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Wanton Looting In Haiti

To look at the news you’d swear that the majority of people in Haiti are little more than thugs using the earthquake disaster as an excuse to run amok.  Watch the news and the majority of the stories talk about the looting and the violence that has broken out across the island nation.  Look at pictures of the devastation in Haiti and you’re bound to see Haitians standing on a pile of rubble that used to be a store and they are pulling boxes of inventory out and everybody points and calls these people looters.  Two weeks after their world collapsed, we still refuse to acknowledge the fact that these people are looking for food, or looking for something they could trade for food.  Lord knows the store owner wouldn’t be selling those goods or any other goods anytime soon.

There was a video of a group of young Haitian men running down the street wielding machetes.  The video commentator was talking about the open violence on Haiti’s streets.  But everybody the group ran passed looked calm and unconcerned   Nobody looked as if their person was being threatened.  Nobody moved to get out of their way.  We are to assume that this was a gang of black men intent on violence.  But then, they could’ve been men heading somewhere to help dig a relative or a friend out of a collapsed structure.  We don’t know where they were going or why or why they were running with machetes.  But we can assume that black men running with knives were intent on nothing good.

And so went the stories about all the looting and violence and fights for sustenance and the desperation that caused so many people to behave so uncivilly.  We’ve seen this reporting of skewed facts before.  I remember the stories of all the people who survived Katrina only to sit and wait for help from their country at the New Orleans Superdome.  There were stories of gang rapes and murder and roving gangs.  Semi trucks full of dead bodies.  Black people were looting everywhere.  It was good for the ratings.

But when somebody with a more developed sense of integrity went to Louisiana to actually report what was happening, someone who wasn’t interested in using their video camera and microphone to whip up fear and drama and sell whatever remained of their soul in order to generate interest, there weren’t all these stories of wanton looting and violence.  Sure, there were examples of humanity’s stupidity.  The more people you get in a group the more opportunities there will be for someone to be criminally oriented.  That’s just a given fact with human nature.

What’s also a given is that people have a way of promoting the lowest common denominator of base behavior as the standard for people in the black community, whether it be Louisiana after a devastating hurricane or Haiti after a devastating earthquake.  All somebody has to do is say that they heard that some black person is doing something wrong and people are ready to buy the story hook, line, and sinker.  And the result is people caving into their suspicions of black people and our proclivity to violence.  All people need is to see one example and we all are guilty.  And sometimes, we don’t even need to see the example.  All we need is to know that a bunch of black people are in one place and the suggestion that crime is taking place and we’ll connect the dots ourselves.  It is a fact of life that black people equal crime.

Yes it is true that we will have somebody who uses a natural disaster as an opportunity to steal.  No one is saying that there are no black criminals.  But to make such an over the top focus on the negative condemns all black people.  And the ramifications are often more serious than people having an excuse to think lowly of the black community.  When the doctors who volunteered to go to Haiti and help operate on the injured and relieve suffering heard the rumors of black people rioting, they pulled up stakes and left the area for safer ground.  So afraid for their own safety many doctors abandoned their patients, some right in the middle of surgical procedures.  But who can blame them?  You know how broke down black people are.

Whipped up fear can lead to senseless murder by those charged with keeping the peace.  Haitian police shot and murdered a man they thought had stolen a bag of rice.  In reality, the man, along with his companion, was given the bag of rice as a gift.  When the police saw the two men walking down the street in broad daylight with oversized bag of rice, they had assumed it was stolen and open fired without asking a single question.  One of the men was killed.  The other was wounded.  A third man nearby was hit by a stray bullet because the cops were so intent on stopping what they perceived as looting run amok.

For whatever reason, the perception is that black people and crime go together like red beans and rice.  You might find one without the other every now and then.  And that’s nice.  But for best results, you’ll combine the two to make something that the vast majority of people would really like to see.  Yes there may be senseless looting in Haiti.  I have no doubt that there would be someone in Haiti willing to steal a flat panel television when everybody else is trying to find food or water.  But I would assume that the moron with the flat panel is a lone exception and would never use him as the yardstick to help define the Haitian people.  Just like the moron with the flat panel who can’t resist his nature when the opportunity presents itself, too many can’t pass on their nature to paint black people as sordid degenerates.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - Posted by | Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Racism, Thoughts |


  1. I noticed something about the early photographs coming out of Haiti. The published photographs seemed to show a lot of people waving their arms in the air with their mouths open. In white people body language that usually means “crazy”. It seems like, when a disaster strikes a predominantly white area survivors are shown looking downcast: arms at their side looking at the ground. They are often shown sitting quietly in the wreckage of their homes. This body language means “dignified”.

    Goes along with white “foragers” and Black “looters”.

    Comment by Jon | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Jon,

      You’re absolutely correct. There is an inherent bias in the image that are selected to tell the story of people who are devastated. White people tell their story with quiet dignity, black people’s story is told with loud animation. I know when I watch the news of some happening on the north (black) side of the city, the reporters never fail to find the loudest black person with the most ebonics laden speech patterns to explain how they “seent” it.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Wednesday, January 27, 2010 | Reply

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