Destroyed and desperate, Haiti needs our help

The earthquake in Haiti was not only a global tragedy, it was a wake-up call for all of us to do what we know we were supposed to be doing in the first place. Given that we have a per-capita GDP that is roughly 90 times greater than that of Haiti, the United States has the rare and privileged opportunity to help the Haitian people in ways that could change lives immediately. With roughly $1 trillion dollars in black buying power and control of the White House, African-Americans are positioned to be in the forefront of this charge.

According to the CIA World Fact Book, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of its residents living in poverty. While Americans are quick to feel disenfranchised over 10 percent unemployment, Haitians must find a way to navigate unemployment rates above 65 percent.

It’s time for us to start giving a damn. Not only do our allegedly Christian principles (as well as the core of our collective conscience) call for us to care about other human beings, but Haitians are part of the Diaspora. When it comes to aiding Haiti during this difficult time, here are some things I’d love to see all of us do:

1)Find a reliable charity and give to it regularly and religiously: Many of us will show up and give 10 percent of our income to a pastor who drives a Mercedes to church, but don’t care much about giving money to keep someone alive. According to Giving USA, Americans gave over $100 billion dollars to churches in 2008. That is nearly 10 times the annual GDP of Haiti. If all Americans committed to giving their church tithes to reliable Haitian charities for just one month, that would amount to roughly 8 times the Haitian government’s annual spending budget. What better way to do God’s work than to save starving children? What would Jesus do?

2)Don’t support luxury vacation resorts in nations with extreme poverty: I am not sure how many of us can “get our groove back” in places like Jamaica while driving our car through hoards of hungry and homeless children. I am honestly not a religious man (though my father is a pastor), but there is something incredibly uncomfortable and downright evil about pretentiously riding past darkness and death on our way to an entitled dose of sunshine and comfort. Therefore, I refuse to take trips to resorts in places that appear to have overwhelming poverty. Perhaps there is a way to monitor which resorts are giving a substantial percentage of their profits to the local community, so that we are not contributing to the incredibly skewed wealth distribution in countries like Haiti. Nearly half of Haiti’s wealth is controlled by 10 percent of the population. This is outrageous.

3)Priorities please: While I am in complete support of the recent excitement about global warming and saving the environment, I find it amazing that we can get so riled up on this issue and not spend two seconds fighting for the starving babies around the world. Granted, saving the environment is important. But I happen to believe that saving lives is just as important, if not more so. There is significant irony in the fact that many Americans die from overeating, while others are dying from not having enough food. This is downright shameful.

I hope that more Haitians do not have to suffer before we see the urgency of helping others. America is an incredibly rich nation. I hate to admit that perhaps our wealth has kept us spoiled, ignorant and oblivious to the nightmares that exist throughout the world. Perhaps it is time for us to become enlightened.

Click here for a list of charities active in Haiti.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the initiator of the National Conversation on Race. For more information, please visit