samedi 4 août 2012

Olympic Pride & Prejudices

I was actually preparing a different post when I came across this story about Samyr Laine, the Haitian-American Olympian who is representing Haiti rather than the US.  This story moved me as I imagined what it must be like for the parents of this young man to know that they raised a son lot bo who has such prove for and allegiance to their native land.  I thought of my parents, who often marvel at my own passion for Haiti despite the fact that I was not born or raised there.  I thought of my sons and how my husband and I have joked about whether they would represent Haiti or Ghana in the World Cup.  Once I emerged from the fog of my emotions I began to think about Haiti and the Olympics in general and the questions of who represents where and why.  Then I discovered that of the 5 Olympians representing Haiti only 1 currently lives there or has Haitian citizenship.  This is, according to some, problematic [NB I found that article to be very troubling in its tone myself...].   How do we understand the involvement of Haitian-Americans who represent Haiti in the Olympics?  Is there some way to think about their participation that isn't just about identity politics?  Does citizenship matter as much in a worldwide event such as the Olympics?

What also struck me about these articles is how each one seems to link the Haitian-American athlete's desire to represent Haiti to post-earthquake Haiti.  To "lift the spirits of Haitians" as one article puts it, or, "to give hope to the people who have none."  It seems sometimes like another path to a familiar storyline.  Regardless of how the story is spun, the fact is that those participating are proud to represent Haiti in the Olympics and will stand united together as they do.  Here are their names and their events:

Linouse Desravine--judo
Jeffrey Julmis--100-meter dash
Moise Joseph--800 meters
Samyr Laine--triple jump 
Marlena Wesh-- 200 & 400-meter races

Some of these events have already happened, did you follow and who were you rooting for?  Did you root more passionately for Linouse Desravine in judo than you will for those in the other events?  Will you be paying attention to the Haitian representation in the Olympics?


4 commentaires:

  1. I'm also moved by those five young athletes, four of which were not born in Haiti, yet chose to represent the homeland. This link will give you more of an idea about them:
    I was disappointed to come across several articles, highlighting the fact that the Haitian olympic team was not very Haitian, rather than focusing on their patriotism. It showed a deliberate effort to undermine the athletes and their success. Ironically, this is coming from the US that is represented by a litany of foreign athletes. I'm rooting anything Haiti, proudly.
    Thank you for highlighting those national heroes. Great post.

  2. Thanks for posting about this Regine. We should not be surprised that the media and some others focus on this part of our Olympic story because the positive that comes out of Haiti is often presented right along with the "negative". They are so lazy when it comes to writing about Haiti. Much of it is the truth but it's poor uncreative writers and journalists who regurgitate the same things over and over. Rapadoo said it so well "the US ... is represented by a litany of foreign athletes". These same journalist and all others who repeatedly keep saying the same about these Haitian American athletes don't seem to be concerned about this part of the American story. It's what makes American "positive" and "great" but for some reason it's a "negative" thing for us.

    1. Well said Darnel.
      We should not be surprised and much of it is true, but journalists have the power to choose from which angle to present the news. Drama, blood and episodic framing works well for the purpose of the American media. This discussion is healthy. We need to realize that we need to write our own story as eloquently and professionally as American journalists. We have a ton of talent, especially in the literary realm. We can also challenge those stories on factual ground and accurate reporting. If we wait for fairness and equity from foreign media, we'll always complain about unfairness.

  3. Thanks to you both for your comments. I agree that the "dominant images" as we like to say in academia) from US media sources err on the side of negative and reductive portrayals that always recur. This is why I find the alternatives--stories about Haitians by Haitians whether in the form of journalism, novels, art, or personal narratives to be absolutely essential. As Gina Ulysse says "Haiti needs new narratives" and luckily for us there are people dedicated to creating those narratives.