It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve return home from my sick leave from the office. A day later I was already preparing to get back to the grind. As I look at my flourishing wardrobe I couldn’t help but think that sister girl could need another pair of shoes for work. Yet I’ve sworn off to lessen my spending habits and not spend any dime in term of clothing shopping in Haiti.
Though I knew how overpriced everything could be in my country, adding another pair of shoes for work would make mixing and matching better for me in the long run. After calculations and internet browsing, I left my parked car nearby work and decided to take an afternoon stroll up town Pétion-Vville on a Saturday in search of the perfect shoes.
My first stop was at “Choucoune plaza” near Place St-Pierre where it holds several high end trendy boutiques. I walked in the first store on my right that sold only shoes. The sales associates’ ladies (who were almost the same skin tone as me) ignored me and devoted their time to help a woman who had long curly hair and lighter skin shade than me. Although I wasn’t surprise by this common reaction, no matter how I’ve prepared myself for discrimination like such, when it hits, it hits really hard. It hurts even more when I experience it at home. Though the shoes were beautiful and overpriced, my proud black behind and wallet walked away from a place where my presence wasn’t welcomed.
My second stop was to another plaza that holds several high end stores too. Yet when I step my foot inside of the plaza, a security runs to stop me from going any further. To my amazement the man who judged that I had no business wandering in the plaza was the same skin color as me. Perplexed and offended, my response was everything but humble to Mister Sir Security. Only after I gave him a brief piece of mind that he knew he messed with the wrong one. He issues a bubble gum apology and got out of my passageway. Woah two actions of discrimination in one day. Man I wish I brought my box of Kleenex if I knew I’d be a discrimintating target.
I stopped at a very popular supermarket in P.V for some grocery shopping right before I went home to get some sliced cheese an pastrami. When I asked for a ½ pound of American cheese, the chef gave me an amount that was already cut. It wasn’t a problem but since I wanted yellow cheese I indicated that was what I wanted. Brother man instead gave me an attitude suggesting that I should have told him ahead of time. To go further in my disbelief this tall black man serving me behind the counter was the same skin tone as me. He was clearly passing down his sort of anger on me when all I simply wanted was yellow American cheese. I took my desired item and quickly made my way out of his sight.
The purpose of this article is to share the challenges that I have face in a country where predominately the population is black. I’ve held back from discussing such matter to avoid controversy and name callings. Standing up for inequality and absurd matters such as discrimination from people who look exactly like me is the mess that I can no longer swallow. After having not 1 but 3 cases of discrimination back to back in one day, I took my frustration in a heartfelt post that I made on my personal FB account drawing a conclusion. I came to terms that maybe I would have better customer service if I stop speaking in my native tongues. I’d perhaps receive the same standard of service that foreigners have when they come in my country since they get good customer service for being foreigners.
Haiti is a country blended with multiple nationalities. Back from the colonial era we had the union of the mixture of free black slaves with their owners; creating mulattos. The mulattos and people who may look foreign are Haitians, they are the minorities but they are Haitians. They are able to speak French and Haitian-Creole, their children go to school here as well. Some of their grandparents have migrated to Haiti from other countries centuries ago and made their living. They’ve been dominating the import and export, textiles business and other goods creating jobs in the country.
In a black family, the person whose skin is a lighter shade is considered to be a “blan” “grimel or grimo”. Success and wealth are automatically attributed based on that particular skin color. Hence the reason why some Haitian women starts to use lighting cream. Their low self esteem and our destructive society drives them to bleach their skin.
This is where I am supposed to end this post with the resolutions that I’ve taken and the conclusions that I’ve made. However I have none this time. Instead of multiplying those similar cases of ‘colorism’ I will just limit myself and my wallet from going to these high end boutiques, settle to shop elsewhere and just stop shopping for clothes in Haiti unless I really have to.