Relief efforts throughout the globe are being organized to support Haiti as it recovers from the most severe earthquake disaster (7.0 magnitude) in over two centuries. Though official counts are still pending, reports indicate that anywhere from 50,000 – 100,000 have been killed as a result of this horrific natural disaster. Monumental buildings such as the Haitian Parliament, Presidential Palace, and the National Cathedral have all collapsed, and the city’s capital, Port-au-Prince, lies in ruin, almost entirely reduced to rubble. With hundreds of thousands left homeless and injured, the basic needs of food, clean water, shelter and medical care are desperately needed for those affected by the catastrophe.
Amidst the chaos, Twitter has proved to be an invaluable resource in providing news updates and live photos from Haiti. “Help Haiti” and “Red Cross” were two of the most popular trending topics today. Many tweets described prayers in the streets and survivors being pulled out from the dust and debris. Additionally, information about donations, relief funds, and aid organizations quickly spread throughout the social networking site to concerned citizens across the world, searching for a way to help in this great time of need. The U.S. State Department claimed that their text messaging fund, which encourages users to text “Haiti” to the number 90999 to make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross, had received nearly 83,000 hits as of Wednesday afternoon.
Yet for some foolhardy outsiders, this is a situation that deserves little pity. On Twitter, L.A. model Molly Shephard (mollymshephard) wrote, “I don’t think ANYONE should help Haiti. A country filled with FRENCH speaking Black people? I don’t give a f*ck! So sick of hearing it.” In a similar vein of blowhard-y self-absorption toward those in need, televangelist Pat Robertson called the earthquakes a “blessing in disguise,” then blamed the earthquakes on a “curse” from God as the result of a deal that he claimed Haitians had made with the devil:
“And you know… something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh, you know, Napoleon the third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you, if you get us free from the Prince.” True story. And so the devil said, “Okay, it’s a deal.” And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free, and ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. . . The Island of Hispaniola is one island cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is, is, prosperous, healthy, full of resorts. Haiti is in desperate poverty, same islands. They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God.” [Emphasis mine]
On MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Joseph responded directly to Robertson’s comments by pointing to the critical contributions made to the United States through Haiti’s slave rebellion. “I would like the whole world to know – America especially – that the independence of Haiti, when the slave rose up against the French and defeated the French army (powerful army) that the U.S. was able to gain the Louisiana Territory for fifteen million dollars,” said Joseph. “That’s three cents an acre. That’s thirteen states west of the Mississippi that the slave revolts in Haiti provided America. Also, the revolt of the rebels in Haiti allowed Latin America to be free… So, what pact have Haitians made with the devil [that] has helped the United States become what it is?”
The tragedy in Haiti will continue to unfold in the coming days, as the unexpected passing of human lives, homes, and cities tallies into an immeasurable loss. People with a conscience and the desire to help those who have lost all they hold dear will bear witness to these events, helping where they can, and drowning out those who want to mock this tragedy, or profit from it. Whether our support is offered in providing funds, medical care, direct relief to those on the ground, or offering support for survivors and relatives in our home countries, we must not forget those who have been lost or who are struggling to survive during this unimaginable disaster.