Dear Culture

Why Black Americans Should Care About Haiti: Marcia L. Dyson

Episode 83

Read the full transcript here.

The Haitian migrant crisis at the Texas border is making headlines around the world. This week on the Dear Culture podcast, our hosts theGrio Social Media Director Shana Pinnock and theGrio Managing Director Gerren Keith Gaynor talk with special guest Marcia L. Dyson about why the immigration issue is also a Black issue. 

The images of nearly 15,000 mostly-Haitian migrants pouring into the U.S. at the Texas border in Del Rio were a heartbreaking visual of the enduring devastation Haiti has encountered after a deadly earthquake, tropical storms and the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse earlier this year.

Adding to crisis is the cruel treatment of those seeking asylum in the U.S. at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol agents. Dyson, who worked as a consultant on the Clinton Foundation Haitian Rehabilitation Campaign, said America’s policies and practices abroad have larger implications for Black Americans here in the United States. 

US Border Patrol on horse with Haitian migrants,
U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

“What we have to basically, you know, realize is that we’re all tied to the ship together,” said Dyson. “I tell people that our foreign policies dictate our domestic policy, so we shouldn’t be surprised that, domestically, Blacks are always behind the eight ball. And so are Haitian immigrants. 

Gaynor, whose original reporting on the crisis details complaints from Black advocacy expressed in a formal letter to the Department of Homeland Security, said that extent of harm and mistreatment the general public witnessed is only a fraction of the transgressions made against the migrants. 

“Because of these violations, they’re asking the administration to not only halt deportations and expelling of Haitian and other African migrants —because it’s not that there were just Haitian migrants at that border,” said Gaynor. “They’re also asking that they bring back migrants to the US because they’re saying that…the DHS and ICE violated their own policy, which is basically to have a more humane policy when dealing with migrants and immigrants.”

Migrants, many from Haiti, wade across the Rio Grande river from Del Rio, Texas
Migrants, many from Haiti, wade across the Rio Grande river from Del Rio, Texas, to return to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, to avoid deportation from the U.S. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

As the daughter of Black immigrants, Pinnock said seeing the images emerging from the border crisis were both gut wrenching and unsurprising.

“I, quite frankly, had to turn it off. I’ve actually been really disappointed by how the Biden/ Harris administration has been handling this and then turn around and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re going to we’re going to stop. We’re not going to have them the wrangle people up with horses.’ So the horses were the problem? OK. Gotcha,” said Pinnock. 

Tune into the Dear Culture podcast to hear the entire conversation, including why Dyson says millions of dollars in donations never make it to the people of Haiti and to hear the host sound off on the R. Kelly guilty verdict. 

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