About the Last Ask / Telling Different Stories
I find it necessary, without getting into all the particulars, to mention our last question and our reply to it. First, I must say that while blogging is more or less a hobby, both of us still take it very seriously. Despite being in different fields (History and Sociology), we find ourselves being very much compatible because we share the same commitment towards education and we are both fascinated by how the digital age in changing the way in which we practice and think of humanities and social sciences.
By making this blog on Tumblr and not a blogging platform such as WordPress, we knew we were most likely exposing ourselves to a different type of audience altogether. Like others, we were aware of Tumblr’s social justice warrior subculture before we begin this blog, yet we went ahead because our main aim was diffusion and sharing reading suggestions. Now, before we go any further, I do want to make one thing clear: we are not against social justice, on the contrary, I would say, however, we are very critical of the behaviour of some social justice warriors and we are very distressed about the way they seem to believe History, as a discipline, “functions”. (While there is no “right way” or “one-size fits all” about thinking and speaking about History, we believe that some core principals should not be transgressed in the way that they are at the moment.)
In the present case, given that this blog is about Haiti, and in light of the above comment about social justice warrior subculture, I feel it necessary to add that: had we wanted this blog to be anti-French, anti-American or anti-anything else, we would have done so a long time ago. We never made any comment about this issue up until this moment because we never felt it should have been required.
When we started this blog, almost a year ago, the Haitian and Dominican governments were in the midst of yet another border and citizenship dispute. While we certainly had (and still have) our opinions about what is a problem that started long before this renewed tension, we tried to keep them to ourselves. This discretion on our part was not the result of our failures to understand the long history of antihaitianismo in the Dominican Republic, nor was it a lack of comprehension on our part in regards to the tension between the two countries that some date back to Boyer’s annexation in the 1820s (and other’s, as far as Toussaint Louverture’s 1801 campaign). No, rather this was because we were interested, even if just modestly, in historicising some of Haiti’s problems, rather than just too hastily jump to over-simplistic conclusions when we only had a poor grasp of Haiti’s evolution as a state.
It is in this context that we refuse to participate in what we believe this last asker was interested in and should discourage further disturbance of this sort. Looking back, I believe we could have been less sarcastic in our reply, nevertheless, we both stand behind the overall spirit of our message.
Now, we are in no ways apologist for French, American, Canadian and corporate imperialism in Haiti. Neither, in our refusal to start conversations with half-truths, do we suffer from this “internalized racism” that has become a popular phrase on Tumblr. With this blog, we were interested in telling different stories about Haiti, stories that are left untold because people are usually too interested in talking about how poor, corrupt and backward Haiti is as a state. By “different stories,” we did not mean simple over-generalizations and “fell-good anecdotes” about “how great things we then.” Things have not almost been as they are at the moment, but we surely won’t be wearing pink coloured glasses and pretend “once upon a time, everything was fine” or “had we only done this or that, none of this would have happen.” By different stories, we wanted to show that the history of Haiti could not be summed up by the supposed pathological inferiority of the Haitian people and their refusal to accept or even understand democratic principals. By different stories, we meant to show that Haiti was a modern state, born out of a successful slave rebellion into a world that rarely recognized the humanity of Black people. By different stories, we meant to show that, for various reasons, Haiti inherited a situation that was very different from that of its Caribbean and Latin American peers. By different stories, we meant to express that Haiti’s militarism, which might have been justifiable in the early decades of the nineteenth century to protect its fragile sovereignty, has become an integral aspect of its political and social landscape, must to the distress of the population. By different stories, we meant to make clear that while Haitian (Black and Mulatto) élites have participated, at various moments, to the pillage of their country, they have usually done so with much encouragement from foreign powers, to say the least. By different stories, we were not actually trying to tell stories that should have been so odd or surprising to anyone had they cared to know more.
If telling those different stories, in a way that seeks to make clear our respect for scholarship and academic conduct, somehow make us “elitist,” “traitors” to our race, if it makes us “white allies” blinded by our love of “White culture,” if it supposedly means that we are denying our “true roots,” then so be it (although, we strongly doubt we are in fact doing any of those things). In any event, we shall not jeopardize what we believe to be our freedom and intellectual integrity for the sake of adhering to anyone’s agenda. Our interest is in, exploring the complexities of our disciplines, recognizing their limits and challenging those limits, when necessary. Our interest is also in, finding better ways to tell those different stories when we acknowledge that by the nature of the medium we choose (Tumblr) our posts tend to be decontextualized and there is so much we can say in one entry. Our interest is not, has never been, and shall never be in becoming the most popular blog because we feed on some individuals’ endless indignation and need for venting. There are various ways to tell different stories, and voice criticism that do not defeat the original intent. It was our desire to explore these with this blog.
At this point, I will stop, having gone much further than I intend to, but I trust my message was clear.