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Hey Corporate Media, "Looting" Is a Racist Code Word

When the news camera captures footage of a Haitian man taking rice, what does it show? Theft? Survival? What if that man is white?
 
 
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In the aftermath of the earthquake, there have been numerous reports of dangerous looting in the capital. (See examples here, here, and here). The Washington Post has a video showing people "looting" a shop, as stated in the caption. The items taken appear to be food and supplies. There is no violence on the camera. But the violent connotation of the word remains.

In contrast to international news of looting in Haiti, local reports indicate that in reality, there is not massive violence or unrest. Partners in Health recently stated that "Our team on the ground reaffirms that the reports of violence on the streets of Port-au-Prince have been grossly exaggerated and have become a major obstacle to mounting the response needed to save tens of thousands of lives each day.” United Nations officials in Haiti have criticized reporters for sensationalizing the earthquake aftermath, exaggerating looting reports, noting that the situation among civilians was calm. In a New York Times op-ed, Haitian novelist and Port-au-Prince resident Evelyne Trouillot wrote, "Many of us Haitians are offended by the coverage of the earthquake. Once more, a natural disaster serves as an occasion to showcase the impoverishment, to exaggerate the scenes of violence that are common to any catastrophe of this type."

 
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