Haitian Immigrants in Black America: A Sociological and Sociolinguistic Portrait

By Fiore Zéphir | Go to book overview

to be so different. He views affiliation as a positive thing that could enhance the chances of Haitians' success.

The "settler" strategy requires several behavioral modifications on the part of Haitians. First, it requires them to view America as their new home and to want to feel part of it. Second, it means to become more actively involved with American affairs. Since Haitians are submerged into the Black population and are considered members of the Black community in the broader sense by the American system of racial classification, educating themselves about the Black American experience, culture, and history would seem to be a logical step toward adaptation into the community of resettlement and, by extension, into the country of resettlement. Haitians who have adopted this strategy vouch for its effectiveness, and they say that its fosters more harmonious relationships among all Black groups, and certainly contributes to their progress and their feeling part of America. Adaptation to a new country, by no means, implies a denial of one's nation of origin and cultural distinctiveness. It simply means being willing to learn and appreciate differences while taking pride in and valuing one's own heritage. It the same vein, it would be desirable for African Americans to become more educated about the perspectives of its newest members, since there is ample evidence to suggest that these newcomers will likely stay for a long time, in spite of what they say. Ultimately, a balance between ethnics and otherness may well be the solution to improving Haitians' and African Americans' perceptions.


NOTES
1.
See Portes and Rumbaut's discussion ( 1990: 140) of ethnicity among immigrants.
2.
For Haitians, "lower class" is not necessarily a reflection of amount of income. This point is emphatically stressed by one informant who disagrees with the American system whereby "money makes you somebody." The informant goes on to say that "the quality of Haitian culture implies that education comes before money."
3.
The perception of Jamaicans as being also responsible for the deterioration of "Black" neighborhoods is shared by the Jamaicans themselves. Indeed, Vickerman ( 1994: 93-94) reports that long-term Jamaican immigrants feel that the latest wave of Jamaicans has a "core of undesirables who are more interested in selling drugs than working for a living." In the eyes of the older contingent, such criminal activities "bring down the image of West Indians as a whole."
4.
Those are the words of Mackentoch Pierre, an 18-year-old student at Clara Barton High School, and quoted in the New York Newsday's article "Roots of Rage: Out of Africa? Haitians See It Differently" ( April 4, 1994).
5.
As reported by Molly Gordy, who wrote the New York Newsday's article.
6.
The role of language as a social marker is discussed in the second part of this book.
7.
The Haitian Creole word vye, although it is derived from the French word vieux (old), does not have the same meaning. Vye is rather a derogatory term which means "bad," "of no value," "low class," and, to a certain extent, "shameful." "Old" is translated in Haitian Creole by the word gran moun, which can also mean adult.
8.
Even before their migration to the United States, Haitians were very familiar with Martin Luther King, Jr., and his ideals. In fact, in Port-au-Prince, there is a street, formerly known as Ruelle Nazon, which was renamed Avenue Martin Luther King in honor and admiration for Dr. King's contributions to civil rights and to the advancement of all members of the Black race.

-96-

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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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