Haitian Immigrants in Black America: A Sociological and Sociolinguistic Portrait

By Fiore Zéphir | Go to book overview

4
Haitians' Responses to African Americans

Anvan ou ri moun bwete, gade si ou mache drèt (Before laughing at the cripple, look at your own way of walking. Haitian proverb.)

One sees the speck in the neighbor's eye, and not the mote in one's own.

Haitian immigrants crossed the Caribbean Sea and completed their voyage to the ports of the New World. There, they met their host, America, and were told what place they ought to occupy in the receiving society. They have been informed that they are now minorities, and that they will be referred to as simply "Blacks." The American system of racial classification has placed Haitians into the lowest, most subordinate ranks of society. In exchange for financial improvement or political shelter, the Haitian immigrants have to learn how to cope with this new ascribed place. One coping strategy is the affirmation of their ethnicity, which entails a sense of pride in who they are as a people and where they come from. Haitian immigrants, in general, show no tendency toward assimilation for several reasons. First, the fundamental question they ask themselves in making such an important decision is: assimilation into what? It is very obvious to Haitian immigrants that assimilation can only mean assimilation into subordinate and oppressed America. For Haitians, no economic reward is significant enough to warrant accepting White domination. To them, financial mobility does not justify discarding almost two hundred years of majority status and privileges. Second, Haitians do not consider themselves permanent dwellers in America. They state loudly their intentions to return to their homeland. Given the transitory nature of their residence in the United States, they do not really see the need to transform themselves into Americans or Black Americans. They know that they have to adjust to the American way since their financial success, which in turn can facilitate the planning of their return to Haiti, depends a great deal on their ability to make this adjustment. However, adaptation is by no means synonymous with Americanization or "Black Americanization." Haitian

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Haitian Immigrants in Black America: A Sociological and Sociolinguistic Portrait
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables and Maps vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Part I - Haitian Immigrants: Sociological Dimensions 1
  • 1 - Haitians in New York City 3
  • Notes 22
  • 2 - Premigration Experience of Haitian Immigrants 25
  • Notes 40
  • 3 - Emergence and Essence of Haitian Immigrant Ethnicity 43
  • Notes 67
  • 4 - Haitians' Responses to African Americans 69
  • Notes 96
  • Part II - Haitian Immigrants: Sociolinguistic Dimensions 97
  • 5 - Language and Ethnicity in the Haitian Immigrant Context 99
  • Notes 120
  • 6 - Patterns of Language Use of Haitian Immigrants 123
  • Notes 143
  • 7 - Haitians, American Cultural Pluralism, and Black Ethnics 145
  • Notes 160
  • Appendix - Interview Questions 161
  • Bibliography 167
  • Index 177
  • About the Author *
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