Are starving Haitians ‘looters’?
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, 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.