Opinion: A Day Without A Haitian

POSTED: 05/20/14 9:37 PM

We read a letter somewhere signed by a proud St. Maartener. His name is Doran Joseph – remember that name. The man raved and ranted for two full newspaper columns about “them.”

This way this proud St. Maartener launched an attack on the Haitian community and Sunday’s Flag Day celebration, following the lead of DJ X-Ray who also seems to think that people coming from a different culture do not have the right to express themselves.

Joseph is of course entitled to his opinion, the same way we are entitled to disagree strongly with him.

Dear Mr. Joseph, it takes all kinds to make a world. It is true that people from poorer countries come to St. Maarten in search of a better life. Would you not do the same if there were no jobs to be had in St. Maarten? Dive into our country’s history and see what St. Maarteners did when the chips were down.

Many people from different countries have made St. Maarten their home. While there is no denying that an unknown number of them are here illegally, others have all the paperwork they need to be here. Apparently, you do not respect these people.

Under St. Maarten’s Constitution, there is freedom of association, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. Maybe you want to keep those rights for yourself and deny them to others – at least, that is the impression we get from your vile letter to the editor.

So what kind of society do you envision? One where only St. Maarteners have the right to be here? One where all foreigners should go back to where they came from? Would you then clean the streets or pick up the garbage, or break your back on a construction site?

A couple of years ago, an official government report noted that St. Maarteners do not want to work in construction. Those jobs are too tough – at least, that’s what the government report claimed, so you need foreigners to build your house.

When rants like yours appear – and they do, every now and then – we always have to think about California. There it’s not the Haitians that get the short end of the stick, but the Mexicans. Wetbacks, the Americans call them. So one day a Mexican film director, Sergio Arau produced a satirical movie called A Day Without A Mexican. The movie was released in 2004. This is the plot, as described by J. Hailey on IMBd.com:

“A thick fog surrounds California’s borders, communication beyond state lines is cut off, and the Mexicans disappear: workers, spouses, and business owners are missing. Cars are abandoned in the street, food is left cooking on the stove. We meet the wife of a musician who’s gone, a state Senator whose maid doesn’t show up for work, and a farm owner whose produce is ripe and unpicked. A scientist asks any Mexicans who haven’t disappeared to volunteer for genetic experiments: a female newscaster and the daughter of the musician may be the only missing links around. Why them? And where have all the Mexicans gone? Even the border guards grieve. The state and its economy grind to a halt.”

Maybe you recognize something in this scenario. Replace Mexican with Haitian and you get the same result.

When George Bush Jr. was in the Oval Office, quite some redneck Americans thought that George would take care of all those illegal Mexicans that call the United States their home. There are around 16 million illegals in the US and there is of course no way any president will manage to get them all out of the country. So this never happened.

Sint Maarten is home to more than one hundred different nationalities. Get used to it, and embrace those other cultures, rather than pushing them away. They enrich the country whether you like it or not. We are all in this together – locals and foreigners.

St Maarten should indeed be a place where anyone can go and have whatever lifestyle they want without any fear of prejudice. After all, who are you to tell others how to live their lives?

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