Men's reactions to Mambo Racine's comments

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Men's reactions to Mambo Racine's comments

Post by admin » Thu Jun 17, 2004 12:12 am

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I've found your comments about Haitian men and women so offensive, that I've decided to respond.

You wrote: "Once they have their first menstrual period (or even before!) the attitude is that they have no right to refuse men the use of their vaginas." Well, I grew up in Haiti and left Haiti after secondary school. I grew up part in the capital and the province. I never met any Haitian girls or women with that kind of attitude.

There are machos in every country of the world. But It's indeed a bigger problem in countries where women have no financial independence. As far as Haitian women considering their vaginas as their capital goods; I can only say that I don't know any Haitian women who think that way. I knew of one rapist in my neighborhood. That guy spent years in hiding because the police was looking for him. And the whole neighborhood showed lot of love and compassion for that girl who was raped.

You wrote: "This country is sick, sick, SICK! And no amount of intervention is going to change it. It won't change until Haitians want to change, but they don't - every Haitian thinks his fists are bigger than the other guy's fists, every Haitian woman thinks her vagina is more attractive than all other women's vaginas, and that she is better defended by her family or her powerful friends against rape and violence than other women, and thus men who desire her must pay money, and thus she is worth more." I don't believe that Haiti is any sicker than any other countries. Those comments about Haitian women and their vaginas are ridiculous.

You wrote: "The fact is that Haitian men are raised to be rapists, and rewarded for rape. So please, let's not have any more accusations of rape leveled by one group of men against another." How can you write that Haitian males are raised to be rapists? Rape is probably one of the worst things that could happen to a woman, and every rapist should be dealt with very swiftly. But to write that Haitian men are raised to be rapists just shows how little you know about Haitian people.

Even though I experience racism very often, I would never write that Europeans or white people are raised to be racists. There are rapists in every country of the world, even in countries with tough judicial systems.

I must tell you that I feel quite offended by your letter.
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In response,[quote]
You wrote: "As far as Haitian women considering their vaginas as their capital goods; I can only say that I don't know any Haitian women who think that way." I think Amy Wilentz has also documented this phenomenon - she reported on Haitian market women who come to town to sell produce and "my land", the land being their vaginas.

You wrote: "Are you talking about some women that you know or Haitian women in general?" This is the attitude of the majority of majority-class women, certainly! And I am not exempting the members of my own congregation. I have never yet seen two women in Haiti cuss-fight, for example, without each of them immediately claiming that their vagina is better than the other woman's.

This is also why it is so hard to get heterosexual sex partners to use condoms. The men don't want to, and a woman who says, "I don't like condoms" gets more play from the men, and sometimes more money per sexual encounter, so she considers herself more valuable and desirable.

You wrote: "To write that Haitian men are raised to be rapists just shows how little you know about Haitian people." Yep, I've been living in Haiti since 1987, I'm a full time Mambo, and I know very little about Haitians, right. Just the other day one of my congregation members, who has a pubescent daughter, had to move from downtown to a more rural area because the local boys had decided the time had come for her daughter to be "debute", to start having sex whether she wants to or not!

You wrote: "Even though I experience racism very often, I would never write that Europeans or white people are raised to be racists." Of COURSE they are, some of them! What do you think, white racists reinvent racism every generation? Naturally they learn it from other racists.

You know, when I went to school, we had very few black students in my school system, and I was so oblivious... I mean, of course I saw that they had dark skins, but practically until I was halfway through high school I didn't really understand that there were such things as "races" of people and their "race" was a little different from my own. I guess I was a lost innocent, but honestly I didn't know there was such a thing as a "race problem" until black people told me there was.

But other white people have had very different experiences. Certainly some whites are raised to think of black people as lesser, inferior, and undesirable, and plenty of those white people are encouraged to be aggressive toward blacks. Surely you know this?

You wrote: "I must tell you that I feel quite offended by your letter." I must tell you that I feel quite offended by RAPE! Are you a woman? I bet not. I feel offended by this constant, "Map kwenyen ou", I'm going to f-ck you; directed at me and at other women by almost any man who pleases! I am offended by being threatened with rape by the man who ties his cow in my pasture overnight and steals my grass, I am offended by being threatened with rape by youths on the beach who want some cash, I am offended by being threatened with rape by men in my neighborhood because I dumped a boorish boyfriend!

Just have a look at the laws on rape in Haiti - there AREN'T ANY! Rape, per se, is not a crime, it's a "crime against honor" and if the woman is not a virgin, she has no "honor" to lose. There is no age of consent, there is no statutory rape. And you want to tell me this is just an accident? Who do you think made those laws, or failed to make them? Haitian men, who want to make sure that they can rape with impunity.

I think you ought to walk around Haiti disguised as a woman for a few weeks, you might find your ideas changing.

Sincerely,
Mambo Racine
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This post comes in the wake of the discussion of Mambo Racine's post on Haiti, men, women, and rape. I seem to recall that about 6-8 years ago, in Canada, there was a rape case involving Haitians. If my memory serves correctly, the case was dismissed (or the charged was significantly lessened) because the defense, and the judge, argued that those involved were Haitian, and that sex, force, and indeed rape, were different in Haitian culture. The not so subtle subtext was that Haitian men rape women and that Haitian women should not be protected by the law from rape, since it is a *culture of rape*.

This is no different from all the other kinds of media representations that float around in the US and Canada (and I would assume in Europe as well) of Haiti as a culture of violence, as a place incapable of democracy, as a place that must be contained, etc etc.

I know that there are a wide spectrum of political positions on this list. But surely we can agree that the Haitian Revolution is a significant historical event, and that it has been silenced time and time again. The *regime change* that is still going on in Haiti right now (however else you think of it) served to once again bolster this image of Haiti in the foreign press... as a country in a permanent political crisis because, again the not so subtle subtext, they are incapable of governing themselves.

To return to the issue of rape. If rape is a social fact in Haiti, then we can think about why that might be so. But I would strongly urge us not to slip into the language of suggesting that it is an inherent part of Haitian culture.
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In response,[quote]
Rape is most certainly an inherent part of Haitian culture, that is precisely what I am saying! Men in this country are acculturated to rape women and beat women. The root of the problem has nothing to do with slavery. It has to do with sexism, aggression against women, and the habit of viewing women as property.

And this phenomenon is certainly not limited to rural, majority class Haitians. I remember one very highly placed Haitian intellectual who told me his sex education consisted of his father explaining to him, "First you get the girl alone, then you take her."

This does not mean that Haitian men are *genetically* more prone to rape than any other men, there is a difference between a person's genetic background and their cultural training.
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I knew about men calling others names as "kadejakèr", but I never met a guy -God only knows how many braggarts I met in my life- presenting himself as a champion when it comes to rape women.

I saw men arrogating for themselves the right to touch women, but I never heard of anybody glorifying himself of being a rapist. Of course I heard stories about rape. I even heard songs about it, and one can argue that those songs might have been inspired by facts. On the other hand, I heard or read that soldiers do rape women of a conquered territory. Whether Greeks, French, Americans or Haitians. It has been reported that the putschists and attaches did rape during the 1991 coup d'état. I would certainly not be surprised that the same things are taking place today in Haiti. Thanks to Abu-Ghraib in Iraq, it has become clear that rape can be a militaro-political tactic. We also know that Haitians soldiers copied European tactics from before 1804, and are implementing what they learned from Americans during the years of the 1915 occupation.

The characterization of Haitian culture as being rapist may not be substantiatable.
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I liked her brash style of writing. I always felt I could extract the grain of truth from the molehill buried under the mountain of generalizations. Male attitude towards women as property is certainly an age-old problem. Even in the most modern countries, patriarchy retains its grip in many ways. Ms. Gray uses colorful language, and gives examples to back up her point. But a critical mind can sift through the over-simplifications, and compare the many cases of Haitian women respected and not raped, and the many honorable Haitian men we all know, to understand where Manbo Racine is right, and where she errs.
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Once I got over my initial anger, two simple questions came to mind:

1. Why does Mambo Racine choose to live in a "sick, sick, sick" land of rapists?

2. If, as she asserts, "Rape is most certainly an inherent part of Haitian culture", then there should be a disproportionate number of rapes committed by Haitians in any community inhabited by them. I don't know the exact statistics but I don't believe that's the case in the US or Canada, for example?
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In the aftermath of the coup d'etat of September 1991, a group of lawyers from Harvard Law School and Cambridge Somerville Legal Services (Anker, D., Kelly, N., Willshire-Carrera, J., Ye, C. et. al. were able to convince the US Immigration Court in Boston, MA that rape (documented cases of women who were raped by FADH/FRAPH) was being committed as political persecution. The judge agreed and granted asylum to several women who had fled Haiti. It is important to note that the judge's ruling became US Immigration policy. To my knowledge September 1991 marks the beginning of such political crimes in Haiti. But I am also aware while growing up in Haiti that there were a handful of Haitian men who did not consider forcing a woman to have sex as rape. Particularly, if the woman were to accept a ride from one of them. I think the reason such cases are not investigated and prosecuted is because the victims of rape are generally regarded as being at fault; that is, they somehow caused the rape. This is unfortunate, but this view about rape is also prevalent in certain sectors of the US. I say the US because, outside of Haiti, I am most familiar with the US.

With regard to this assertion made by Mambo Racine, that is, "The fact is that Haitian men are raised to be rapists, and rewarded for rape!"

All I can say is neither I nor my brothers (cousins, friends and so on) practice this behavior, most importantly my family does not condone rape, nor rewards it. Nevertheless, I challenge her to study the prevalence of Haitians convicted of rape in US jails (let's say Boston) compared to other male rapist prisoners.
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What she wrote is truthfully, totally wrong and false. However, certain positions are so outrageous, that I find it a waste of time to even bother to answer to. It is, in a sense, almost like giving legitimacy to something that simply makes very little or no sense at all.
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If this is not considered as a racist statement, I don't know what it is... She can consider herself as being blunt and someone who calls it what it is by what she observes and experiences, she cannot generalize this behavior to all Haitians.

Yes there is in Haiti this macho attitude which needs to be addressed because it make it difficult for some Haitians to see the other as a person rather than a sex gender. I know for a fact that sexual education was not part of the curriculum when I was living there.

However my mother did not raise me as a rapist neither my sisters as someone who considers her private part as a source of income.

Hey! if Mambo Racine thinks the lwa give her the right to be disrespectful to an entire nation, she needs to consult with them again, she is on the wrong path.
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Mambo Racine seems to have touched a raw nerve among some who prefer to insult or denigrate her rather than address the issue of rape in Haitian society. Some men feel overly defensive about what she has said - why is that?

All I will say is that Haitian men seem to me less sexist and prone to sexual violence than Dominican men. That's about all I can say on the matter other than more idle speculation...
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I would have dismissed her off-hand, if she did not go at length with an effort to back-up what she said. First, she generalized, then she exaggerated, and third she gave it an education dimension. There is no question that her conclusions are wrong. While she may have a point that our system of justice has collapsed, and that rapes are not prosecuted as they should, that is a far cry from her accusations. When you mix poverty with that judicial system, there is no question that it does not deter abuses. That is the path that the lack of adequate leadership in the past 200 years has taken us.
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As far as I know, rape is not something that is characteristic of Haitian men. It is outrageous of her to say what she says, and her views are so extremist.

What I can testify about is the following: It is following the coup d'Etat of 1991 that rape became a political tool in Haiti. The Inter-American Commission on human rights conducted an extensive investigation of Haitian women in the resistance against the military coup, who described how the FRAPH thugs systematically used rape as a political tool of repression: young women, mothers, grand-mothers, pregnant women were assaulted, gang-raped as to force them to flee or to keep quiet. Mambo Racine needs to do a lot more research before coming up with arguments such as the ones she advances in her text.
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Mambo Racine may have exagerated the sociological meaning of her observations by implying that rape is a phenomenon intrinsic to Haitian society and that makes Haiti a "SICK SOCIETY".

First there is the language of the presumed macho man who threatens to do things to a woman and then there is the one that actually does it. These are two separate things. Haitians of a certain class are fond of using obscene language and language with sexual connotations. To say that they will do this or that to a woman is often nothing more than the mouthings of men who have not even the appropriate tool to do it with. The Haitian woman I think of is not intimidated by this sort of bravado and always has a challenging repartee, which often sends the braggard running with tails between legs, no pun intended.

Then there is the matter of the real rape. How do you define it? I would say "sexual act initiated without consent". Rape still remains a part of Haitian life as it is a part of any society. As any deviant behavior, it becomes more prevalent when there is a lapse in moral standards and a failing respect for the law. In Haiti, laws are plenty on the books, but few pay heed to them because for a long time the justice system and its enforcing arm, the police, have become almost non existent. This could be put under the general heading of INSECURITY that everyone talks about. To rein in the malevolents you have to have systems in place and in Haiti, those systems have gone by the window. In addition, rape is even tolerated in Haiti under certain circumstances. People that have studied the Restavec problem in Haiti will tell you of the testimonies. When did you ever hear of the son of a well to do family being prosecuted for forcing sex on a restavec girl? Right now in Florida a Haitian family is being prosecuted for maintaining an imported teenage girl under conditions of servitude, while the son in the family was molesting her. When the case came to light, both the son and father disappeared from the police radar screen. Did these people learn this behavior here or did they come with it?

Ms Racine may have put her finger on one of the symptoms of Haiti's downward slide but may have misinterpreted its meaning. Haiti has many fundamental problems and we are seing the symptoms everyday: garbage on the streets, no electricity, corruption and inefficiency in public administration, kidnappings, burglaries and even murders on the rise, and maybe an increase in the incidence of rape. Those things are symptoms of a failing or failed system of social construct.

As for the implications that mothers sell their girls, I don't know how widespread this is in Haiti, but again this may be a symptom of Haiti's extreme poverty and this practice is not unique to Haiti. We know about many other countries where this practice is reputed to be on a much larger scale, and only in the poor classes. The only common denominator is poverty. And who does exploit that state of affairs? Those who have the money.
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When I read Racine's remarks I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's the same feeling I get when one of my white acquaintances makes a comment about how blacks in America are so violent, or oversexed, or unintelligent, and expects me to nod my head in agreement.

In America black men are stereotyped as aggressive sexual predators, and black women are stereotyped as hyper-sensual and oversexed. I was very taken aback by the way Racine's characterization of Haitian society reflected these same stereotypes. Let's assume that everything she says is true. Haiti is just a big festering cauldron of rape (in reality, rape is a problem in lots of places, including here). Even if that were the case, it is inappropriate to say Haitians are "sick" people.

Haitians are just like any other people--they are a product of their environment. You have to look at the external causes that give rise to deviant behavior, not simply look at the behavior in a causal vacuum. Go through the poor areas of the U.S. and you'll see plenty of deviant behavior, ranging from prostitution to drug use to criminality. These conditions don't exist because the people living in those areas are "sick." They exist because poverty, racism, and colonialism has destroyed the social fabric of those communities.

Racine has tried to gloss over the racist nature of her remarks by saying "This does not mean that Haitian men are *genetically* more prone to rape than any other men, there is a difference between a person's genetic background and their cultural training." Shifting the blame from genes to culture doesn't change anything. It still places the blame squarely on the victim rather than the roots of the problem.

In America, when people realized it was no longer acceptable to say that blacks are inherently inferior to whites, they started saying that it was actually "black culture" that was to blame. In America "black culture" is said to be anti-intellectual, violent, degenerate, and sexually deviant. This position is as just as much nonsense as the old one. But we (white people) like these kinds of explanations because they absolve us from any responsibility for all the bad things that are happening to these people.
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I have to vent. Mambo Racine needs to be put in her god damn place by someone. I was born and raised in a very racist family. As a young boy and on into my early teens, one of the words I most frequently uttered was the n-word. I might still be thinking that way if some of my more intelligent white friends had not put me in my place.

You cannot change the mind of a racist with calm, rational debate. Yes, they have to be presented with the facts in a logical way, but you also have to knock them upside the head a few times to cause some cognitive dissonance get the gears in their head moving again.

I have absolutely zero tolerance for racism, and this woman is an outright RACIST. What the hell is she even doing in Haiti if she hates it so much? Why is she subjecting herself to life in this hellhole with its "inferior, sick culture"? She should leave! I doubt many would miss her.

The sad thing is, she probably sees herself as a benefactor to the Haitian people somehow. I believe she talked about how she gives away food. She is just another arrogant, unenlightened white person who gets off on giving a condescending "helping hand" to the "primitive" people of the world. She probably thinks of Haitians as children--uncivilized and in need of her guidance.

White people with her kind of attitude have done more damage to Haiti than any rapist ever will.
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Fò se moun tala arete fè moun chiye kon sa, piskè pèp ayisyen pa pli move moun ki pon kalite nasyoun si la tè.

Se pa yo ki pli violè fanm e se pa yo non plis ki ap fè krim sèksyèl si ti moun.

Si nap byen gade tout vie atrosite sèksyèl se blan ki ap fè yo, kikswa, dekare ti moun, touye yo, vyole yo, alòs fò se moun la las fè nou chie kon sa.

Adan tout peyi ki pa gen demokrasi, nou sav kè gen oun lo abi sèksyèl si sa ki pli pòv, e sa osi valab pou ayiti tou, kon plen dòt peyi lafrik.

Pou zafè fanm la, se menm biten, nèg ayisyen yo pa pli move, ki sa ki ka fèt nan kanpay lamerik ou si kote gwdloup, trinidad, Jamaika.

Men fò pa se moun la an tchou an nou kon sa, kon si se nèg ayisyen ki pli move.[/quote]

Serge
Posts: 323
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2007 10:39 am

Post by Serge » Fri Dec 26, 2008 8:20 am

I do not know this woman at all, but I have met people like her before who consider themselves "Haitianologist" (Haitianologue). Often, they are ready to re-write Haitian history. In this case, this woman seems to be ready to re-write Haitian culture.

Among the comments made by the different men, I would like to underline one of them. Why is it that this woman who declares that Haiti is a "sick, sick sick" country - with such emphasis - elects to live in that country, becomes a mambo, and, for what I can read, enjoys that kind of sickness around her? I would be disgusted!


Serge

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