Thursday, May 3, 2012

What colour are you?

This post has been inspired by some comments on colour and Haitian immigration on my post about Trujillo. I should preface this by saying I have little idea about discrimination on the grounds of colour as I am white and have never felt discriminated against wherever I have been, apart from here as I was a foreigner I used to get charged higher prices. I personally do not see someone for their colour, people are people and that is that.

The Dominican Republic in my opinion does not have a major issue with discrimination on the grounds of colour, but those who are black are often considered to be Haitian, and in some areas there is discrimination against Haitians.  Look at this photo.


These guys all worked for me. The one in the red baseball cap is Haitian and here legally with a visa. The one in the white vest is Dominican and comes from a family of Cocolos. That is, his grandparents came here from St Kitts where they were descended from African cane cutters. They came to the DR to cut cane, and in fact they still speak English. The one in the orange shirt is Dominican pure bred. All three of them are more or less the same colour. The one on the end is also Dominican.

My husband who is brown and likes to say he is descended from the Indians, had never experienced prejudice on behalf of his colour until we went to England where we would get comments and insults. Every black person he saw there he thought was Haitian and couldn't understand why they could not understand him when he spoke in Creole! It was as hard for him to understand why someone would be prejudiced against someone because of his colour as it is for those who are used to prejudice to come here and not realise that the same level does not exist.

It cannot be denied that there is prejudice on the part of some Dominicans against some Haitians, due in part to the long history between the two nations. Dominicans celebrate independence day on 27 February and I always thought it was independence from Spain, but it is independence from Haiti.

We all want to live in a world free from prejudice and discrimination be it colour, religion, sex whatever. The Dominican Republic is not perfect in this respect, but it is certainly a lot better than some other countries.

23 comments:

  1. Para empezar, odio el documental del Dr. Gates sobre RD y Haití. Sólo alguien que nunca pisó de verdad RD puede hacer algo como eso y llamarlo investigación.

    Perdona que empiece con eso, pero realmente me enerva.

    Debo confirmar lo que dices: No es cosa especialmente del color, pero si de haitianos.

    Aunque la mayoría de los dominicanos toleran a los haitianos, salvo cuando alguien toca el clarinete del orgullo patrio, invasión pacífica, etc.


    PD: LLevo tiempo leyendo tu blog, realmente me encanta leer de mi pedazo de isla desde los ojos de un "extranjero" (entre comillas, porque no creo que el término siga aplicandose en tu caso).

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    1. Gracias yo soy. Usted habla la verdad.

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  2. Interesting. I also thought independence would have been from Spain and not from Haiti. I suppose there will always be rivalry and misunderstanding when it involves 2 countries that were "at war" together. As you say from the picture I wouldn´t know who came from where. We all need to lighten up and accept people as people without discriminating.

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    1. It is an impossible situation Sami. The DR has a population of 10 million and although it is thought there are around 2 million Haitians - legal and illegal - it is impossible to be sure. Not everyone is prejudiced but some definitely are. Agree we all need to stop discriminating.

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  3. Lindsay thanks for always trying to enligthed your readers. I think some of us just had some confusion. As an academic i always thought that Ethnicity and Race were two different things. So when you said that Dominicans consider themselves Dominican not black I was a bit confused. I might stand corrected but I would think that their ethnicity is Dominican but their race would be Black based on their Phenotype. They are not white and certainly not Asian which are the other races. If I am wrong I apologized. We are all learning here and it really does not matter. People are people but for me I like to learn.

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    1. I can see what you are saying from an academic standpoint but honestly Dominicans do not separate the two. Academically they are a mix of black slaves brought from Africa, Spanish settlers and the indigenous Taino Indians. The latter was thought to be very small but recent DNA testing has shown it to be a far higher percentage. Different parts of the country have different amounts of each type. There are far more Indian types in the south west for example, and in the middle of the country, the Cibao area, there are far more white Dominicans.

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  4. I never think about the colour of a person's skin only the person.

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  5. I get you..I hate shopping, I have been a victim of getting charges higher prices. I now leave the shopping to my hubby :)

    I love reading you Lindsay, have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. Gives us a good reason to get the husbands working! You have a great weekend too Mari.

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  6. Well it does seem that in the DR folks describe themselves by way of shade descriptives. In the US we have black...I find shades more appropriate as by default it speaks to mixing of races historically as opposed to simply placing a label on someone. And I believe celebrating and talking of diversity is a great cure for discrimination and racism.

    And interestingly by mother in law ribs my wife when we return from the beach and my wife has darkened up gently ridiculing her...it is the haitian thing. My mother on the other hand a blueblood new england wasp would speak somewhat in racist terms from time to time...but spent her summers camelizing her skin on the beach trying to be darker....interesting paradox.

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    1. The whole thing is very confusing and I don't think I will ever understand it. I used to love tanning myself on the beach to go a lovely dark brown, and now I don't go out in the sun at all if I can help it. That is not because of colour though it is because I don't like being hot!

      And to make matters more complicated I sometimes get called 'mi negra' by Dominicans. Apparently they call me my black lady not because I am white (?!) but as a term of endearment. Work that one out!

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  7. White people should NEVER touch the COLOR discourse. You only know whiteness and only experience life through the HEGEMONIC WHITE SUPREMACY view.

    The reason Dark-skinned dominicans are discrimminated against is because of WHITENESS. Whiteness is recessive. Dark dominicans are discrimminated against more than non dark dominicans.

    to say otherwise is to either be in denial or lack the ability to critically analyze the situation of the people in this country.

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    1. You are right in that white people will never understand the issue in the same way as a black person, in the same way as any discrimination issue be it disability, sexual orientation, or whatever. If you have not experienced it you will never truly understand. However I think many would like to understand more and learn more about the issue, and it would be a shame if that could not happen.

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  8. Perhaps we need more white people such as myself touching the color discourse. But I imagine this is not the venue.

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    1. I think you are probably right beastwood.

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  9. @Anonymous May 05, 2012

    As a white person who works in race relations and anti-oppression , I totally agree with you. When a person who is not from the group that is experiencing the discrimination tries to have discourse it usually ends up trivializing and minimizing the victim's experience.
    I always tell white people that when it comes to race matters it is best to listen and learn from people's experiences. This can be best illustrated by assuming that in an issue relating to sexism , a man tries to tell woman what he thinks that experience looks and feels like and if it amounts to sexism. How would a man who is part of the patriarchy even know what to look for and how to identify the issue.
    I think The blogger did a good job of describing what she has observe in the DR on a micro level but I would caution her not to dismiss it as just Haitian/Dominican tensions. Historically, it is known that the DR has always embraced Spain as the motherland when in reality its culture, including the food, music and dance have more African influence than Taino or Spanish. But hey that is another discussion.

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    1. Thank you for those wise words. And that is an idea for a blog post on where the culture comes from - is it Caribbean, is it central America, African or Spanish or Taino. Time to get my thinking cap on and get onto the street and start talking to people!

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  10. Hi Lindsay here are some numbers that may help you with that issue (From Wikipedia)

    Composicion Etnica de RD.
    *73% Mestizos y Mulatos.
    (Mestizos - Mix between Indian Tainos and White ppl)
    (Mulatos - Mix between Black ppl and White ppl)
    *16% Blancos. (White ppl)
    *11% Negros. (Black ppl)

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  11. We got a big blend of races, we are not white, but we are, we are not mestizos, but we are not,we are not mulatos, but we are, in fact we are dominican we got no race we are a nation of different people around the world, we are proud of it, we always laugh and always be happy.bye

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    1. Well said. That is what I was trying to say - that being Dominican is what is important and what matters here, not the colour of your skin. I have never met a race so proud of who they are - and rightly so!

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    2. Yeah im proud of being Dominican and thats what matters. By the way, I saw your interview and i found fascinating the way you adapted the lack of comfort, i mean compare to what you use to know back in the UK.

      PS. Love your blog.

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    3. Glad you enjoyed the interview and the blog. I have adapted now more or less, some things are more important than electricity!

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