Book chapter

Racial Politics in Haiti (2020)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

The fusion of race with political and economic agendas was materialized in the 15th century, with the enslavement and transportation of Africans to the Americas. Thenceforth, race, politics, and economic growth have been inextricably linked and established as a lasting structure. The birth of the black republic, République D'Haïti, in 1804, unveiled, to a flagrant degree, the significant impact of institutionalized racial politics. As racist ideologies served to justify and reinforce the economic enterprises of enslavers and imperialists, the new black republic endured rapacious politico-economic policies from the 19th century onward. Ratified decrees, proclamations, and constitutions lay bare perennial institutionalized methods of race disenfranchisement in Saint-Domingue, subsequently Haiti.The imposition of France's indemnity against the Republic of Haiti—for daring to reclaim its humanity by breaking the yoke of enslavement—discloses, unequivocally, the precarious position of an emerging black nation within a world of systemic and fiendish chattel enslavement of Africans and their descendants. Within the context of imperial power and economic enterprises, it remains vital to probe the extent to which the categorical refusal of that lucrative system of human commerce affected the economic and political position of the Republic of Haiti. Nominally free, the leaders of the new black republic increasingly lost—from the 1820s onward—autonomy of self-governance, at different junctures of the nation's political history. Within the temporal framework of the 19th and 20th centuries one could question the extent to which ideologies of contempt and disregard were translated into economic and political policies. To what degree did long-standing racialized politics and policies, in tandem with acute uninterrupted corruption within the nation's state, contribute to the material destitution of the republic? Can the Republic of Haiti recover from the quotidian concrete outcomes of its political and economic history?