Isabelle Allende tells the story of the fight against dehumanization and enslavement in one of the greatest books of our time, “Island beneath the Sea.” The setting is Saint Domingue-18th century, now known as Haiti.
At one time Haiti was the richest colony on the planet, primarily because of the brutal theft of the labor of the black enslaved people. Haiti and the islands of the Caribbean were part of the dreaded “middle passage.” Twenty million or more black people were exploited in this holocaust. Those that did not perish on the journey ended up producing sugar cane, rum, cotton and tobacco.
France, the mother country felt that God had given Frenchmen the right to be masters and God had ordained the “children of Cain” to be enslaved. Haitians broke this curse by launching a bloody revolution that led to the total elimination of slavery and rule by blacks and non-whites. It was the largest slave revolt since Spartacus’s unsuccessful revolt against the Roman republic.
Furthermore, if the Haitians had not defeated Napoleon and his goons, we would probably be speaking French rather than English from the Mississippi to the Pacific. We remember this from our American History class.
Two weeks ago, we were distressed by witnessing the border agent on horseback using a whip to drive the Haitians back across the Rio Grande. After a two thousand mild journey mostly on foot, pregnant women, families and children braving venomous snakes and bandits, the Haitians are turned away.
They fled a country that sat on a major earthquake fault line and political instability as evidenced by a recent presidential assassination and calamitous earthquakes in 2010 and 2021.
In 1980 –81, I had the privilege of serving as the Director of one of the Haitian Resettlement Projects.
Black and white churches took the lead in forming resettlement committees to provide a foundation for the newly arrived refugees. Our elected and civilian leadership embraced the moral mandate and urged private and governmental leaders to support the resettlement. Today, hundreds, maybe a few thousand ex-refugees are now citizens of the USA and solid Houston citizens. Remittances from the tax paying Houston Haitians help to support families in Haiti.
It is an embarrassment to the country and black America that we are not utilizing our vast wealth and resources to end the hemispheric divide of rich and poor.
Ask yourself this question. If your family is facing starvation from climate change and grinding poverty, what national boundary would I respect in order to provide a better life for my children and family. This is the reason that so many are drowning on the high seas and dying from thirst in deserts. Imagine that drowning on the high seas is superior to the alternative of 24-7 hunger and thugs with M-1’s controlling the streets.
Ask yourself the question. Downstream, if we are fishing children out of the river, what are the conditions upstream that are driving them into the river.” Deplorable conditions in Brazil, Columbia, Guatemala and most of Central America guarantee that our country will be facing a continuous refugee intrusion. As a nation, we have kicked the can down the road long enough. Now, we should pause and deal with comprehensive immigration reform and the structural poverty of North and South America.
It is an embarrassment to all of us for “to whom much is given, much is required “. Luke 12:48. In a land of plenty, superfluous wealth and abject poverty are incompatible.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brother and sisters, you were doing it to me. Matthew 25