Haiti, Black Liberation, and the Book of Job
My friends and I are doing labor organizing with custodians at University of Washington as part of the overall struggle against budget cuts, structural adjustment, and privatization there. Many of the workers are East African, African American, and Afro-Caribbean. Together we have been following closely the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti and are organizing and collecting aid donations in response.
For us, this is a matter of outrage, not pity. Outrage that the US military is stopping aid shipments from organizations it can't control. Outrage that the white supremacist leaders of the US are using this as an excuse to further neo-colonial control over Haiti. Outrage that Haiti just signed an IMF rescue package that will plunge them into further debt peonage to the global ruling elite. Outrage that Haiti's poorly constructed slum cities crashed and burned during the earthquake because for decades resources were diverted away from social reconstruction and toward paying back earlier loans to US-backed financial institutions. Outrage that the US had repeatedly plunged Haiti into deeper social instability through coups and civil wars, including the kidnapping of liberation theologian/priest-turned president John Bertrand Aristide.
Haiti was the site of the only successful slave revolution since the Exodus, a revolution which terrified the US slave-owning elites and inspired Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey's, and John Brown's revolts. In this sense the Haitian revolution has left a permanent mark on the development of insurgent Christianity on this continent. It is part of all of our collective tradition of liberation and the fact that the diabolical rulers of this continent have spent 200 years punishing the Haitian people for it should be something that propels us into the streets in aggressive solidarity.
How many Katrinas, how many Haitis, how many Detroits will it take before the Black liberation movement ignites again, pulling large segments of the New World working class into its vortex? I can't wait for that day...
Our group, International Workers and Students for Justice will be tabling on campus collecting donations for relief efforts in Haiti and we will be passing out literature talking about Haitian resistance to imperialism and the need for a direct worker-to-worker foreign policy from below, a new type of mutual aid. I encourage folks to donate online to some of the non-imperialist aid organizations listed here.
On a theological tip, I was horrified but somehow not surprised to hear Pat Robertson claim that the earthquake was God's vengeance for a supposed "pact with the Devil" that the Haitians made during their revolution against the French slave-masters. If anything, this theology is demonic, portraying God as a racist cracker who gets off on watching people suffer. On Facebook an image was circulating (I can't find it now) of a placard outside the "First Baptist Church of Haiti". It said simply "Fuck you Pat Robertson." Whether it was fabricated or real, this poster reminds me of Job's retorts to his patronizing and dogmatic friends. They try to console him in his suffering by suggesting he earned his pain by sinning. He basically tells them to fuck off. The middle of the Book of Job (minus the somewhat shady intro where God seems to act like a gangster proving to Satan he is harder than him) represents a profound rebellion against any form of theology that aims to justify the suffering of oppressed people.
I just got through Roland Boer's chapter on Ernst Bloch from Criticism of Heaven. In the spirit of Bloch, and in solidarity with Haiti, the only God I can worship right now is the one who will come to END suffering, to usher in the Kingdom of Freedom.