Diaspora

Tucker Carlson tried to insult Baltimore by comparing it to Haiti, and the city's Haitian community agrees. On some points. – The Washington Post

As he stepped onto the covered porch of his home in Northeast Baltimore for drive-by after drive-by that day — people coming to pick up his beloved holiday food — Garry Bien Aime had to admit that yes, this city did remind him of Haiti.
The comparison, drawn earlier in the week by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, is the latest dig at a city that has long been dragged through the mud.
In 2019, President Donald Trump called Charm City a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” the “Worst in the USA” and a place “no human being would want to live.”
“Baltimore is a major American city. It’s only about 40 miles from where Jen Psaki lives,” Carlson said, referring to the White House press secretary. And he called it “one of the worst places in the western hemisphere,” saying it is “a little bit of Haiti in the Mid-Atlantic.”
That’s part of why Aime, a native of Haiti, chose the city in 2006.
“As you look at the history of Haiti,” Aime, 47, said, “there’s strong hope and optimism, despite the challenges. That is also the story of Baltimore.”
The vermin in the White House
Republicans and their mouthpieces have a storied history of denigrating Black communities and the places they live, reducing people to problems for political gain.
Think President Ronald Reagan and the way he conjured up hatred for public assistance with his “welfare queen.” Or President George H.W. Bush and his crusade against the justice system with the Willie Horton ads. Or Trump and, well, every other thing he said.
Aime, the president of Komite Ayiti, a social and cultural group celebrating Haitian culture, said it is easy to make comparisons between the two.
“Yes, both places are struggling,” said Aime, who immigrated to Florida when he was in grade school.
Haiti had political upheaval and about 900 homicides — including the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse — in a nation of 11.4 million during 2021.
There and in Baltimore, communities struggle with education, crime and corruption, as they do in many places, he said, offering to discuss with Carlson the rising crime rates across America.
A city of a little more than half a million, Baltimore endured a year of continued violence with 337 homicides in 2021. It’s an increase mirroring the rest of the nation, where homicide rates have jumped 5 percent — bumped by record levels of gun violence.
But for Aime, it’s the warmth of the people and community he’s nurtured that stands out.
The Haitian population in Baltimore today is small but active. They take Creole language classes through Aime’s group and celebrate with festivals and concerts. This all goes back to Baltimore’s roots in the 18th century.
Haitian refugees escaping French colonists bonded with Catholics fleeing the French Revolution when they all landed at Fell’s Point in the 1790s. They went on to form the first Black Catholic parish in America, St. Francis Xavier, which still stands in Baltimore.
Maybe Carlson’s “little bit of Haiti” had to do with Aime’s famous soup, joumou, which he was handing out from his porch at the start of this year.
The fragrant, hearty offering is a traditional pumpkin soup that Haitians eat on their Independence Day.
“During revolutionary times, slaves were not allowed to eat or drink pumpkin,” Aime said. “So by doing what they were not allowed to do, we celebrate … And I imagine my forefathers sitting under a tree, in some cool shade, drinking this soup.”
Maybe the same way American revolutionaries celebrated their freedom? Baltimore and Haiti have a shared history of colonization, enslavement and community.
But Carlson can’t see that. In fact, he doesn’t see color. Until it’s time to levy reverse charges of racism.
“Baltimore is a city run by people who fervently believe in the equity agenda and consider gender studies a legitimate academic discipline,” Carlson told his 4 million viewers. “In Baltimore, pretty much everyone in charge is Black, yet it’s a matter of religious faith that the main thing holding the city back is White racism.”
This is America’s political game, blame and divide, point and pander. The same way Republicans wanted to talk about every shooting in Chicago while President Barack Obama was in office, they’re trying to tie Baltimore’s decades of problems to President Biden.
Yes, Tucker, there are challenges here. And yes, most of the city’s leaders are Black.
But Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is a White man, as are the mayors of other cities struggling with crime, poverty and educational inequity — Detroit, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Jacksonville, Fla., Philadelphia, Fresno, Calif., to name a few.
And I don’t see anyone comparing those cities to Switzerland.
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