- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
In response to Amanda Kijera’s article
We are extremely disheartened to know that you were raped. We are emboldened by your courage to speak out about this experience and to attempt to grapple so soon with the social and political implications of what you and other Haitian women have been enduring over the past few months. We stand in solidarity with you and with them, and declare unequivocally that the terrorizing of Haitian women through rape, lack of safe shelter, and lack of adequate resources must end.
It is also encouraging to know that you are looking for the positive outcomes in this experience, though we encourage you to take the time and space you need to heal. The struggle will still be there, when you are ready to fight. We recognize that rape has been used as a tool of patriarchal terror throughout the world for centuries. We also recognize that Haiti has a marked history in this respect. Dictator Francois Duvalier enlisted the Tonton Macoutes, a government-supported militia to suppress Haitiains, and they often targeted women in an effort to stamp out dissidence and to reinforce women’s subordination.
Nevertheless, Haitian women from all walks of life have, then and now, advocated and agitated for change. They have formed feminist organizations under threat of censure, rape, and murder. And while we are awed by their strength, we reject the notion of rape as a rite of passage or as an experience we should suppress in order to shield other injustices. Doing so reinscribes the same system that deem women’s bodies as weapons and commodities for trade, misuse, and abuse.
You noted in your letter that while you had initially been invested in rehabilitating embattled images of Black men, “it is the women who move you to write now.” We, too, are moved. Disturbed actually, by the pervasive patriarchal fallacy that makes so many women, particularly women of color, feel compelled to defend Black men, to love them, to save them, even when they won’t defend, love or save us. Like you, we know and affirm that most Black men aren’t violent rapists, and that they, too, have been victimized by the recent disasters in Haiti.
Yet, we hope your article and this letter serve as a call to all men and women for a kind of courageous accountability, one that demands that we hold folks responsible, whoever they may be, for the kinds of damage and violence they do, psychic and/or physical.
The presence of privilege—Western, white, patriarchal, elite—participated in the exclusion and silencing of Haitian women’s own cries about rape up until now. This same privilege that silenced women created the conditions of violence with impunity that caused you to be victimized. So it is these structures of privilege, structures that systematically participate in the terrorization and silencing of Haitian women that we seek to challenge. We hope that your story will help to amplify the collective voices of those Haitian women who are crying out—have been crying out—asking us to hear them.
Most likely they aren’t looking for a mouthpiece but a megaphone. These women don’t need us to speak for them but to listen to them. They don’t need us to save them but to stand with them. The Crunk Feminist Collective is willing to be one megaphone among many, one resource that helps to amplify the voices of the survivors, as they choose to speak for themselves, testifying to their own experiences.
In that spirit, here’s one link to Haitian women’s stories of rape along with a petition that folks can sign.