Feature

Are starving Haitians ‘looters’?

To loot is to pillage and plunder for selfish gain. That&rsquo;s not what wretched Haitians are doing when they grab a box of powdered milk from a collapsed store, said Rebecca Solnit in <em>The Nation.</em>

Rebecca SolnitThe Nation

There’s something grotesque about using the word “looting” to describe what’s happening in Haiti, said Rebecca Solnit. Following that island nation’s devastating earthquake, dozens of survivors have been filmed or photographed digging through the rubble for food, water, medicine, and other necessities. In virtually every case, the media has identified these people as “looters.’’

But are they, really? To loot is to pillage and plunder for selfish gain. That’s not what wretched Haitians are doing when they grab a box of powdered milk from a collapsed store. They’re merely trying to “salvage the means of sustaining life from the ruins of their world.”

Imagine, for a moment, that your city or town was destroyed by some natural disaster, and you and your family hadn’t eaten in days. You’d be justifiably irate at the notion that “grabbing a box of PowerBars and a few gallons of water” from a shattered storefront made you a criminal. Yet we have no trouble smugly applying that description to those in similar circumstances if they are poor and foreign—and, yes, black.

Recommended

Taliban foreign minister asks to address the United Nations
Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
seeking legitimacy

Taliban foreign minister asks to address the United Nations

Xi Jinping may have just signaled the end of international coal financing
Xi Jinping.
climate change

Xi Jinping may have just signaled the end of international coal financing

French still unhappy with Biden, but Boris Johnson stays positive
Boris Johnson.
'breath of fresh air'

French still unhappy with Biden, but Boris Johnson stays positive

Biden: U.S. isn't 'seeking a new Cold War'
Joe Biden
'rigid blocks'

Biden: U.S. isn't 'seeking a new Cold War'

Most Popular

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?
Elizabeth Holmes and James Mattis.
Samuel Goldman

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?

Don't try to predict Manchin's reconciliation vote, says former adviser
Joe Manchin.
an enigma

Don't try to predict Manchin's reconciliation vote, says former adviser

How Newsom ran away with the recall
Gavin Newsom.
Picture of David FarisDavid Faris

How Newsom ran away with the recall