Monday, March 24, 2014

Being Haitian in New York (Part II)

Estey Piano Company in the Bronx
If we accept the fact  that the two main reasons for the migration of Haitians to the United States are political and economic order, let’s simply ask this question, if they have won their bet. The answer is yes. On the political front, Haitian immigrants in New York have all the freedoms that the Duvalier dictatorship had deprived them: they can now practice without fear of censorship fundamental freedoms of opinion, expression and information as its common in the American democratic society. Most Haitian immigrants also benefit greatly and such attitude tends to make more difficult the restriction of freedoms in Haiti. However, if the Haitian diaspora in New York has no fear to voice his political views vis-à-vis the behavior of the Haitian authorities in Haiti, the Haitian ordinary citizen living in the country tends to retain a certain restraint in critical it bears against the Haitian government.

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 Brooklyn Bridge , the first of the seven bridges on the East River
On the economic front, a number of Haitian immigrants in New York have suffered major differences between the American social reality and the social reality of Haiti during their first years into this megalopolis. During the interactions in everyday life, they have always been the big losers as a result of factors such as language barrier, racism, lack of social cues ... The first Haitian immigrants in New York were generally members of the advanced middle class  fleeing the repression of François Duvalier. It was in the early 1960s. A little later, in the early 1970s, when living in Haiti was becoming a hell, both politically and economically, Haitian immigrants were coming from all social and economic strata. 
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  A view of the skyscrapers of   Manhattan
According to the Caribbean sociologist Stephanie Melyon - Pippin in 2000, "Haitians worked mainly in the field of education , health and social services as many Caribbean ... They are also in the field of arts, entertainment, hospitality, and restaurant with 33,420 people or 14 , 6% ... the average salary of a Haitian , according to Stephanie Melyon - Reinette in 2000 amounted to 36 000 USD per year against $ 38,500 per year for Jamaicans , 41 960 and 36 300  for Guyanese and Trinidadians / Tobagonians . "(Page 28).
Stéphanie Melyon-Reinette
In New York, the two languages, Kreyol and French, which have always been unevenly distributed in the use of Haitian speakers, has added a third English. It is the dominant language of the host society and Haitian immigrants are forced to communicate in that language. Mastery of the English language was one of the first handicaps for the first generation of Haitian immigrants . Nowadays, with the exception of newcomers, much of Haitian immigrants show a relative proficiency in English, particularly in the field of oral. However kreyòl remains the most used language in the Haitian language community and many thirty second generation are also fluent in Kreyol and English. In fact, in the areas of high concentration Haitian located in Brooklyn and Queens, more and more Americans ( blacks and whites ) know some basic phrases of Kreyol as "Ki sak pase ? " " Ki Jan ou ye ? " " Nap Kenbe ? " " Mèsi anpil " 
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Chatham Square and Lin Zexu Statue
One of the biggest problems facing Haitian immigrants in American society and in particular, New York, is the negative stigma associated with the Haitian culture. Virtually every ethnic group has a more or less negative picture of the Haitian immigrant . Even in the Caribbean, the American society has become accustomed to assemble Haitians under the generic term " West Indians,” however Haitians are not considered under this description, and due to this, the Haitian representations are generally far from positive. Haitians are not considered quite as Caribbean despite their presence and strong presence in the Caribbean , and especially despite the Creole common culture they share with the " West Indians " and has similar social structures inherited Africans and Europeans. Here's how Mary Waters, a sociology professor at Harvard , relates representations of Haitian immigrants in New York in his book " Black identities . West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities Harvard University Press, 1999 ". "Although Jamaicans are described in negative and positive terms , Haitians are described by different groups in the most negative terms possible.
Eastern Parkway  "Labor day"
Haitians have definitely had a bad reputation. All people we spoke to share many negative stereotypes about Haitians. Many of these stereotypes have their origin in the fact that Haiti is a very poor country and the source of the poorest in New York immigrants. Haitians are described as noisy people, poorly dressed, who do not bathe enough , that smell bad , and live like savages , in filth and squalor, with several people in the same room . Haitians are also described as people who are aggressive, selfish, arrogant and who would not hesitate to cheat if they have the opportunity. Many people mention the practices of voodoo as another threat to Haitians. Some teachers describe a lot of tension in schools where many of the original " West Indian " students despise Haitian students. These conflicts are exacerbated because few Haitians speak English, and the language gap makes close friendships and alliances issues among the people of the first generation. " [ My translation of page 60]

End of the second part - to follow…


Translated  by HCC from the Original text in french written by Hugues Saint Fort.

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