The Magic Island

By B. Seabrook; Alexander King | Go to book overview

Chapter I
A BLIND MAN WALKING ON EGGS

IN the opening chapter of this book, I mentioned a High Commissioner and his lady. I seem to have left them seated with Katie and the colonel on a front veranda while I climbed over the back fence with Louis and ran away to the mountains.

I propose now a return by way of the front gate, to the dichromatic social world of Haiti's urban capital, under our own benevolent American protectorate.

The High Commission, with its resident Marine Corps -- its colonels, majors, wives, and machine guns -- its civilian treaty experts and technicians borrowed from the Navy - has introduced a number of constructive changes in the social-economic life of Haiti.

Among these changes are excellent roads, sewers, hospitals, sanitation, stabilized currency, economic prosperity, and political peace.

But we are more than crass materialists.

The most interesting and pervasive of the American innovations is the belated lesson in race-consciousness which we have been at pains to teach the Haitian upper classes.

These urban Haitians, free, vain, independent, and masters in their own land for a long hundred years or more, had accumulated money, education, a literature, an aristocratic tradition, and had somehow forgotten that God in His infinite wisdom had intended the negroes to remain always an inferior race. Indeed, as many Americans in Haiti will testify, there were members, whole families and social groups among the upper class, who were proud of being Haitians, proud actually of being negroes.

-127-

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