The road to racial justice must also run through Haiti

America-The Jesuit Review, by Colby Bowker, January 18, 2021

From the inequitable loss of life and livelihood caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to obscene public exhibitions of racial injustice, the events of 2020 have held up a mirror. At times, we saw the best of ourselves. But it is also clear that many of us have continually failed to care for others as much as we care for ourselves. That is, we have for too long failed to see others as ourselves. As a result of this failure of recognition, the groups of people who have been left behind rather than lifted up are too numerous to name.

The pain and suffering—including but not limited to the killings of unarmed individuals in our streets—has given us a new lens through which we may apprehend unconscionable injustices. Nearly 160 years after the end of slavery and 60 years after the height of the civil rights movement, we must finally steel our resolve to correct them.

I help lead an institution operating in two countries, the oldest and second oldest republics in this hemisphere, so it is impossible for me not to appreciate how this work necessarily extends beyond our shores and in particular to Haiti—the most impoverished country in our hemisphere, whose per-capita income is tragically more at home with some of the most impoverished nations on the African continent.

It is often overlooked that Haiti is the birthplace of our entire hemisphere. It is where everything we now know as the Americas, for better and for worse, began in 1492, when Columbus established the first European settlement near what is now the port city of Cap-Haïtien. Haiti was also the first nation to throw off the shackles of slavery, a full 60 years before the United States did.

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