Haitian Immigrants in Black America: A Sociological and Sociolinguistic Portrait

By Fiore Zéphir | Go to book overview
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7
Haitians, American Cultural Pluralism, and Black Ethnics

Chen jape pi devan kay mèt li (A dog barks louder in front of his master's home. Haitian proverb.)

Every cock is bold on his own dunghill.

This portrait of Haitian immigrants in Black America has been an investigation of ethnicity in the context of American cultural pluralism. The darker faces, those of difference and otherness in today's America, are the most compelling characteristics of the portrait. The voices behind the faces, along with the array of emotions (anger, pain, despair, hope, pride, and prejudice) contained within these dark souls, give life to the painting. Throughout the various manifestations of the ethnic identity of this particular Black immigrant group, it has become apparent that the newest comers do not see assimilation as an inevitable strategy for success in the New World. In fact, for Haitian immigrants, as well as for members of the new waves coming from Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the promotion and fostering of cultural and linguistic distinctiveness is the advocated model for surviving and making it in an America that still has not fullfilled its promise of equality, particularly where immigrants of non- European origin are concerned. As Kasinitz ( 1992: 255) correctly remarks, "[i]n a time when many of the newcomers have dark skin, that promise will be dashed upon the shoals of racism." The determination of the Haitians to maintain the vitality of their ethnic heritage gives validity to the claim that ethnic diversity, multilingualism, and multiculturism are far from disappearing from American society and, on the contrary, are its defining characteristics. In fact, the visibility that Haitians have gained in recent years, due in part to their massive arrival on the Florida shores and the size of their community in major urban areas, attests convincingly to the"browning" of America.

Throughout the study, it was emphasized that ethnic identity played a vital role for Haitian immigrants, and was used as a means to combat what they perceive to be a nefarious system of racial classification, which places them at the bottom rungs of the social ladder. It was argued that choosing to remain ethnic

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