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Study of the haitian american ethnic group

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2939 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Ignorance is not knowing or being aware of something, when one is ill informed one tends to create assumptions and attitudes towards people and things one does not know or understand. My general assumptions about the Haitian community were that they think of women as inferior, they live together in great numbers and they keep to their own race. The overall opinions I had formed were based on experiences with my co-workers. Through my research for this assignment on ethnic groups not only have I been proven wrong about my assumptions, but I have learned a great deal about the Haitian culture. Becoming more educated and compassionate about the Haitian culture will make me a better teacher because of the vast Haitian population in the state of Florida.

How did Haitians become part of American society?

How well are Haitians integrated today?

How did this voluntary group come to the U.S.?

How equitably have Haitians been treated during their tenure in the U.S.?

What is the current status (socioeconomic, political, educational, social) of Haitians in the U.S. today?

What difficulties have Haitians faced and why?

How did Haitians attempt to overcome any difficulties faced?

To what degree do Haitians feel a connection to people from a similar background in other parts of the world? Why?

Where do Haitian Americans stand in terms of receiving equal educational opportunities at the elementary, secondary and tertiary levels?

How can educational equity be achieved for Haitian Americans, what needs to be done?

How did Haitians become part of American society?

During the 1790s, Haiti was the most affluent of the French colonies. It was then that the black populace of the island revolted against slavery and there was a panicked exodus (everydayculture.com). Thousands of whites, free blacks, and slaves fled to American seaports, culminating in large French-speaking communities in New Orleans, Norfolk, Baltimore, New York City, and Boston (everydayculture.com). Immigrants from Haiti who arrived in the United States during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were determined to survive in their new land (everydayculture.com). There have been a total of four large migration waves of Haitians coming into the United (Catanese 1998, p19). In the period prior and up to 1970 about 30,084 Haitians came to the U.S. In the period of the 1970 to 1980 about 59,965 Haitians came to the U.S. From 1980 to 1986 93,691 people from the island immigrated to this country and in 1987 through 1990 24,796 Haitians came to the U.S. (Catanese 1998, p19). The people who have voluntarily come from the country of Haiti to the US have done so for years because of its political troubles and unstable economy (Catanese 1998, p19). The instability of the government made it hard for the economy as well as the people to achieve their greatest potential. The overwhelming majority of the Haitian people go to New York and Florida. About 70% of the Haitian community resides in these two regions (Catanese 1998, p19). The close proximity of Florida to the Republic of Haiti makes it an ideal place for them to settle. The great numbers of Haitians in Florida have made for a thriving Haitian community in the area.

How well are Haitians integrated today?

In the past the color of their skin and language problems made it increasingly more difficult for them to assimilate into the dominant culture (Vilme, H., & Butler, W., 2004). First

generation Haitian adolescent high school students identify themselves as Haitian, and manifest pride in their heritage Vilme, H., & Butler, W., 2004). As of 2010 many of the second generation Haitians are integrated into our community. It is very apparent here in the state of Florida how many Haitians are making their mark. One great example is that of, Major Joseph Bernadel, who is one of two founders of the Toussaint L’ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice. He is the first Haitian to open up a school not only in Florida but in the US. Presently there are four

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Haitians in the state legislator and soon there will be a Haitian American in congress. One of these is Phillip J. Brutus, a state representative to the Florida legislature. Brutus is the first Haitian-American elected to the Florida statehouse; he represents the 108th district in Miami (npr.org.). As Haitians continue to become a great part of our educational system and play in even greater role in government they will continue to strongly integrate themselves within the community.

How did this voluntary group come to the U.S.?

Haitian immigration to the United States can be viewed in terms of specific waves, each being associated with repressive conditions in Haiti (Catanese 1998, p19; Vilme, H., & Butler, W., 2004). The first wave began in 1957 following Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s rise to power (Catanese 1998, p19; Vilme, H., & Butler, W., 2004). These immigrants were members of the well-educated political and economic elite, planning to return to Haiti after the ouster of Duvalier (Stepick, 1998; Vilme, H., & Butler, W., 2004). The second wave of immigrants, who came during the late 1960s through the early 1980s, was skilled laborers from the Haitian middle class (Stepick, 1998; Vilme, H., & Butler, W., 2004). The next wave of immigrants became known as the Haitian boat people, who were mostly lower class laborers (Vilme, H., & Butler, W., 2004)

How equitably have Haitians been treated during their tenure in the U.S.?

Equity in education for Haitian students is improving more as the number of Haitian students in our schools increases. All schools offer ESOL programs for the students who come from Haiti but not all schools have Haitian speaking instructors that would ease their transition into the curriculum. A grave misconception is that Haitian students can speak and communicate in French, although Creole is derived from French it is a combination of this as well as other languages and dialects of the Taino and African culture. Recent studies show that these students face a multitude of problems other than the language barrier (Buxton, C., Lee, O., & Mahotiere, M, 2007). Those problems are their little education or lack thereof in Haiti (Buxton, C., Lee, O., & Mahotiere, M, 2007). This creates several problems for these students when faced with the challenge of not only learning a new language but also with trying to keep up with grade level academic standards and goals. In one study based on Haitian teachers, parents and Haitian students that attended schools both in Haiti and the US; it was found that for the most part, as it refers to language that these students were inclined to learn multiple languages, they have an eagerness to become multicultural, as well as build strong ties and participate within the community (Buxton, C., Lee, O., & Mahotiere, M, 2007). A stronger community is a great asset for those that are already settled and even more so for those who intent to settle here in the future.

What is the current status (socioeconomic, political, educational, and social) of Haitians in the U.S. today?

Like most immigrants in the United States, Haitians are busy in the pursuit of the American dream (everydayculture.com). Almost every Haitian American wishes to buy a home as a matter of status and security; this is implied in the saying, “Se vagabon ki loue kay,” which means, “Respectable people don’t rent”(everydayculture.com). However, behind the facade of pride and achievement, there is a litany of social problems-battered women, homeless families, and economic exploitation (everydayculture.com). The problems that face Haitian immigrants are enormous and complex (everydayculture.com).The majority of people in the Haitian community do jobs such as housekeepers, cooks, drivers, janitors and such related fields of work. Most recently migrations have brought many middle class citizens to the US from Haiti (Catanese 1998, p19). As people from a more diverse socioeconomic status come over from Haiti it creates a more diverse group within the community. These teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors and other people of such professions are working towards playing greater roles within the Haitian community.

What difficulties have Haitians faced and why?

One greater problem faced by the US government as it relates to the Haitian communities is its possible undercount because of what our definition is of a “household”. Not having an accurate count limits the government’s abilities to provide necessary assistance to the members of the Haitian community. The sharing of several homes is common place within the new immigrant communities, these structures are customs brought over from Haiti (Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. 2001). It is common to have extended family living under one roof and having many people in the community share common areas (Buxton, C., Lee, O., & Mahotiere, M, 2007). As more services become available it will further improve educational and social settings for the Haitian community so that they can play a greater role within their community.

How are Haitians attempting to overcome any difficulties faced?

The way for any society to overcome their difficulties and become more prominent within their society is through education. As more Haitian Americans become bigger voices within education, politics and their community they will continue to overcome the difficulties they face. Michel S. Laguerre, an anthropologist in the Department of Afro-American Studies, University of California at Berkeley, has researched many aspects of Haitian American life and has published numerous books and articles (http://www.everyculture.com). Tekle Mariam Woldemikael, a sociologist in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Whittier College in Whittier, California, has written several studies concerning Haitian Americans (http://www.everyculture.com). Carole M. Berotte Joseph, who was born in Port-au-Prince and came to the U.S. in 1957, is the Assistant Dean and Director of the Office of Student Services at the City College School of Education in New York City where she is an authority on bilingual and foreign language teaching; she is a founder of the International Alliance for Haiti, Inc (http://www.everyculture.com). Michaelle Vincent, the District Supervisor Bilingual and Foreign Language Skills of the Dade County (Florida) Public Schools, is a consultant on Haitian culture and the Creole language, developing and implementing seminars on Haitian culture; she also hosted a daily radio show in Haitian Creole on WLRN in Miami (http://www.everyculture.com).

To what degree do Haitians feel a connection to people from a similar background in other parts of the world? Why?

In many races it is somewhat common to feel that you share some sort of culture and language with another group of people. For example, the Cuban and Puerto Rican people share many things between them such as food, language, and even similar flags. This is not so for the Haitian community. The language of Creole spoken in their country is not shared by any other and while all Caribbean foods are similar none are the same. Haitians face an identity dilemma in the United States; although they are different in national origin, they are almost physically indistinguishable from other black Americans (http://www.everyculture.com). They cannot easily merge with the rest of the black population because of their language and culture; Haitian Americans perceive differences between themselves and other blacks (http://www.everyculture.com). Most seek a middle ground between being merged with the rest of the black population and complete isolation. Haitian language and culture are preserved at home, which makes it possible for Haitian immigrants to separate themselves from the Afro-American culture around them (http://www.everyculture.com). They adapt to the dominant American culture while retaining their distinctive lifestyle at home (http://www.everyculture.com). The people of Haiti feel no real connection towards any other group. While the Dominican Republic is its next door neighbor to Haiti, these two countries have had strife for centuries making it impossible for the two groups two find a common ground. Overall, my research suggests that the Haitian people feel no connection with any other group.

Where do Haitian Americans stand in terms of receiving equal educational opportunities at the elementary, secondary and tertiary levels?

Due to the high population of Haitians here in Florida the school system continues to make efforts to improve the educational quality for these people. Implementing Haitian history within the curriculum also helps Haitian American students feel more integrated in the educational system (http://www.palmbeach.k12.fl.us). Presently most programs offered are for Hispanic students because of their great numbers as it relates to the school system. Other than ESOL I did not find any other programs for the Haitian American students. In Miami Dade county there is the Toussaint L’ouverture Elementary, named so in under of the leader of their greatest revolution. In Boynton Beach there is the Toussaint L’ouverture School for the Arts and Social Justice, this High school meets the needs of Haitian immigrants and Haitian American students the curriculum is taught in both Creole and English.

How can educational equity be achieved for Haitian Americans, what needs to be done?

As of right now educational equity has not been met, but as we step into the future more Haitian Americans are becoming teachers and advocates for better opportunities for the Haitian American community. The presence of more Haitian American teachers will improve the quality as well as the educational opportunities for the future generations within the Haitian community. For there to be an improvement for this group we as teachers, not matter what the race, should encourage higher education and emphasize how being educated not only opens doors for one self but also for those who may follow in our footsteps.


Learning about this ethnic group has opened my eyes and cleared up my misconceptions. I have learned that for the most part we are not doing all we could to improve education for Haitians. I have also learned that what I might think as strange is merely part of the culture. As educators in Florida we must help all students to reach their full potential no matter what cultural differences we may share. Being more knowledgeable on Haitian Americans will make me a better teacher especially because of the vast number of Haitian American students in the Florida school system. In the future I will try to clear up any misconceptions I might have about a group by doing some simple research.

Annotated Bibliography

Academic Journals

Buxton, C., Lee, O., & Mahotiere, M. (2007). The Role of Language in Academic and Social Transition of Haitian Children and Their Parents to Urban U.S. Schools. Bilingual Research Journal, 31(1/2), 47-74. Retrieved April 9, 2010, from Education Full Text database.

This article talks about the social structure of the Haitian family, their culture and their transition into the American educational system.

Catanese, A V (Sept-Oct 1998). Haitian Americans.  Migration World Magazine, 26, 5. p.19 (5). Retrieved April 9, 2010, from Education Full Text database.

This article gives the demographic profile of Haitian Americans. It gives specific data about the migrations of Haitian to the U.S. as well as family, education, and economic information etc.

Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2001). Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America. Berkeley: University of California Press. Retrieved April 9, 2010, from Education Full Text database.

This article discusses the disadvantages suffered by Haitian immigrants and their family’s migrant workers.

Vilme, H., & Butler, W. (2004). The Ethnic Identity of First Generation Haitian High School Students in Miami, Florida. The Negro Educational Review, 55(2/3), 137-42. Retrieved April 9, 2010, from Education Full Text database.

This article talks about the experiences and educational opportunities of forts generation Haitian students in Miami.


Stepick, A. (1998). Pride and Prejudice Haitians in the United States. Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.

This book is about Haitian immigrant’s struggles, cultural identity, school, and politics within America society.


Department of Multicultural Education, Palm Beach County: Charlemagne Baptiste and Bito David. (May 2004). Haitian Americans. In Haitian/Haitian American Curriculum Teacher/Student ResourcesK-12. Retrieved April 2010, from http://www.palmbeach.k12.fl.us/Multicultural/curriculum/Haiti/HaitianStudiesResources.pdf.

Lisa Simeone. (Dec 2000). Haitian -American Legislator. In NPR news. Retrieved April 2010, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1114870.

Felix Eme Unaeze and Richard E. Perrin. (2010). Haitian Americans. In Everyday Culture. Retrieved April 2010, from http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Du-Ha/Haitian-Americans.html.


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