Good Afternoon World Wide Web! Today is a great day! We are closer to perfection than we were yesterday. Indeed we are. I want to begin by sharing a personal, true story. This story is one of many that began to give shape to a reality that I truly lived and learned something that before this milestone I really didn’t understand the dynamics of its reality. It took place about 5 years ago. This is based on a real life event so I will skew names just to protect the persons involved. After the birth of my daughter; I’ll call my daughter Kaitlyn. I was invited to a then long time friend of mine’s house who is Dominican. For anyone not familiar I will place some definitions in this post to give you as much of a visual as possible. Let me begin by saying that I am not trying to attack Dominican culture, I am only trying to bring awareness and speaking from a true personal experience.
I entered the gathering with my daughter “Kaitlyn in hand. The music and food were awesome! There was great reception among the people who knew that I identify as African-American and there were some who weren’t as open; which was o.k. After about an hour or so of being there, I was comfronted by a woman, who identified as Dominican. She asked me, “Who’s baby is that, that you have?” I smiled and said, “This is my daughter Kaitlyn.” The woman, I’ll call her Emma gasped, “hhhhuuuuhhhh!” She almost scared me. “De verdad!” She replied to me in spanish. This means, “For real?” I replied,” yes she is.” I looked at Emma almost confused because she knew very well that my husband was Mestizo and from Central America. The disbelief was the beginning of my awareness. I tried to soften the blow by beginning to mention my husband. Emma says, “You still with the Mexican?” I told her, “Well yes, but my husband is from Honduras” Emma continues to dig the hole, “Well Mexico, Honduras; they’re the same thing!” I gave a blank stare. Emma; “Well how is it that your daughter looks like that?” I reply to Emma, “What do you mean?” She goes on to talk about her two daughters and how her grandmother was “white” and her husband’s grandmother had long hair like another guest. I replied, “Well that’s nice.” I have to admit, it took me a few moments for the light to turn on but then I realized, that after her series of questions, she really identified me in her mind as though my family had migrated from Africa yesterday. I honestly looked at her, before becoming more mature and thought, “She’s “blacker” than me.” What I’m saying is that Emma’s skin was much darker than mine. If she didn’t open her mouth and speak Spanish I would consider her just another “black” woman. I have to give you a visual so that you can better understand. You see, Emma and her husband were Afro-Dominican.
Afro – Dominican is a Dominican of African descent. Most Africans arrived to the Dominican Republic came to this land from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century because of slavery. Most of them came from West and Central Africa. Currently there are also many black immigrants, particularly Haitians, which can be included within of the Afro-Dominican community, if they were born in the country or have Dominican naturalization. Afro-Dominicans are the majority in the country, being mainly mulattos. -Wikipedia
Emma and her family had beautiful rich melanin content, and her hair texture was what I would identify immediately as a “black” or “African-American” woman, and so was her husband and daughters. My heritage is also pretty interesting, but I didn’t feel the need or thought it would be useful to go down my entire lineage so that she could understand my racial dynamics. I thought, “Is she really asking me this?” As I looked around the room I saw every “race” and mixture under the rainbow. I got a crash course in that visit of the racial dynamics within the “LATINO community. They also have a very common acceptance of “Other” or “mixed” children, because this was their reality. “Other” or “mixed” children to them are typical to be Latino. Just as long as the children came from 2 people who identified as Latino. It is very similar if not worse to that of American culture, in my opinion. I even mentioned the incident to my husband who wasn’t there with me and he said, “All Dominican’s are “black.” Even my husband, whose appearance is that of a typical LATINO; “Indian” or “Mestizo” carried some similar racial bias.
I have to admit, I’ve heard the “she looks hispanic” or “she has indian in her blood” and the long list of others to try to explain race and cultural relations. What I found in that visit was an unwillingness from a racially black, culturally Latino women-Emma that my Kaitlyn who has a typical look and mixture of a “mulatto” from her own country, simply because I identify was “African-American.” This is also one of the long list of occurences that birthed in my heart the need for my children and others like mine to have their own identities and not be shoved in or out of a culture or race for an unwillingness to accept their uniqueness and symbolism of unity.
I imagine that this takes place in MOST ETHNICITIES. Mainly because an ETHNICITY is not a RACE. It just a group of RACES or RACIAL MIXTURES that celebrate a CULTURE. I’ve included some definitions for anyone from the eastern hemispehere or just not particularly familiar with the countries I’m mentioning.
Dominicans (Spanish: Dominicanos) are people inhabiting or originating from Dominican Republic. The majority of Dominicans reside in Dominican Republic, although there is also a large Dominican diaspora, especially in the United States, Puerto Rico and Spain. The population of the Dominican Republic in 2007 was estimated by the United Nations at 9,760,000.— -Wikipeidia
As elsewhere in the Spanish Empire, the Spanish colony of Hispaniola employed a social system known as casta, wherein Peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain) occupied the highest echelon. These were followed, in descending order of status, by: criollos, castizos, mestizos, Indians, mulattoes, zambos, and black slaves. The stigma of this stratification persisted, reaching its culmination in the Trujillo regime, as the dictator used racial persecution and nationalistic fervor against Haitians.
According to a study by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, about 90% of the contemporary Dominican population has West African ancestry to varying degrees. However, most Dominicans do not self-identify as black, in contrast to people of West African ancestry in other countries. A variety of terms are used to represent a range of skintones, such as morena (brown), canela (red/brown; literally: “cinnamon”), India (Indian), blanca oscura (dark white), and trigueña (literally “wheat colored”, which is the English equivalent of olive skin), among others.
Many have claimed that this represents a reluctance to self-identify with West African descent and the culture of the freed slaves. According to Dr. Miguel Anibal Perdomo, professor of Dominican Identity and Literature at Hunter College in New York City, “There was a sense of ‘deculturación’ among the West Indian slaves of Hispaniola. [There was] an attempt to erase any vestiges of West Indian culture from the Dominican Republic. We were, in some way, brainwashed and we’ve become westernized.”
However, this view is not universal, as many also claim that Dominican culture is simply different and rejects the racial categorizations of other regions. Ramona Hernández, director of the Dominican Studies Institute at City College of New York asserts that the terms were originally a defense against racism: “During the Trujillo regime, people who were dark skinned were rejected, so they created their own mechanism to fight it.” She went on to explain, “When you ask, ‘What are you?’ they don’t give you the answer you want … saying we don’t want to deal with our blackness is simply what you want to hear.” The Dominican Republic is not unique in this respect, either. In a 1976 census survey conducted in Brazil, respondents described their skin color in 136 distinct terms.
As always, I sincerely appreciate your time and attendance. If you can identify, live in, or love someone who checks “OTHER” or is outside of 1 box, please show your support my liking @wecheckother on facebook and twitter. Thank you! Until the next.