500 soldiers who fought at Savannah on the side of the Founders of the United States.
Napoléon Bonaparte would have never agreed to sell Louisiana to the United States, if he had not been defeated by the heroic slaves led by Toussaint Louverture, Dessalines, Christophe, Pétion, and the others. That defeat prevented a French invasion that would have consolidated a North American French colony, endangered the mere existence of the United States and for the least, blocked our western expansion. Instead, it meant the instant doubling of the American territory. Some American historians go as far as stating that Toussaint Louverture should be recognized as one of the Founders of this country. Moreover, the Haitian Revolution is responsible for the abolition of slavery and the establishment of a New World Order in the 19th Century and beyond.
The extraordinary contributions of Haiti under President Alexandre Pétion to the cause of freedom in South America, helped weakened the grip of Spain in the New World, and strengthened North American power in the Continent long before the Monroe Doctrine.
During the first quarter of the 19th Century, thousands of Americans immigrated to Haiti as participants in a program entirely financed by the government of Haiti. In June of 1824, in spite of the refusal of the United States governments to recognize its independence and their participation in the French embargo, President Jean-Pierre Boyer made public his plan for the immigration of American Blacks to Haiti. The news of such a program was well received by most circles in the North. On the 23rd of August of the same year, the ship "Charlotte Gray" left Philadelphia with the first group of 58 Americans, organized by no less than the eminent Bishop Richard Allen whose son, John was among the first to settle in Port-au-Prince. Richard Allen wrote a letter to President Boyer in which he said:
My heart burns affectionately in acknowledging the kind offer you have made to these poor oppressed people here the United States, by offering them an asylum where they can enjoy liberty and equality.
A week later, on September 2, a group of 120 people, including several white families left New York aboard the ship "Dewitt Clinton". The next ship, the "Strong" was to depart from Baltimore on September 14, and on September 24, 200 more Americans left from Philadelphia. The sequence of departures increased rapidly when the news of the good treatment received by the Americans in Haiti reached the United States.
How does that compare with the fate of the victims of the earthquake and other Haitians hanging in limbo? Why would you use such insulting language and cruelty toward a rather small number of Blacks who happened to come here by their own will, and not brought in chains as slaves? Mr. President, those who have resigned themselves to crawl onto our shores, face hostility, and plunge into the deep seas of bigotry and racism that unfortunately some white Americans still profess had no desire to severe themselves from their families, their culture, their language, their race, and expose themselves to humiliation.
You reportedly stated that all Haitians have AIDS. Not true, AIDS is a world-wide disease and its victims do not deserve to be stigmatized. As a matter of fact it was introduced in Haiti in the early 1980s by foreign tourists, mostly Americans, Whites and Blacks who went there in search of hotels catering to promiscuous clients. It happened that the poor uninformed young men and women working there thought that selling their innocence and their bodies for a few dollars was just a way to earn a living and survive. Eventually, those hotels were compelled to close face to the protests of the population and Haiti today is one of the countries where AIDS is under control.
You reportedly also questioned why we need Haitian immigrants here. Yes, we need them because they bring their knowledge, skills and resilience. Recent history and statistics show that they have contributed a lot and continue to contribute to MAKE AMERICA GREAT. Thousands and thousands of them are professionals with higher degrees, and those who are members of the working class are covered with praise by their employers. Many hospitals, especially those in urban areas that serve mostly poor African Americans, would have to close without the services of thousands of Haitian doctors, nurses and personnel that fulfil their needs, since most white physicians and other staff do not want to work there. There are thousands of Haitian teachers in our elementary and secondary schools, and thousands of professors in our universities. Mr. President, let me tell you in all humility, I myself came here as a refugee and less than a year after my arrival, I was hired as a professor by one of our most prestigious universities, because I was the best qualified for the job. For forty years I have contributed to MAKE AMERICA GREAT with my participation in the education of thousands of American students, most of them white.
Sometimes, with the tedious monotony of a needle stuck in a groove, we redundantly display our gratefulness to many countries. "La Fayette here we are", was the cry of our soldiers when they landed in France during World War I, Kosciusko and Pulaski are our links of gratefulness to Poland. Judging by the way we treated Germany and Japan after World War II, one could believe that the murderers of Auschwitz were our benefactors, and Pearl Harbor never happened. What about at least a bit of respect for a nation and an insignificant number of immigrants to whom, if we are to believe our history, we owe a debt of gratitude?
Gérard Alphonse Férère, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Saint Joseph's University
All Comments (1)
Your letter to the president is poignant.
Whenever I hear this kind of sordid historical analysis, it seems to me that Haitians as a whole, myself included (my parents brought me to the US when I was seven), have abdicated their solemn responsibility to build their own country and make their own country great.
Such failure has left us exposed to, as you say, "vulgar" and "blatantly mean expletives" when the so-called leader of the free world is expressing his opinion in a non-public forum.
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