Creolization in Haiti and the Black Diaspora
By Maurice Amutabi, Ph.D
One of the problems that afflicts all other former colonies of black people and people of color in general is predicated on the issue of ‘divide and rule’ and colonial trauma, which goes on to this day. The French were very good at creating ‘divide and rule’ and artificial differences in the minds of their colonial subjects. The educated black people who were able to speak French well were privileged and called citizens (citoyen) and given French passports and could work and live in France, whereas those who resisted French acculturation were called subjects (mainly uneducated in French ways) and heavily taxed and even discriminated against, sometimes with the help of comprador (collaborating) black citizens.
The notion of Sujet et citoyen is therefore central to the former French colonies (which Frantz Fanon has described in his books ‘The Wretched’ of the ‘Earth and ‘Black Skin, White Masks’) and has been at the center of the problems in Haiti since 1804 to the present. There is also the notion of mulatto (some European ancestry) which has played a significant role in the politics of Haiti. There are always tensions between Mulatto and pure blacks.
I have met Haitian brothers and sisters who always insist that they are ‘pure’ black and others who will insist that they have ‘white blood’ running in their veins – they will tell you to look at their hair, skin, etc to prove their point. This is because in the past, to be of mixed parentage or ancestry meant privilege. Then there is the case of dictatorship especially during the reign of François Duvalier (Papa Doc) and his son, Baby Doc Duvalier. After the death of Papa Doc in 1971 his 19 year old son Baby Doc became the president – the youngest president in the world (you will note that Africa has also produced many presidents in their 20s, mainly as a result of coups – Valentine Strasser became president of Sierra Leone in 1992 at the age of 25; Samuel Doe at 29 in Liberia and Joseph Kabila at 29 in the DRC).
The same colonization of the mind also took place in British colonies – where some groups were told that they were better than others, and therefore different. South Africa led the way where the ‘coloreds’ in the Cape Province and other places were privileged over the majority black people. The British ‘divide and rule’ was at the center of the martial ethnic groups (put in the military and police because they were tall and slender – Maasai, Kalenjin, Hausa Fulani, Lang’o, Acholi, Tustsi, etc) and the ‘missionary and school’ ethnic groups who were told to go to school in order to be made teachers, clerks and cooks afterwards (majority of ethnic groups in Africa belong to this category such as Igbo, Yoruba, Kikuyu, Luo, Luyia, Baganda, Chagga, Haya, etc).
Some scholars have argued that the problem in Haiti today is the legacy of colonialism, as some have already pointed out on this list serve. In fact ‘creolization’ debates in the Caribbean and elsewhere in Africa, where those from mixed marriages (between Africans and Europeans) are still cause internal strife.
Africa has had many presidents from interracial marriage. Liberia had many of them until Samuel Doe killed the last one, William Tolba. Angola has had two presidents from interracial marriages, the first president Agostino Neto and present President Eduardo do Santos. Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings had a Scottish father (yes, as from Scotland). The current president of Botswana, Ian Seretse Khama, is the son of the first President of Botswana Sir Seretse Khama from his marriage to a white English woman, and was actually born in Surrey, in the United Kingdom. The signs are that black people are quickly going over the colonial trauma and stereotypes and electing people based on merit, than ancestry.