What Is True/Slant?
275+ knowledgeable contributors.
Reporting and insight on news of the moment.
Follow them and join the news conversation.

Feb. 5 2010 - 6:19 am | 416 views | 3 recommendations | 7 comments

The White Man’s Burden in Haiti

A Haitian court has now officially charged the ten (white, Christian) Americans who tried to take 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic last week with child abduction.  The group of Christian missionaries from Idaho say they were just trying to help orphans.  Of course, the orphans in question all seem to have had parents and the parents were told their children were being taken to a school to be educated.  Ah, the twists and turns of the White Man’s Burden.

When Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem, “The White Man’s Burden” in 1899 it was in response to the American colonial invasion of the Phillippines after the Spanish American War.

Take up the White Man’s burden…Send forth the best ye breed…Your new-caught, sullen peoples,Half-devil and half-child…To veil the threat of terror  Take up the White Man’s burden- The savage wars of peace–Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease; silent, sullen peoples…Shall weigh your gods and you.

Kipling seems to have truly believed in the White Man’s burden, as do the members of the Idaho group who came to save the children from their “half devil, half child” ways.  Of course, the Imperialism of America and England has always been layered with the Imperialism of a militant and nationalist Christian Evangelical movement.

The leaders of the American group, New Life Children’s Refuge, 
Laura Silsby and 
Charisa Coulter, are members of Central Valley Baptist church in Idaho.  Atlhough New Life Children’s Refuge never quite got their website up and running, the Central Valley Baptist church website as well as other Christian websites give some insight into what the hell these white people were doing taking children out Haiti and lying to their parents about the fact that they were going to be adopted to American “Christian” families.

New Life Children’s Refuge is a non‐profit Christian ministry dedicated to rescuing, loving and
caring for orphaned, abandoned and impoverished Haitian and Dominican children,
demonstrating God’s love and helping each child find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ.
We will strive to also equip each child with a solid education and vocational skills as well as
opportunities for adoption into a loving Christian family.

Note that it says “impoverished” children as well as orphaned and abandoned children.  Already the plot thickens.  Apparently poverty in and of itself is reason to “save” these children by placing them into a “Christian family.”

From the Church website, we learn that it is a Christian obligation to go forth in the world and convert others to their Evangelical beliefs.

It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations.  The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.

I’m not sure whether kidnapping is in harmony with the gospel of Christ, but according to the church’s website, a family is clearly defined as the marriage between one man and one woman with children (adoptive or biological) and a wife who willingly submits to her husband as leader, protector, and teacher.

Ah, the white man’s burden, being carried out by white men and women in Haiti.  Over a century after the birth of the American Empire, as Kipling warned, the burden of whiteness continues to weigh on us all.


3 T/S Member Comments Called Out, 7 Total Comments
Post your comment »
  1. collapse expand

    You have to think this is just one case where a group of people ( Together on a bus – how OFFICIAL) were caught with 33 children. We might not know for months, years or ever how much trafficing or “adoptions” have already taken place. Why do many people always equate moral, ethical and other such adjectives with Christianity? Being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you either of those things.
    Individual religious interpretation, regardless of ANY denomination or faith, gives no one the right to deem what kind of dogma someone else should have – including blatant kidnapping to have those live out your chosen ideology.

    In the piece by the NYT piece you have referenced:
    ” Ms. Silsby, who had helped organize the group’s mission, sounded a hopeful note as she waited to be taken into court, saying, “We’re just trusting God for a positive outcome.” ”
    Well Ms. Silsby, I think the positive outcome has already begun to take place. You can comfort yourself knowing God does work in mysterious ways – sometimes even through the law.

  2. collapse expand

    The first time I read Kipling’s poem it took my history teacher a good 10 minutes to convince me it WASN’T satire. I’m still stunned whenever I see the sentiment in action.

  3. collapse expand

    The Jesus Hijackers have no more right to call themselves Christians than Dick Cheney has a right to call himself a Patriot. Maya Angelou has the perfect comeback to those who call themselves Christians: “Already?” Jesus’ message was one of continual *personal* revolution and Marx, attempting to make Christianity mandatory and institutional was not able to appreciably improve on Jesus’ message. These Silbysians are as full of themselves as were the Pharisees.
    I think the line you are looking for, Laurie, is:
    “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”

    • collapse expand

      You’re right- no more Christians than the Soviets were communist or the 9/11 attackers were Muslim.

      Beliefs are easily highjacked for power.

      I wasn’t suggesting that these people were Christian (yet?), just that they were motivated by an ideology of Colonialism that is also about a certain sort of Christianity as a movement associated with national and racial privilege.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I understand your thesis and agree with it wholeheartedly. The problem I have is that at least once you call them , without quotes, instead of something like “so-called Christian missionaries”. And that is the same as calling the 9/11 perpetrators “Muslim terrorists.”
        Also, I think it is just as important to overtly point out that theirs is not a representative Christian point of view anymore than 9/11 was representative of a Muslim point of view.
        It’s a very difficult semantical challenge to write around. Putting “Christian” in quotes at every mention creates a sense of general cynicism toward the Christian faith. But if you want to give the teachings of Jesus their due, to leave some room for a legitimate Christianity that supports peace, good stewardship and social justice, I’m sure you will find a way.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    Sorry, what I typed wasn’t transmitted correctly due to the use of carats. The second sentence should read:
    The problem I have is that at least once you call them Christian missionaries, without quotes, instead of something like “so-called Christian missionaries.”

  5. collapse expand

    I am stunned by the brazenness of these people. And not easily convinced that they were taking up the “white man’s burden,” as despicable as that is, but suspect instead their aim is to take up the white man’s version of “charity” = and that is helping themselves to free/forced labor. I’m very very suspicious of the line: “We will strive to also equip each child with a solid education and vocational skills.” What exactly are those skills? Ugh. The world is going backward …

Log in for notification options
Comments RSS

Post Your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment

Log in with your True/Slant account.

Previously logged in with Facebook?

Create an account to join True/Slant now.

Facebook users:
Create T/S account with Facebook

My T/S Activity Feed


    About Me

    I'm an academic who does not believe in abstract knowledge. Like Marx, I think the point isn't just to describe the world, but to change it. Unlike Marx I don't have Engels sending me my monthly rent. So I have a day job teaching sociology at Middlebury College. In my real life, I'm a fighter (taekwondo) and a writer

    (Salon, Legal Affairs, NPR's "All Things Considered") and now this blog. My second book, American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards, and the Spirit of Our Time, is a critique of neoliberal capitalism through cosmetic surgery. American Plastic will be published by Beacon in 2010.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 221
    Contributor Since: December 2008
    Location:Montreal, QC & Burlington, VT

    What I'm Up To

    Buy the book

    If you want to buy my book now and avoid the holiday rush (obviously it will be a hot hot item come December- kinda like an i-Pad or maybe more like a Cabbage Patch Doll?) you can do it here.