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Haiti, Katrina, and Why I Won't Give To Haiti Through the Red Cross
By Bruce A. Dixon   01/20/2010

At Katrina, the Red Cross used funds generously donated by millions of
Americans to implement what many knew at the time was, and what has turned
out to be the dispersal of much of black New Orleans to the four corners of
the continental US.  If the Red Cross didn't respect the persons, the
families, the communities of black US citizens, do we really imagine it will
respect Haitians? What's charitably given isn't always charitably
distributed. In 21st century American and its empire, our corporate and
military elite wield immense power. Corporate philanthropy serves corporate
interests, not human interests, and corporate control over government,
culture and media ensure that even funds donated by ordinary citizens can be
directed and harvested for elite purposes too.

In the wake of the man-made disaster of Katrina, Americans freely gave tens
of millions to the American Red Cross, which used a great deal of it to
effectively disperse the population of black New Orleans to the four corners
of the continental U.S. Millions more were diverted to their administrative
overhead or other projects. But the local Louisiana elites who benefited
from the exile of hundreds of thousands of black New Orleans residents were
able to use Red Cross funds and personnel to work their will. I know. I was
there. In the days immediately after Katrina in 2005 I made it down to Baton
Rouge, where thousands of the evacuees pulled out of the water and scooped
off rooftops and overpasses were huddled in shelters at the city's
convention center and Southern University. The shelters were hard to miss,
because there was a mile long line of buses crawling toward each one. The
busiest person in each shelter was the transportation coordinator.

If an evacuee had a high status job, proof of ID and checkable references, I
saw them put plane tickets for the whole family in that person's hand, line
up a job in Detroit or Los Angeles, and call them a cab to the airport. But
for everybody else without a car, they had one solution. Get on the bus.
There would be no way back, and no plans to help you go back. There's a bus
for you, going to Dallas or Houston or somewhere. Singly and in groups I
interviewed just under a hundred evacuees in a day and a half, many still
disoriented. They wanted to be reunited with their families. They wondered
if they'd be able to go back, or if there would be anything to go back to.
But all the Red Cross told them, I heard again and again, was that the
shelter is closing in a couple of days, you can't stay here in Baton Rouge,
you have to get on a bus to Houston, Dallas, Atlanta or somewhere. Now. Even
those who had businesses before the flood --- I talked to the owner of a
bakery and a car repair shop who stayed to protect their investment and to
look after relatives --- even they were told there's nothing here for you
but a bus going out of state.

I talked to some of the Red Cross people who ran the shelter too, especially
at Southern University. I recall asking them how they knew people had
nothing in New Orleans to go back to. They were white, of course and most of
the sheltered evacuees were black. ³Look at them,² was the stock answer from
several. ³What could they possibly have worth going back to?" They are
better off starting new lives somewhere else,² they rationalized. They also
cited news stories in wide circulation about New Orleans residents firing on
helicopters and boats that were rescuing people, reports that later were
proven false. I told them they were likely to be untrue, but they wanted
very badly to believe, and they did. I recall pointing out that if they were
dispersed far out of state many would have no way back, but this had little
effect on their conclusion. One or two, I remember, seemed to struggle with
what I told them, and said they hoped it was not true, but they were just
doing their jobs.

My point here is that in a society controlled by an elite with often
questionable motives, the charities this corporate elite and their media
promote have to be questioned too. I won't give a nickel through the Red
Cross because they are no more likely to recognize the viability and full
humanity of Haitians and their communities than did on the Gulf Coast. The
Red Cross isn't alone in this. The US government, as Glen Ford points out,
has thoroughly militarized US aid to Haiti, and the same US corporate media
that painted New Orleans as a cesspool of violence and despair are bringing
us images and impressions of Haiti that match their twisted vision. Food and
water cannot be distributed until ³order² is restored. Corporate media
manufacture ³celebrities² all the time, people who are famous for being well
known.  We know more about the lives and personal affairs of celebrities
than we know about the public affairs in our own cities and towns and school
boards. Haitian musician Wyclef Jean used his celebrity, and the earthquake,
to raise millions for his own Haitian charity.

We make no judgment on the allegations that its bookkeeping may be
irregular. But it's worth noting that Wyclef Jean has family ties to the
group of gangsters and thugs that the Clinton-era CIA installed in office
when it removed Haiti's elected president, Jean-Betrand Aristide from office
in the 1990s. Wyclef Jean has repeated the contemptible lie all over black
radio that Aristide skipped the country with $900 million stolen from
Haitians. We understand where this comes from [1]. Wyclef's uncle was the
Washington DC representative of the short-lived 1990s un-elected gangster
government of Haiti. He runs a right wing rag of a Haitian newspaper
dedicated to spreading outrageous and self-serving falsehoods against
Lavalas, the only Haitian party capable of winning free elections in that
unhappy country.  If Wyclef will lie about that, we wonder what else he'd
lie about, and why we should trust him with our money. Wyclef's problems
aside, one way to ensure your donations are deployed and used in a manner
faithful to your intent, and respectful of the Haitian rights to community,
humanity and agency, is to send them to efforts managed in whole or in part
by responsible Haitians, and members of the Haitian diaspora.

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