Lynching of Haitian Man In Dominican Republic.

I am Harry Claude Jean
Louis J Auguste, MD

The History of the United States of America is certainly filled with great examples of bravery and generosity. Standing up to Hitler and saving the world from the madness of a pathological megalomaniac will forever represent in my mind the greatest accomplishment, which undoubtedly changed the course of History.  Nevertheless, many other chapters of this history are no less than shameful and forever will cast a black cloud on this country that always boasts about the plurality of its cultures and ethnicities. “E Pluribus Unum” is its national motto. Out of many, one.  Yet, this country witnessed passively or participated actively, depending on one’s point of view in the “lynching” of its own citizens for nearly 90 years.

The Equal Justice Initiative defines “Lynching” as a “violent and public act of torture designed to traumatize black people throughout the country and largely tolerated by state and federal officials.” Between 1876 and 1968, no less than 4742 African Americans were lynched by crazed mobs of white folks, for motives ranging from unproven allegations of rapes of white women all the way to whistling at a white woman or even wearing a military uniform upon returning from combat duty in Europe at the conclusion of World War I. At the peak of these activities, at least two lynchings were recorded per week. This arguably could even represent an underestimation, because it does not even include among others, the lynching in Birmingham, Alabama on October 17, 1981 of Michael Donald, an absolutely innocent young man, who was randomly seized from the streets, beaten and murdered, to avenge the mistrial of a black man who was accused of killing a white police officer. The list does not even include the violent dragging of James Byrd Jr. behind a pickup truck driven by three white men until he met his death by decapitation, in Jasper Texas, as recently as June 7, 1998.  Truth be told that the last two quoted cases resulted in the arrest, trial and conviction of the perpetrators.

Nevertheless, the campaign of terrorism against this segment of the American Population contributed to a large extent to the mass migration of black folks from the rural South to the main cities of the North, in a quest for a better lot for their future generations, perfect example of the PUSH and PULL theory often referred to when discussing the migration of population around the globe, between countries and between different regions of the same country.  Beyond that demographic phenomenon, these years of terror have left deep scars in the minds and souls not only of people who had their beloved relatives so brutally removed from them, but also in the psyche of all black men, like me, reading this outrageous story some years later. Today, a noose evokes as much discomfort as it did in the XIXth and the beginning of the XXth century.

Over and over, I have asked myself: What happened to the priests, the ministers, the rabbis of those times? What happened to the abolitionists of the North? What happened to all the people of good will in America? Where were the marches? Where were the protests? Where was the groundswell of support for these unfortunate souls and their families? Did the Christians forget the letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, where he reminded them that “we are all so interconnected that if one suffers, we are all to suffer?” How could these crying injustices go on for so long?

I often found solace in convincing myself or trying to convince myself that Thank God! this page had been turned forever.  This was but a thing of the past.

Yet, on February 12, 2015, I woke up and checked my Face Book page to face the shocking picture taken the day before of a young Haitian man, wrists bound, legs bound dangling from a tree branch on a public square in the Dominican city of Santiago.  His name was Harry Claude Jean.  He had a wife. He had a child. He was 23 years old, some say 19 years old, but did it matter? He was dead, hanging by a noose from a tree branch and left out there for all the Haitians in that city or in that country to see. I checked the date. Yes! We were in 2015! The Police in that City rushed to accuse other Haitians to have committed the crime, citing the violent and barbaric ways of the Haitians. Really! I cannot ever recall any Haitians found hanging by a noose in Haiti. Besides, whom will the police blame for the instance where two young Haitian workers were locked in a shop that was set on fire, burning them alive? Whom will they blame for the beating of Haitians with baseball bats in broad daylight with cars passing by and no one even attempting to stop it? Will the police ever recognize that for years and years, members of their own forces have been robbing the Haitian workers of their week’s pay, with impunity, since because of their illegal status, they cannot even go to the police and complain? This lynching was clearly a heinous act of hatred, intimidation and terror.

Just about a month after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and the massive rally held in Paris, during which everyone carried banners that read “Je suis Charlie,” I expected some form of protest across the entire Country. I expected the government or some private entity to organize a collect of funds to support the unfortunate widow and perhaps bring her back to her country of origin. Yes, there was a march on the Dominican Embassy in Petionville, but that was short lived.  To my chagrin, just a few days later, I heard some Haitians discussing their plans to vacation at Punta Cana or defending their choice to reside permanently in the Dominican Republic, although they admit that when it gets hot there against Haitians, they prefer to stay home and barricade themselves behind closed doors.  These Haitians have chosen to distance themselves from the likes of Harry Claude Jean.  Yet, the PUSH and PULL Theory of migration somehow does not seem to apply in this situation. We do not see yet any spontaneous mass migration of Batey workers back to Haiti.

These poor wretches are rejected by all. Rejected by their motherland who could not offer them any means of subsistence! Rejected by a country they enter, albeit illegally, in search of a better future for themselves and their family. Rejected because they are illiterate! Rejected because they are too BLACK! Rejected because they are from the rural communities! Rejected because they have no skills! Rejected because over the years all the governments have profited of this abusive system that paid them a premium for each worker that was sent across the border to the hell of the bateys!

Let every Haitian look in a mirror!  Have we done our part? Some of us will ask : What could possibly make the Dominicans change their attitudes toward Haitians?  Perhaps, if they could not find anyone to cut their sugar cane! Perhaps, if no one went to Punta Cana or Puerto Plata and their hotels remained empty! Perhaps, if we chose to buy Haitian products or products from any other Caribbean nation rather than Dominican Products!  Perhaps, if our artists, our journalists made a greater effort to draw the world’s attention to this terrible injustice being committed everyday!

Harry Claude Jean was a MAN. He was born free and equal in dignity and rights. He was entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, regardless of his race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. He had the right to life, liberty and security of person…  As such, he was equal before the law and was entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. He should not have been subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment. He had the right to a Nationality and should not have been arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

When will all Haitians truly understand their motto: L’Union fait la Force – Together we are stronger! Together, we can change the situation in Haiti and the condition of Haitians all over the globe.

Today, I profess my solidarity to all my Haitian brothers and sisters, wherever they may be. I am you and you are I.  I will speak up wherever and whenever I see injustice being committed. I will not support any ideology, individual, organization or country that seeks to deprive individuals of their inalienable rights.  History will be the judge of our actions!

I am Harry Claude Jean! Who else is Harry Claude Jean?

Louis Joseph Auguste, MD

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