31 March 2015
Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak! details many stories about the different ways in which Haitian women have suffered and been forced to persevere in all sorts of situations. Though in different times and places, each woman deals with immense hardships brought about by a country that is constantly in turmoil. Each story tells of a struggle that not everybody can fully understand. There are stories of unspeakable horrors, such as a pregnant woman escaping across a river while her own mother is killed on the other side. In the case of Lamort, the readers are given an example of a girl who has been taught not to look into the eyes of the soldiers, because she knows this will ultimately get her hurt. They are all limited in their actions and choices, not only because they are women but because they are Haitian.
There are multiple instances in the stories in which the privilege of being American is acknowledged, whether it is outright or not. The very first story shows that for many, it was better for them to die at sea while trying to make it to America than stay in their country. Even in “The Missing Peace,” Emilie thinks that having an American passport on her will protect her from the savagery of some of the soldiers.
The moment that struck me the most was in the beginning of “Caroline’s Wedding,” when Ma essentially equates having a passport to being American. Grace and her mother are so excited that she had finally been granted citizenship, and is eligible for an American passport. Freedom is a basic American right, but I think sometimes we forget how much freedom we actually have. We are free to leave our houses at night without fear that someone might try to shoot us. Most of us can sleep at night without fear that some soldier might break into our home and beat us. More than any of this, we are free to travel outside of our country and know that we will be welcomed back. We have much more freedom to take charge of our own lives. An American passport symbolized protection and freedom to move about for Emilie because these are the rights we are granted as American citizens.
Though I am aware of these rights, I think sometimes it is easy to take them for granted when that is all I have ever known. Thankfully, I have never known oppression and tragedy in the ways that these Haitian women have. Last year, while living in the UK, I was stopped at the border once and questioned endlessly about my reason for being there. They wanted proof of the university I was attending, my classes, and even went so far as to inquire how much money I had in my bank account. I was furious, as I almost missed my connecting flight back to Newcastle, and could not understand why they would waste so much time when I was clearly just a student. My program director later told me that they have had a bad problem with asylum seekers in the UK, trying to sneak into the country on student visas with US passports in order to escape their oppressive home nations and find work. Some of these refugees adopt these personas because they know the privilege that comes with the status of an American student. As Americans, we tend to travel for the cultural experience. We get bored of our American lives and want to see something different. Meanwhile, there are plenty of people out there who are either trapped in their own countries or being barred from entering ours.