Throughout the United States occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934, the U.S. government and its supporters were forced to defend the legitimacy of American action. In order to justify it to the American public, officials and journalists created a dichotomy of capacity between an inferior Haiti and a superior U.S., and they presented the occupation as a charitable civilizing mission. This vision of Haiti and Haitians was elaborated in a racialized discourse wherein Haitians were assigned various negative traits that rendered them incapable of self-government. In examining how the New York Times, the National Geographic Magazine, and the Crisis represented Haiti, I demonstrate how race was the primary signifier, and how these representations were used to either perpetuate or challenge the American racial social hierarchy.
In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s highest court ruled to revoke birthright citizenship for over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. Ruling TC 168-13 prompted dialogue about race and racism in the country, breaking the racial silence that accompanies mestizaje (racial mixture). Scholars viewed this ruling through the lens of “Black denial” whereby Dominicans’ failure to adopt Black identities, despite being largely afrodescendant, fuels the racialization of Haitians as Black.