Gist of this article:
Boycotting the Red Cross is not going to help people in Haiti.
About fifteen years ago, when I was a student at the University of Missouri at Columbia, I was walking up to a convenience store when a young woman walking in the opposite direction stopped me.
“You aren’t going in there, are you?” she asked.
“I was planning to,” I said. “What’s up? Is there a guy with a gun or something?”
“No,” she said. “But you shouldn’t shop there. The owner beats his wife.”
We had a brief conversation, and during which I asked a few questions:
1) How did she know? (A friend of hers who knew the wife told her.)
2) Had she told the man she was going to tell people to boycott the store if he didn’t stop beating his wife? (She hadn’t. She lived nearby and mentioned it to people as she passed them on her way to school.)
3) Did she think a sudden drop in business with no explanation would change the family dynamic for the better? (She hadn’t considered it.)
Full disclosure, I was in my early 20s and a minor league drug addict at the time and couldn’t be bothered to walk to another convenience store. So I didn’t ask any questions other than those that would make me feel okay about buying my snacks and/or ephedrine there.
I bring this up, though, because clean and sober me sees shades of that young woman’s thinking in some statements that have been floating around about the Red Cross and Haiti.
To wit, a friend of mine forwarded this post from twitter:
“From a friend in #Haiti checking on his mom: Stop donating to the Red Cross! Nothing is getting to the people!”
After a little digging, I also found this:
“A friend of mine from Haiti went and found his family. He said stop donating to the red cross nothing is getting done. 1 mil homeless”
I’m not posting the usernames of the people in question because I don’t feel like getting into a debate. You can find them if you search on the language of the tweets.
Now, I don’t know if these folks have the same friend, or just a very similar set of circumstances but, here’s the parallel I see:
SAD TRUTH: A convenience store worker beats his wife.
BAD SOLUTION: Stop shopping at his store without telling him why.
SAD TRUTH: There are people in Haiti who aren’t getting help.
BAD SOLUTION: Asking people to boycott donations to the Red Cross.
Now, something that I’m not really addressing here, which is:
“Is the sad truth REALLY true?”
It doesn’t really matter.
Whether or not he beats his wife, you don’t have to boycott his store without informing him why you’re doing it.
Whether or not people are going without aid in Haiti, boycotting donations to the Red Cross will solve nothing.
Still, I feel it would be irresponsible to post those views without mentioning that the Red Cross has been documenting what they’re doing in Haiti:
If someone wants to ask, “Why are they taking pictures instead of building a hospital?” or whatever, look above for your answer. They HAVE to document what they’re doing so that people can see it and feel that their donations are helping.
I don’t deny that there are people who haven’t seen the Red Cross in their areas yet. Still, saying that people should stop donating to them because of that is irresponsible at best. The Red Cross exists to help people in disasters. Either:
1) You’re claiming that either the Red Cross is using Haiti to fill its coffers and not helping on purpose or is simply really bad at their job and that anyone who donates to them is either a victim of fraud or wasting their money on incompetence.
2) You feel that by withholding your donation you’ll send a message to the Red Cross that they’d better start helping people if they want your money.
Situation one is a horrible accusation to make based on an individual’s account, even if they’re an eyewitness. Situation two suffers from the same issue as the convenience store owner problem: How is the Red Cross going to know that’s why you’re not donating?
As terrible as it may be to watch people suffer and die while waiting for aid to come, asking people to stop the flow of resources is in no way going to make aid come any faster.
Also, you may not be aware of it, but there are certain segments of the population who not only don’t want to give to Haiti, but are actively against anyone doing it. Whether it be the excuse that our taxes go to foreign aid, Haitians aren’t “our kind of people,” or that Haiti somehow “deserves it” for their spiritual beliefs, they’ll argue against donation.
They will all too gleefully forward your “friend of a friend” account of someone in Haiti saying the Red Cross is doing nothing. They’re probably kicking themselves for not making dummy accounts and spreading this rumor themselves a lot earlier.
The sad fact that they’re tailor-made for anti-Haitian aid talking points, and the “friend of a friend” nature of these statements, may even make people disbelieve their veracity.
In light of this, I urge people with friends and family who are not receiving aid to do this. Instead of posting vague statements that no one is getting help and we should cut off funding. Tell us what’s actually happening.
Craft your statements in the following manner:
[PERSON’S NAME] in [AREA OF HAITI] reports [CONDITIONS] and no @redcross aid.
You may not have any room to ask for a boycott of the Red Cross when you’re done, but you’ll have given an actual face and picture of the issue at hand. If you’ve read this far, you know that I feel a boycott isn’t the way to go anyway.
Just as I believe there are people who have yet to see aid, I firmly believe that the Red Cross is doing all it can, and urge you to visit american.redcross.org if you think you can help.
I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before, but some of the flack the Red Cross seems to be getting is because of its endorsement by the President and First Lady. That’s just plain awful, folks. Grow up.
If you think that the Red Cross is deliberately slowing aid to Haiti to “kill off” survivors to make it easier for the US to set up a colony there, I can’t really address your points. This goes doubly if you think the earthquake was created by the US using HAARP.
It’s hard to deny that the US has interest in Haiti, especially in light of the 2004 Haitian Rebellion. Still, saying that an international aid organization is deliberately allowing civilians to die to further one country’s political agenda moves the conversation into areas in which I am not comfortable treading and may very well be beyond odious.