Friday, January 15, 2010

donate money without knowing where it really goes (haiti thread)

I've often watched privileged people make themselves feel a little better about the relative advantages they have by donating money to various "causes." Some big-name organization will come along soliciting donations, and because the privileged person recognizes the big-name, they feel safe giving money to it. Or rather, they think, giving money through it. Because they've heard the big non-profit's name before, they feel assured that the money will get to the people in need that the organization claims to be helping.

Trouble is, many of these big-name organizations don't end up giving all that much of the donated funds to the people who need it. The organizations themselves are sometimes too big, with many internal expenses, including in some cases enormous "compensation packages" for upper-level management. In some cases, "non-profit" is a misnomer.

But some potential donors know about this problem, and they don't want to give money merely to make themselves feel better. They want more of their donated money to go to the people they're trying to help. How do these donors find less renowned, but actually more efficient charitable organizations?

One way to start is to ask people you think would probably know -- many of the readers of this blog, for instance.

As we all know, a crisis of unimaginably horrific proportions has hit the people of Haiti. Can you recommend charitable organizations that are more likely to get most of the donations they receive to to the people there?

If so, it would also be helpful to tell us briefly, if you can, why you know a non-profit or two is reliable in this sense, or to provide an explanatory link or two.

This is also an open thread on Haiti -- what else have you noticed about recent events, including the media coverage and the reactions of people around you, in terms of race and privilege?


  1. I just posted about this on my blog yesterday -- how there are so many organizations digging into their coffers to support themselves more than the people they are said to be aiming to help.

    And then this morning saw this article on Wyclef's past tactics with his charity (

    I hope that people really research. I know it is hard and it takes more time, but which ever organization you choose to support, make sure they are not taking too much off the top for their own pockets.

  2. Partners in Health seems to be the most reliable for a lot of reasons, and also has pretty good politics. It was founded by the medical anthropologist Paul Farmer and has tens of thousands of people on the ground in Haiti...

  3. You know, it's not difficult to do a tiny bit of research on an organization before donating, and I hope people aren't using this as an excuse to do nothing (I've already heard this excuse, actually).

    I can tell you all a fantastic place to donate. Partners in Health. It's an organization that's been operating clinics in Haiti for 20 years. It was founded by a Harvard doc named Paul Farmer. He's written many books on how health fits into the greater inequalities affecting the world's poor, and you may have read a book about him and PIH called Mountains Beyond Mountains.

    PIH already has people, buildings, and limited supplies in villages surrounded PAP, and they are receiving a flood of injured people. They currently need supplies desperately, and are sending more doctors down there. I donated there personally on Tuesday night. Their website is and they have further information on their efforts there.

    Also, you can check out how much of any charity's donations go to programs vs. overhead at

  4. Yeah, I've heard a lot of different sources say Partners in Health is a reliable organization to give to.

  5. Partners in Health has been working in Haiti since 1985. Their philosophy and approach are no-frills but carefully considered. Their work is highly respected, and having heard Dr. Farmer speak, I can tell why.

    Lamp for Haiti is a newer organization, but has been on the ground in Haiti with a health clinic since before the quake. I have known one of their founders for four years, and have seen him to be as principled, ethical, and committed as an activist can be.

  6. And from a sociological standpoint, this op-ed is interesting. Tracy Kidder, a white man, writing in the New York Times, a paper read widely by upper-middle-class white people, vouching for PIH:

    But there are effective aid organizations working in Haiti. At least one has not been crippled by the earthquake. Partners in Health, or in Haitian Creole Zanmi Lasante, has been the largest health care provider in rural Haiti. (I serve on this organization’s development committee.) It operates, in partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health, some 10 hospitals and clinics, all far from the capital and all still intact. As a result of this calamity, Partners in Health probably just became the largest health care provider still standing in all Haiti.

    Fortunately, it also offers a solid model for independence — a model where only a handful of Americans are involved in day-to-day operations, and Haitians run the show. Efforts like this could provide one way for Haiti, as it rebuilds, to renew the promise of its revolution.

    Even more interesting is the way the article characterizes Haiti's decades-long burden of paying the French for their own freedom: "[France] demanded and received payment from the Haitians for the slave colony."

  7. Personally, if I could go there myself to help then I would.

    We put our trust and faith in these charities to deliver the money that we donate in good and honest faith. Therefore, it make s me quite cross to read that Wyclef Jean's charity sounds suspect, although I don't know the full story, but from the link posted above, it does not sound good to me, therefore I am taking his charity off my blog post about this appeal.

    In the meantime, there are other charities that are paying themselves or their CEOs first before the people they are supposed to be helping.

    However, what can we do....I suppose give to the charities that appear to be active and helping people.

    I heard that the Red Cross was a good one to give to. So, I'll donate to them.

    In the meantime, I read yesterday that Gisele Bündchen gave $1.5m to the Haiti earthquake relief efforts. Highly commendable and kind I would say. I have a new respect for her.

    Now where are all these other celebrities with money to burn?

  8. Oh, and I wanted to add that you can also see the exact salary of the CEO and other executives of each organization at

    Observations thus far from the crisis in Haiti... Stuff white people do:

    -blame the misfortune of black people on pacts with the devil
    -claim that US support of the Haitian people is a political move to appease black people
    -not know about Haiti before a major crisis puts it in the news
    -show dead bodies of black people on the news
    -feel it necessary to say, when reporting from the ground, that the people are "not aggressive or rude," but just want water and help (DUH).
    -scratch their heads and wonder why Haiti is so poor, as though hundreds of years of being crapped on by colonizing white countries has nothing to do with it.
    -wonder if this earthquake will interrupt their cruise/vacation plans

  9. Oop, just turned the news on. Here's another thing white people do:

    -worry about the handful of Americans in Haiti (or fill-in-the-blank brown country where a natural disaster or terrorist attack occurs), praising their heroism and interviewing them in lieu of local people

  10. I donated money to International Medical Corps... is that a reliable organization?

    please let me know. IF not, I'll donate my money to Partners in Health...

  11. Along with thesciencegirl's "show dead bodies of black people on the news," there's also "report on black death in disasters in ways that evoke savagery."

  12. Thesciencegirl, another thing I noticed is that many news stories are focused on white people there, like a whole story about some white girl being trapped. I'm never even shocked by this anymore, the news will find a way to make every story about whites. Forget the tens of thousands of blacks suffering, a white woman is in danger!

    As for non-profits, there are a lot of shady ones both well-known and obscure. I've donated money to Red Cross already and I know Partners in Health is also a good one.

  13. Here's a link for donating online to Partners in Health. Their surface-mail address is there also.

  14. @ Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist
    I looked on the site that the sciencegirl provided and International Medical Corps has 3 out of 4 stars.

    I am usually very interested to see how much these charities's CEOs earn.

    @ thesciencegirl
    LOL, at blaming the misfortune of Black folks on pacts with the devil. As far as I know, it is not only Black folks who practice alternative religions such as idol and devil worship. I just saw one news report and there was a big church still half standing. Why oh why do people like to stereotype, there are lots of people professing to be religious, shouting on the rooftops and behind closed doors practising their hocus pocus.

    I briefly skimmed over one blog post yesterday where there were comments made by Pat Robertson regarding a pact with the devil made by Haiti. Pat Robertson needs to shut the hell up, he sounds like he's possessed by the devil spewing that garbage. How can a so-called man of God utter such BS when children and innocent people are dying from a natural disaster, which incidentally occurs in the USA and all around the world as well.

    The way I see it, if a country/people can help, then just do it.

    Yes, and it really pisses me off when you hear a disaster news story and they are counting how many British or Americans etc survived. People are people regardless of where they are from or their skin colour!

  15. Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontiers is a four-star charity (meaning their money actually goes to the charity part rather than the overhead part) and I know on their website you can ask specifically that the donation be used for Haiti (or there's a couple others that are selectable as well, including "area of greatest need").

  16. Yes again to Partners In Health.

    And while I agree to everyone who has said that it's not difficult to do research--I do agree, BUT, there are so many organizations (and for that matter, so many WORTHY organizations) that the research to discover which is THE best is pretty time-consuming.

    Also, you can look at the US-based orgs' financial stats on

  17. Oh, Architecture for Humanity is also an interesting organization - they do not provide immediate relief, but rather, are focused on rebuilding efforts in the coming months.

    They are also looking for volunteer architects/designers.

  18. one more vouching for PIH. Dr. Farmer talks about race quite a bit in his books, Infections and Inequalities, and Pathologies of Power

  19. I've been staying away from TV news on this, but the pictures I was seeing elsewhere still seemed odd. There were the same three photos of somebody's deceased or injured loved ones, which seem to be everywhere... and scads and scads of photos of sparkling clean, sparkling white aid workers. Which— I'm very glad they're there. But...? Still, I was like: *unsurprised.* Filter it out, filter it out. Then I click over to the Red Cross, and even they're doing it?? Okay, I did not expect that. It actually confused me for a second. It seems... strange* to publicize a disaster (and seek donations) by showing people pictures of aid workers getting off a plane.

    *Not at all the right word, but I'm a bit numb.

  20. I just wanted to agree with those who noticed news networks spending a ridiculous amount of time focused on white people in Haiti as if they are the only victims we can relate to. In turned on CNN yesterday after work and they spent almost a half hour with some white teens face plastered across the screen talking about how grateful his parents were that he was safe.

    I did appreciate the segments that focused on children as we priviledged Americans are more likely to sympathize with children and avoid the victim blaming that is rampant in discussions of conditions in Haiti.

  21. Yup- live white people and dead black people. WTF, news networks?

  22. cloudy said:

    Thesciencegirl, another thing I noticed is that many news stories are focused on white people there, like a whole story about some white girl being trapped. I'm never even shocked by this anymore, the news will find a way to make every story about whites. Forget the tens of thousands of blacks suffering, a white woman is in danger!

    You saw this shit too? When I bought this up to my mom's attention she said I was thinking Black and White. I'm like wtf? Out of thousands of Haitians that are dead and over 3 million missing and homeless, they had to make a special segment of a White woman that was trapped in the earthquake? Not only that but here in Chicago there is a young White man who was in Haiti that is not found and they made a special segment for people to help find him. Really? Is the lives of White people that damn precious?

    thesciencegirl said:

    -blame the misfortune of black people on pacts with the devil
    -claim that US support of the Haitian people is a political move to appease black people
    -not know about Haiti before a major crisis puts it in the news
    -show dead bodies of black people on the news
    -feel it necessary to say, when reporting from the ground, that the people are "not aggressive or rude," but just want water and help (DUH).
    -scratch their heads and wonder why Haiti is so poor, as though hundreds of years of being crapped on by colonizing white countries has nothing to do with it.
    -wonder if this earthquake will interrupt their cruise/vacation plans
    -worry about the handful of Americans in Haiti (or fill-in-the-blank brown country where a natural disaster or terrorist attack occurs), praising their heroism and interviewing them in lieu of local people

    Yep Hurrican Katrina all over again! Thanks you guys for some organizations suggestions to donate. I'm trying to donate money as we speak.

  23. I've mostly avoided the news on Haiti, knowing that it was likely to be incredibly stupid and racist, but I did see a snippet of CNN this morning where the (white, naturally) reporter was saying something along the lines of, ". . . if they see one person going down the street carrying a bag of rice, they'll try to tear it away from them. . . ."

    Yes, reporter guy, I hear what you're saying. I know who "they" are, and what you're trying to tell me about them.

    That was all I listened to, so I don't know if I happened to catch a particularly ugly sentence or if it's all been like that, but I know which would surprise me and which wouldn't.

  24. @ Lady Dani:

    charaterise desolate, desparate, disparaged and displaced POC as "looters"


    Create and hold sudden and imbalanced standards to POC in high profile positions

    I cannont believe some of the politiziing of such a tragedy I've witnessed these past three days. A lot of people are characterizing this as Katrina and holding Obama to a certain standard of response without this even being a domestic crisis. Sure they are in proximity to us than say China or Russia (which as far as the UN reports go have given basically SQUAT to Haiti) but its just as much an international response test as it is for Obama..

    There were reports of people who were involuntarly starving looting the UN food supply..these people are in a desolate situation and have lived in poverty but yet some in the MSM have gone so far to downplay the disaster to these people breaking in the UN food storage to feed their dying to the equivilant of some drunk sports fans after a game go rioting and breaking into electronic stores stealing flat screens..

    I honestly dont recall the samoans or the indoneisans being characterized as such in their hour of devasation..but yet they are bent on pushing the 'angry' theme on these particular victims. When Brian Williams was reporting he notice he held up a bottle of water in his hand and quickly shoved it back down into his pocket..the misery of these poor people continue to be exploited.

  25. @ Robin: I def. agree - Doctors without Borders is where I donated my money and where I encourage people to donate as well. They lost 3 of their clinics and are trying to set up a new one.

  26. I found these in another person's website, But I've checked most of them out and they look reliable.
    Organizations doing good aid work in Haiti, please support if you can!

    Grassroots International Establishes Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund for Haiti. Grassroots International has a long history funding radical social justice projects around the world.

    Doctors Without Borders.

    Partners in Health. Partners in Health in well known among progressive health advocates.

    Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Haiti Emergency Relief Fund was established by a group of folks who have been doing Haiti solidarity work since 1991, working closely with Haitians to build and support mass-based civic groups on the ground there-- unions, peasant cooperatives, schools, women's organizations and more.

    Lambi Fund for Haiti

    Vox Sambou's EffortsWhat If Foundation. recommended by Bill Quigley

    Seeds for Haiti

    Hatian Women for Hatian Refugees and Movement of Dominican Hatian Women, contribute through the IFCO.

    Also the Red Cross is accepting donations, as most of you already know if you dial 90999-Haiti $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill. Though, I'm a little wary of donating to them because of their history of mishandling donations.

  27. I've also been totally disgusted with the direction the news is taking this and can taste the smackings of Katrina as well.

    It's a shame that it takes a tragedy to get WP to help out in a productive way. Haiti has been doing pretty poorly before the quake. But now a tragedy has placed them on the White Radar. I'm aware of a couple of organizations who helped before the quake, but really - not enough.

    I live in South FL and we have a very large Haitian population here. Often, they arrive on our shores and we ship them right back to Haiti or we leave them sitting in detention centers for months and months. NOW we care that their country is unlivable for them.

  28. thesciencegirl:
    I'll add to your list of swpd:

    -suddenly become interested in adopting from Haiti

  29. IM just wandering... why didnt they say bad things about China when they had a earthquake?? But they are saying bad things about Hati

  30. I can comment on this based on my experience working in Sri Lanka and Indonesia after the 2005 tsunami disaster.

    The best way to get money to the people who need it is to send it to personal contacts in the area. If you have someone you trust on-site, there is no overhead and they can use it where it is best without worrying about spending money to report back to donors. Or worrying about the inherent unfairness of helping individuals instead of communities. If you don't know anybody there, give to a well established charity that has responded to this kind of disaster in the past.

    There are some groups that respond well to emergencies (Red Cross/Red Crescent, Doctors without Borders) and others that are better at reconstruction (Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Care, even Save the Children.) Give to the emergency ones now, and again to the reconstruction ones in a year if you can.

    I generally don't like religion based charities, like World Vision, CWS, Islamic Relief, and Tsu-Chi, although some of their projects were fine, --just personal bias. I think they tend to divide communities, just by being based on religion. I also don't like child sponsorship agencies, but Save the Children and Plan do good projects, I just think it is a waste to track individual children when the projects are done at the community level. CEO pay is probably not as good of a criteria as field worker pay.

    I think CARE, and IRC with slightly higher costs, are able to attract better staff and have more effective projects than low cost places like GOAL or ACF with lots of beginners trying to run programs. If the CEO is taking home half the funds donated to the charity then it is a red flag, but big organizations are going to need to pay high salaries to attract good leaders.

    Some high cost agencies such as UNICEF and other UN agencies, Red Cross, etc. have high overhead because they have high capacity. In Indonesia it was only the UN that could fly helicopters into remote areas, that is really expensive relief, so their audits would look terrible, but they were critical to remote population centers. The charity rating guides don't always take that into account.

    Just the opinion of another white person.

  31. Longtime lurker here.

    Julia wrote:

    I'll add to your list of swpd:

    -suddenly become interested in adopting from Haiti

    Please tell me you're kidding.

    thesciencegirl said:
    -not know about Haiti before a major crisis puts it in the news

    I'll add to that and say "attempt to educate people about Haiti without bothering to CHECK THEIR INFORMATION!

    I stopped watching CNN's coverage on Wednesday when they put "Haiti's official language is French." It's not. Haiti has TWO official languages, and most of the people don't speak French.

    Then they put "Haiti's 85% Black." I'm from Haiti, so naturally I'm not aware of how many Black people there are. Lol. I just know most of us are Black, but I knew that number was wrong. About 15 minutes later, they upped the figure to 95%.

    Other swpd:

    -Not miss a chance to remind people that Haiti's the poorest country in the western atmosphere.

  32. thesciencegirl:

    I feel like you can add this one, at least from what I hear from people around the water cooler today:

    -find their next new missionary hotspot

    I work with quite a few Christians, and they're already organizing their next mission trip down there in three months.

  33. So far every report I have heard has mentioned the concern or fear of looting. It is slipped into any and every report. Oh except for the one with the white woman trapped and it did take me back to Katrinia. People are stuck at the convention center or the dome without electricity or running water but hey look at that guy stealing a television! Such lawlessness! So I had to turn it off. It's always the same BS.

  34. Regarding U.S. adoption of Haitian children, a reader named Victor said I could publish his email here, along with his question for you at the end:

    I am a non-white male that frequently visits your blog. You made some great observations in your post "donate money without knowing where it really goes (haiti thread)".

    What I would like to call to your attention is a Yahoo article entitled "Haiti quake puts parents' adoption dreams in limbo". This is honestly one of the most vile displays of white supremacy and narcissism I have seen during the Haitian earthquake crisis. Focusing on the act of taking children of color from their land and culture of origin, especially during such a tragedy, is just unacceptable. This also touches on the bigger issue of international adoption of non-white children by white adults in the United States.

    Yes, on the surface it appears to be a noble act of good, but it absolutely ignores the damaging effects to the child that such adoptions cause. It is also casting the white person as a savior to non-whites -- which we both know is common tendency among white people historically. I am very interested in your perspective on this topic.

  35. @ macon, I similar story is on right now

  36. Similar to Victor's point, I saw a headline this morning that was something to the effect of "Haitian adoptees almost make it home." Like, they almost made it to the sweet land of promise, but now they're still stuck in their hell-hole of a country. The article then goes on to discuss how these kids aren't even Haitian anymore, so they deserve to be flown to the U.S.

  37. @thelady,

    Wow, and it's not even the same AP story!

    The white center-staging going on in the U.S. media this week is really (literally) appalling . . . As I wrote by email to Victor, I think this sudden interest in adoption of black children is another way that unspokenly white people are being shifted right back onto center stage -- these are both stories about the grief of some white people in the US, which makes it a distraction from the monumentally greater grief of blacks in Haiti, a mass form of suffering that thereby gets trivialized. I agree with Victor -- these seem like racially narcissistic articles, given their publication at this point in time.

  38. Same dude who wrote the request. Check out World Concern.

    Composed almost entirely of Haitian nationals. They literally have staff members who are affected by the tragedy, including one who is unaccounted for, so I'd say it is a safe bet that they will use any donated money to help the people there...cause they are the people there.

  39. I just want to thank everyone who provided resources to fact checking charities before giving.

    I was surprised to find out elsewhere that the Red Cross is not looked as favorably upon as I thought. Apparently their work in NOLA after Hurricane Katrina was not received well by some. I had been encouraging people to donate to Doctors Without Borders instead and thanks to y'all I have a couple more names stuck in my head with good ratings.

    So thanks.

  40. thesciencegirl said:

    Similar to Victor's point, I saw a headline this morning that was something to the effect of "Haitian adoptees almost make it home." Like, they almost made it to the sweet land of promise, but now they're still stuck in their hell-hole of a country. The article then goes on to discuss how these kids aren't even Haitian anymore, so they deserve to be flown to the U.S.

    GTFOH! lol you kidding me right? oh lord white liberalism is so damn condescending!

  41. The original post drew my attention, as I work for the British Red Cross. It may be worth noting that, at least with the British Red Cross, money donated to us for a specific appeal goes to that appeal to be spent only on that crisis. If you make a donation without specifing it is for a specific appeal then it is likely to go into the general funds of the British Red Cross to be spent nationaly and internationaly.

  42. So you all want to hear something astounding-in-sort-of-a-good-way? The frelling Wall. Street. Journal. has been covering the aftermath without missing white woman syndrome or talking about the impact on white Americans. There has been an article on the Haitian-American community in Miami (from the POV of, "we're terrified our relatives are going to try to come here in makeshift boats and will drown") and it *is* still the WSJ so a good amount of the coverage has been about mobilization of aid and the role of the UN in this. But the most focus that's been on 'average' (i.e. not Obama) Americans, that I can remember, was a one-sentence reference to "Americans and other foreigners" sleeping at the airport hoping to get a flight home. Period.

    (Note: this is the paper's print edition; maybe online it's all about the MWWS.)

    Is this a case of *actual* compassionate conservatism* in the face of white liberalism with fucked up priorities?

    * Except for the op-ed page. Never read the WSJ's op-ed page.

  43. @ class of 13:

    >> "IM just wandering... why didnt they say bad things about China when they had a earthquake?? But they are saying bad things about Haiti"

    1. The U.S. is in hock to China for $770 billion.

    2. Vodou freaks the *shit* out of most Americans, especially white Americans.

    Note: THAT is what's going on w/Pat Robertson's JackassVomit about a pact with the devil. He's not spouting a crazy-ass "conspiracy" theory; he is *directly attacking* what is in many accounts THE central element of Haitian culture. I lack the words to describe life forms like him.

  44. I noticed a poster for the Morgan Freeman/ Matt Damon film Invictus, based on the true story of one of Nelson Mandela’s efforts to unify post-apartheid South Africa. It made me realize that of the four or five major films recently made about South Africa’s contemporary political history, the black S. African characters are always subordinated to supporting roles. There is always some white person, usually inordinately sympathetic (Power of One, A Dry, White Season) or malevolent (Catch a Fire) who is central to the story. It’s as if the lives of the Africans in these stories are somehow less interesting or pertinent than that of whatever white person happens to be passing by at the moment. I love football. I like sports movies. I really like Matt Damon as an actor. But why can’t I just see one of my generation’s finest actors portray Nelson Mandela as the iconic figure he is an not as a foil to Jason Bourne in a rugby shirt? I would venture to say Nelson Mandela leading S. Africa, a nation he was elected to govern after 27 years of unjust imprisonment, is a compelling enough story on its own without the addition of a dramatic rugby (?) subplot. Yes, it’s a true story and it happened but Nelson Mandela’s life did not culminate in his officiating of a sporting event regardless of that event’s significance. For the purposes of this example, the popular refrain from whites in the entertainment industry and even some blacks is that, in practical terms, films that feature white protagonists are more relatable/marketable/profitable. Why this is is not explicitly outlined. However, if you overwhelming produce films with white (and male) leads and those films are profitable the logical assumption that they are so because they feature and are primarily about white males. A masterful example of circular logic. Besides, which you haven’t enough data on which to base a competing argument, hence, your position is self-validated. The current #1 blockbuster Avatar is dominated by nine-foot tall blue-skinned aliens. $1B in box office revenue suggests no one is having difficulty relating to the movie’s characters despite belonging to a different race (though clearly there’s no accounting for taste as I found the film’s hackneyed, Dances with Wolves in Space narrative execrable).

    White people, and really all people, are socialized from birth to consider white mores, perceptions, aesthetics, etc as superior and inherently more valuable. They are the standard to which everything else is compared. Witness, the trope of describing a successful individual as the “black” version of some person of note, i.e. so and so is the black-Picasso, a Mexican Brad Pitt , an Asian Sade, etc. No one calls Steve Nash the “white” Tiny Archibald. Though it is not unusual to hear blacks, especially in celebrity popular culture, describe themselves thusly, demonstrating how deep the social programming goes. The racist doctrine at the heart of the country’s consciousness has produced a profound psychological schism between the races. I believe whites have a difficult time accepting and relating to POC as equal and complete human beings because everything in our society militates against taking position. So many whites learn: “They don’t eat what I eat, or dress how I dress. They talk in a strange “Negro dialect” and they don’t want to work for the kind of life I have (one that years of systematic, government sanctioned privilege have afforded that is often taken for granted). They’re not the same as us. So they don’t need to be treated the way I’m treated”. The casual showcasing of the victims in Haiti on our 24 hour news networks is an example of this schism. It’s as though someone is saying: these are just blacks, they don’t deserve basic dignity and they don’t have loved ones who deserve to be spared the pain of seeing their mother/father/spouse/child’s corpse stretched out on a ruined street like so much garbage. Or so the thinking goes.

  45. krystal*lyte so nailed it. I made the mistake of watching/listening to 35 minutes of local news and newsradio this morning. They skipped right over "looting" and went straight to full-on "anarchy," with heavy overtones of pearl-clutching. That was apparently the unconscious bullet-point of the day, and they hit it again and again and again. And all of it obviously pure conjecture; just a bunch of WP excitedly gossiping about how isn't it the most awfulwonderfulterrible thing you've ever seen!? "It's a rather anarchic situation— who's in charge!?" (Um, their president?*) and "They can't drop in supplies, because they're afraid it'd be instant riots!" (Who's "They"? Did "They" actually say that? Not specified.)

    It's like they're imagining that the entire country was one big prison colony, and ohmygoodlord, now they've all broken out and it's just hoardes of wild-eyed bloodthirsty savages roaming the post-apocalyptic rubble, too crazed to recognize help when they see it. Given half a chance, they will definitely just kill the aid workers and each other. They've probably all turned to cannibalism by now.

    WTF? I don't recall ever seeing foreign earthquake coverage like that before. Ever! I gotta blame it on Katrina. I guess this is the rule now. Natural disaster + black people = looting & mayhem.** As opposed to empathy.

    The truly incomprehensible thing is that I live in CALIFORNIA. That is, this particular local news knows exactly what the aftermath of a big earthquake looks like, and it isn't fucking "anarchy." Here's my guess as to the general situation in Haiti: there's a shitload of dehydrated, homeless, bereaved people too injured and/or traumatized to do much of anything, and some exhausted mostly-uninjured-but-still-pretty-fucking-traumatized people working like freakin' crazy to help the first group. And all of them want order back.

    Just like here.

    *Corrupt or not, he's in charge.
    **Never mind that it wasn't that way the first time.

  46. @CuteRedHood:
    I'm almost afraid to ask this.
    When you say "mission trip," do you mean they're going there to convert people? Because of the earthquake?
    (Please say no.)

    whatsername said...
    "I was surprised to find out elsewhere that the [American] Red Cross is not looked as favorably upon as I thought. Apparently their work in NOLA after Hurricane Katrina was not received well by some."
    And that made me LOL hard, and bitterly: Out of sheer reflex, I did go to their website. But the photo they had at the top of the page jarred me so much that it actually paused me for a sec. Which gave me just enough time to remember that "Oh yeah. You're dead to me." I gave my money to PIH instead.

  47. One more vouching for Partners in Health. They've been doing work in Haiti for at least 20 years.

  48. I was curious about the Fox news coverage of the earthquake, so I went to their website. This is the leading story: "U.S. Suspends Haitian deportations as federal, Florida officials prepare for potential migration of earthquake victims fleeing devastated country by boat." Really? This is nothing more than an immigration story to them?

  49. Is it me or does the news media seem to be egging on potential violence?

  50. @ Everyone, thanks for the heads up on PIH.
    @ Jade, I think they are stirring up American fears of potential violence, and contributing to negative stereotypes. :(

    @ CuteRedHood and karinova:

    I would think that the mission work being planned right now for Haiti is along the lines of college spring break service trips to re/build houses in Central America, except they'll sing Jesus songs at night. Don't get me started on evangelical churches' usual "mission trips."*

    Haiti is already something like 95% Christian. (One of my students did a paper on it last semester, hehe). So I'm not sure how much *evangelizing* there would be to do.

    But it would be DISGUSTING if that was their purpose.

    * swpd: go to Africa and rock babies at an orphanage for a week

  51. There seems to be a pretty wide range of what Christian mission trips can mean.

    I participated in a trip where we drilled a well in a small town in Guatemala and held health & hygiene classes for the women and the kids (apparently the men didn't need this information). Some parts were pretty condescending, and some parts seemed helpful.

    There was also a component of evangelism- it was part of the class, each family got a Bible, and there was a screening of a movie on the Gospel of Luke. It was quite well-received, since the people in the town were Christian, and there seemed to be a sense that we were all helping one another within the wider Christian community. But yeah, there were a LOT of problems with it.

    My home church seems to have a better approach to international outreach. We have two partner churches that we connect with on a fairly regular basis. They send groups to visit us, we send groups to visit them, and there's some real dialogue about what our world needs as a whole. We've also sent delegations to meet with religious and political leaders in Ecuador concerning Chevron's involvement in the water pollution there. It may not be what most people think of as a mission trip, but it's very much about helping the people who have been affected and taking responsibility for the U.S.'s role in creating the problem.

    And it is definitely religion-based, as Christianity calls for radical love and caring for one another, particularly across societal boundaries. But there are different ways to do things, and I think Christians need to be conscious of the privilege we have in these sorts of mission trip interactions, and that certain aspects of these trips may be further distancing ourselves from one another rather than bringing us together. Hopefully we can keep finding ways to reduce these aspects and come together on equal footing.

  52. a.eye - Thanks for the Wyclef post. I've added the information to his wiki page, since this is probably where people who are trying to research his charity will look. I couldn't find Yéle on the charity watchdog sites when I tried a couple days ago.

  53. Can we also add "think poverty is accidental" or "think Haiti is a hard luck country?" I'm kind of appalled at the number of news reports that willfully ignore the history of Haiti and the role of the US and France in causing the poverty and political corruption that have damaged the country.

  54. @ windy city girl:

    "The number of reports that willfully ignore..."

    You mean, like, all of them?

    The French news isn't doing much better than the U.S. It's got an "all about our pain" narrative going on, too, including their version of the "adoption story"!

  55. Great overview of egregious media coverage, including U.S.-implicating historical gaps, at The Angry Black Woman:

    Why is American tv coverage of the Haitian disaster driving me to drink?

  56. @karinova and others

    I didn't really ask them any detail, but I have a feeling it would be more "I want to help out" than "We need to convert those poor souls". I heard a good analogy on this blog (name escaping me right now, but thanks whoever it was!) of white people showing up to a food shelter wanting to be shown where to stack the cans. I have a feeling it would be very much like that, plus religious stuff.

    My friend went on a mission trip with his grandparents in high school to Uganda from a similar church. He said they would go to peoples' houses and get all their best food and sleep on the only beds. They were treated like royalty just because they were so *gracious* to come and help.

    I would HATE to hear details like that from this situation. It's treating their natural disaster and poverty like a theme park attraction. I can just hear, "look! I spent two weeks in Haiti roughing it and helping the people there" even though they'll get the lions share of aid related materials sent that way. Even worse, when they get back, white people pat themselves on the backs for doing something so noble and helpful.

    I'm not saying all Christian missions are like that, but I live in an extremely Christian state with a lot of Christians in my community, and this kind of activity is not out of the ordinary. Giving out this particular brand of Christian help seems very white to me.

  57. @ CuteRedHood
    You seem like a well meaning Christian and I hope my post doesn't offend you.Your heart is in the right place.The problem with Christian missions is that they disrupt the indigenous community's their suppose to be helping.The invasion of the African mythos by missionary's who tell them their Gods are nothing but devils and if they don't worship the one true God then they are eternally dammed.(Pat Robertson and his compassion for Haiti)
    Missionary's operate off the assumption that as you put it "They were treated like royalty just because they were so gracious to come and help".The question I would ask is how missionary's see a third world country that they plan to minister too.Do they understand the culture that their suppose to be saving or are they operating from a preconceived idea drawn from a mostly racial stereotype? Can you point to me one example of how Christianity has specifically benefited African society as a whole? What I see is an economic oppression owned by whites that not only took Africa's resources but tried to take Africa's soul as well.I'm not blaming Christianity solely for what happened but it did play a part as it is the primary religion connected to white culture.Who's the real devil here? Might it not be the fact that Haiti is still paying off the IMF and Inter-American Development Bank? At present this represents about 20% of the Haitian GPD.Haiti will no doubt have to borrow some more to rebuild.This is how the economics behind white privilege can own a country without ever firing a shot.

  58. @ Mike

    1. "African society as a whole." Seriously?

    2. Maybe I'm wrong, but...I read that post as CuteRedHood *criticizing* missionaries, even the "show up and ask where to stack food cans" type ones.

    3. While I agree that Westerners and specifically Christian missionaries have done great harm to Africa (and Latin America and...), you might want to read the writing of some actual African Christians before you pass blanket judgment on whether Christianity has ever had ANY good impact on "African society as a whole." Mercy Amba Oduyoye and John Mbiti are probably the most prominent African theologians, and rare for theology, excellent writers. Start with them.


  59. @ Willow,
    "African society as a whole."
    I'm referring to the entire continent of Africa not to a specific country nor am I referring to a specific person.What I am alluding to is the connection between Christianity and economics.Social conservatives in America connect free markets and capitalism to their faith and believe that this economic system benefits society as a whole.I'm asking where is the evidence that capitalism has indeed benefited African society ? What we have is a continent whose resources have been pillage by capitalism.
    "Maybe I'm wrong, but...I read that post as CuteRedHood *criticizing* missionaries".
    Yes she is doing that.What I borrowed was what her fellow Christians described as their "experience" in Africa.It's that attitude that reflects white privilege.
    "you might want to read the writing of some actual African Christians before you pass blanket judgment."
    What I neglected to do in my essay was separate ones personal religious experience from how religion can be used to further White owned economic oppression.I'm talking about how religion can be used to consolidate power.They are two different things.I'm not attacking Christian ethics or denying that oppressed people can't have a mystical experience with the dominate religion.Having a relationship with God and allowing that to guide your relationships with people and the Creation is what religion is all about.

  60. "denying that oppressed people" doesn't sound right either.That is affirming a stereotype.

  61. As far as the Red Cross goes, I think there is confusion because there are individual county Red Crosses, the International Red Cross/Red Cresant Society and so on. They are related, but not identical. The American Red Cross has been criticized for high overhead. I don't know about the others.

  62. @ Willow,
    "African society as a whole." I think I'm beginning to get what you were pointing out.It would have been better to say
    "where is the evidence that capitalism has indeed benefited society in that part of the world.? "African society" does seem to take away from people an individual identity since Africa is indeed diverse.Any suggestions on a better way to describe what I'm trying to say ?

  63. Here is a brief description of what makes up the Red Cross:

    Here are the defining principles which the Red Cross follows:

  64. Thanks for additional ideas. I have made Doctors without Borders (Medicins sans Frontieres) one of my routine donations for many years, but I am glad to be reminded of Paul Farmer's organization Partners in Health (and excellent books) and others.

  65. Re: Mike @ 1/17/10, 12:51 AM "Name one example of how Christianity has benefited Africa as a whole":

    (retired) Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, of the Anglican Church in South Africa.

    From the apartheid era to now, he challenges white Christians to drop racism and get moving to help people in need.

  66. @ Mike

    Yup, you're on the right track now.

    How about "many African countries" or "many countries in Africa"?

    And "Western imperialism" is a good way to describe the combined effect of Western economic, political, and religious ravaging of Africa before/during/after colonization. The Christian communities in Egypt and Ethiopia are among the oldest in the world, *vastly* predating the arrival of white people, so it's not quite right to blame it all on "Christians."

    "Where is the evidence that Western imperialism has improved the lives of people in Africa?" or "...benefited African countries?"

    And, you know, when the question is framed *that* way, the answer is far less ambiguous than if you just consider 'Christianity.'

    Back on topic, the ever-generous U.S. has granted temporary asylum to all undocumented Haitian immigrants currently in the U.S., because "to send Haitians back to that country right now would be nothing short of inhumane," according to a U.S. Senator (Schumer). But wait, that's only true if you're already in the U.S.; if you come here tomorrow from Haiti, it apparently *isn't* inhumane to send you back...and we're gonna. WTF?

    NY Times article

  67. In a Harper's Index mode, Doug Henwood points out some numbers:

    GDP of Haiti: $8.5 billion.

    Goldman Sachs bonus pool: $20 billion.

  68. White people, actually society in general, but mainly the white media is making an absolute debauchery of the relief to Haiti with their coverage of the disaster, you turn on CNN and what do you see, dead black people, lawlessness, people fighting over food all wiles white soldiers stand around like their patrolling a prison. Lets face it guys, not many people really give a damn about these people, weather they live or die is non important to them, its all about the shock value.

  69. The way I see it, filter out the important infomation such as lists of survivors, people looking for their loved ones etc and give to the charities that can help the people of Haiti to overcome this crises and get themselves back on track.

    The White media has always been a racist entity, making Black people out to be criminals regardless of the well documented fact that criminals come in all races and faces. But then again, when you have a majority White-led media, what do you expect. Of course they will always make themselves look good, first and foremost, so there are no surprises there.

    Now, on another note, I have seen the media coverage of Wyclef Jean and Yele Haiti, the charity he set up to help and support the people of Haiti. He has come out to refute the claims of him embezzling the charity's money for himself, therefore, I personally have decided to back this charity and post information on my blog, regardless of my previous comments earlier in this post.

    So, let's spend our efforts trying to get aid to those who need it now in Haiti and forget all the other rubbish.

  70. Heres a good example of racisim in the media:Front page of the L.A.Times Tue. Jan 19th.
    "Waiting for their saviors,while the squalor sets in."
    Saviors is refering to the messianic character of Whiteness.
    Squalor:Means misery and filth.Its also associated with "squatters" the idea being that Haitians have no rights.For an article that ties squalor,squatters and Haitians together read this.

  71. It's interesting that the post smears wealthy people that donate to popular charities but the poster has no idea which are the "correct" places to donate money.

  72. ChicanoRick,

    I have (and had) plenty of ideas which are better organizations to donate to -- I chose Partners in Health, having heard about it via hearing about Paul Farmer. One point of the post was to get a discussion going among the many readers of this blog about their ideas. Announcing my choice right in the post itself might have stopped some commenters from sharing their ideas.

    And no, the post doesn't "smear" those who donate to popular charities. Instead, it questions the common practice of giving money to charity without knowing where it's really going. A lot of donated money does go to big-name, top-heavy orgs that don't get as much of it to people in need as some other ones do.

  73. That makes sense. After looking around the site I see that some posts are more open-thread types than a serious "what white people do" post, because donating 'blindly' is something any person would be susceptible to. My main concern is that it's for a legit organization.

    A thought on the big charity companies: let's say I donate $50 to one of these and my money actually goes towards keeping the large machine running... I'd like to think that by me donating $50 it enabled them to get more volunteers out there to distribute someone else's $50. Does that make sense? I'm assuming that although these organizations require more money to operate they also proportionately have a larger impact on relief support.

  74. Now, I donated money to Medecins sans Frontieres/Doctors without borders over the phone, while I was speaking to the girl who took my card details, she asked if I wanted to recieve a brochure, I told her I would rather see that my money reached the people who needed it than get a glossy brochure that would go in the bin. Towards thend of the call she advised me that she was paid for working for them.

    I had no problem with any of that because people who are working should get paid, but I think most of these charities need to spend less money paying Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and producing glossy brochures, which eat into the finances that people in need actually could be benefiting from.

    Finally, it really pissed me off to see that the Medecins san frontieres/Doctors without borders planes, packed full of supplies and aid, were not allowed to land in Haiti and instead diverted to the Dominican Republic.

  75. @ Beauty and Health Editor

    From what I've heard, the airport in Port au Prince is not completely operational. I've also heard that the DR is treating many Haitian victims in their hospitals. Between Haiti and the DR there is also a medical staging area. It may have been that they were asked to fly into DR for the sake of practicality and safety.

  76. Hi Victoria,

    From what I've read, the US Military are occupying the airport to keep "law and order", maybe that is one of the reasons why planes full of supplies can't land there.

    Who knows?


Please see the "commenting guidelines" before submitting a comment.

hit counter code