Bocchit Edmond, Haitian ambassador to the United Kingdom, tries to dispel the negative stereotypes and ongoing stigma attached to Haiti’s image at a global scale. Quoting certain misconceptions, he explains, for example, “The crime rate last year was significantly lower than those of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.” He writes (The Guardian):
In a curious article by the comedian Romesh Ranganathan about a trip to Haiti to promote his BBC television show, he recounts unclothed babies, street gamblers, and dogs emerging from bushes to bark at unsuspecting tourists (Our man in Port-au-Prince: Wild dogs, voodoo potions, guns on the street and the threat of kidnap…, G2, 28 June).
And danger, apparently, lurks around every corner (despite the author never becoming victim to it – unless you count his incident with an ill-mannered dog).
Had Mr Ranganathan done his research, he would have known that Haiti is one of the safest countries in the Caribbean. Our crime rate last year was significantly lower than those of the most popular tourist destinations in the region, and we rank higher on the Global Peace Index.
If a travel writer touring, say, London intentionally chose to stay in and tour only high-crime neighbourhoods, readers would be left with a very different and very lopsided impression of London. Naturally, travel articles about London don’t do that, but this is precisely what Mr Ranganathan chose to do in Port-au-Prince.
His inaccurate depiction of our country and his narrow-minded caricature of the “bizarre natives” in their (by his account) dangerous and dirty land is a process of “othering” that goes beyond simple ignorance and traces back centuries. It’s a shame that his viewers will learn about our country via cultural stereotype. But when the BBC is ready, we invite it to send a proper journalist to Haiti to show the country as it truly is: complex, dynamic, flawed and rich in culture and history.
That way, we can both understand one another better.
For full article, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/02/the-true-haiti-is-safe-and-rich-in-culture
[Photo above: . BBC/Rumpus Media. Searching for ‘leave me alone’ powder … a scene from The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan. From https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/jun/27/romesh-ranganathan-haiti-holiday-misadventures-voodoo.]