In the Boston Review, Colin Dayan, Professor in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University, argues that woefully little has changed since the colonial era with respect to Western perceptions of Haiti as a cretin backwater. Moreover, the institutionalized graft that the colonialist ideology underwrites remains in full effect:

When The New York Times questioned the capacities of Frederick Douglass as U.S. Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti in 1889, it described Haiti as “a black mob pretending to be a government.” In 2010 it is still too easy to blame Haiti for bad government, or, as we keep hearing, for no government.

What is perhaps more difficult is to understand is how every disaster and every coup—including the numerous coups abetted by the U.S. government, such as those against Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991 and 2004—never ceases to inspire an old vision for the country: a site for multinational investment. Once a colony, then an occupied territory, then a land under the thumb of USAID and the World Bank.

Read Dayan’s “‘Civilizing’ Haiti” in its entirety here. Also, listen to Dayan’s interview with the PBS NewsHour on changing US policy on Haiti.