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Issue of Racism in Colonial Haiti

The understanding of racism in Haiti, at the time called St. Domingue, was different even among the people at the time. In the book, The Haitian Revolution by David Geggus, two examples of contemporary writing on the matter of discrimination are presented. The first account is presented by Henri-Baptiste Grégoire in his “Mémoire en faveur des gens de couleur ou sang-mêlés de St. Domingue, et des autres isles françaises de l’Amérique” (Geggus, 2014). It approaches the topic of racism from a somewhat detached perspective, seeing it as a sad, but inevitable product of reality. The writer discusses many of the plights of people of color while noting their unfair treatment and the variety of difficulties they face in their daily life. The description is imbued with a sense of both consideration and light pity, which seeks to uplift the image of people of color in the eyes of the reader while also highlighting the nature of their position. Henri-Baptiste Grégoire, using his position of knowledge, demonstrates a variety of examples where non-white residents of St. Domingue are restricted from proper participation in society (Geggus, 2014). He also discusses a case where the court failed to prosecute a white man for beating a person of color with a cane, instead choosing to dismiss it entirely. Overall, the account provides a considerably rounded look into the structures of racism in St. Domingue, discussing both a changing definition of race that emerged in the colony and its consequences. While emotionally-charged, the text is presented in a generally restrained manner. Henri-Baptiste Grégoire looks at the issue as a systematic problem of institutional and personal racism, while lightly emphasizing his wishes for equality.

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On the other side of the consideration an account of Julien Raimond, as presented in “Trois mémoires” can be discussed. This work takes a far more personal approach to racism, demonstrating the severity of the problem in St. Domingue from a more down-to-earth perspective. While the previous account largely covered many different varieties of mistreatment faced by people of color, Raimond instead focuses on a specific aspect of racism and uncovers it fully. The text is written in a much more unrestrained manner and works well in illustrating the genuine range of emotions a man affected by racism feels (Geggus, 2014). In particular, Raimond writes about the ability of white people to invade the private property of people of color without repercussions, while also abusing their status for personal benefit (Geggus, 2014). The text touches on the harm to the dignity and well-being of people of color and their families. Raimond also reflects on the powerlessness he, and the people like him, are presented with. Overall, the account feels much more emotionally touching than the previous one, while also highlighting the daily cases of racism in the country.

The accounts essentially speak about the same kinds of racism, and also agree on the existence of a large systematic problem. Both men’s writings exist within the contemporary context of anti-black scientific sentiment and highlight a high degree of discrimination towards people with almost any percentage of non-white heritage (Charles, 2020). However, their approaches to discussing it and, subsequently, the points of emphasis, are different. The first text primarily points out the range of discrimination a person of color experiences, while the latter instead chooses to focus on a particular example. With the overwhelming presence of racism in the country at that time, the actions of those that tried to fight an existing regime are especially understandable. The Haitian revolution was an important cultural and historical milestone, both for the region and the world at large (Bhattacharyya et al., 2019). Haitian self-identification and growth were largely based on the move towards a less racist society.

References

Bhattacharyya, G., Virdee, S., & Winter, A. (2019). Revisiting histories of anti-racist thought and activism. Identities, 27(1), 1–19. Web.

Charles, J. M. (2020). The slave revolt that changed the world and the conspiracy against it: The Haitian Revolution and the birth of scientific racism. Journal of Black Studies, 51(4), 275–294. Web.

Geggus, D. P. (2014). The Haitian Revolution: A Documentary History. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.

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