Why This Dominican Says #NoDomRep

I still cry as I am driven to the airport after my stay in the Dominican Republic comes to its end. It is the one place that has a distinct smell of home for me. It feels different on my skin. The sunsets used to bathe me in a shade of red I have yet to see stateside. The scent of the rain on the pavement still brings pictures of children running in the streets dancing. I ache for that island. And yet... I learned about racism on that island. As I spent my summers there as I child, I learned about what hate looks like. I learned how people that had little treated people that had nothing. Mami and Papi would recount wrongs that they had seen, sometimes by family members. A young trabajadora (house worker) being mistreated or abused. A day laborer being made to work throughout the day without break or food and water. It always made me sick to my stomach.

The Dominican Republic shares the island with Haiti and history shows that one side invaded the other long ago. Sadly, the hatred that Dominicans feel for Haitians is always right below the surface. Haitians have migrated to the DR for decades. And yet, they have always been seen as lesser than. It's self-hatred, in my book. With a population of over 70% of the island mulatto, it's difficult to argue that Dominicans carry African blood. If my sister is indeed NOT adopted and the 23 And Me DNA test she took is correct, we can see that in our blood.

But that's not general knowledge. Most Dominicans still attest that they are white or Indian (by the way, the DNA test showed zero indigenous blood though I'm sure others will argue theirs does). And the government assists in this delusion. In my Dominican passport the line on race reads: Indian. I kid you not. My mom's and dad's read the same.

Why does it matter?

Let's skip through the historical timeline. Let's not talk about the close to 50,000 Haitians that Trujillo, the dictator that ruled the island for over 30 years, killed in the Parsley massacre. This man literally went around the countryside and had his henchmen kill Haitians in order to "cleanse" the island. With bayonets and machetes. Now, let's  not forget that there are black people in the Dominican Republic. And seeing as you can't really truly tell the difference 100% of the time, it's safe to say that many Dominicans died on that October day in 1937.

It was called the Parsley massacre simply because the word "perejil" (parsley in Spanish) is pronounced different by those that speak creole. That R doesn't sound the same. It is a flatter sound as opposed to the trill sound you might hear when a native Spanish speaker says it. As much as it pains me to say it, my daughter, who can't roll her r's as of yet wouldn't have made alive out of that test.

Why the history lesson?

It is 2015. And there's a new type of death being distributed by officials on my island.

Until 2004, all children born in the Dominican Republic enjoyed a constitutional right to Dominican nationality, thus many children of Haitian migrant born in Dominican Republic were recognized as Dominican and, as such, provided Dominican identity documents. [1]

Makes sense, right? If you come here from, let's say DR and have a child, your child is a U.S. citizen, no? Pretty clear, yes?

But that kind of changed.

The Dominican constitution states that anyone born in the country is just solis. A citizen of the republic. Except for that small percentage of ambassadors and dignitaries that were on the island temporarily or in transit.

In 2005 the Inter-American Court ordered that the DR recognize citizenship of two girls born in the country in accordance to its own constitution. Well, 10 out of the 13 justices of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal decided to up and quit because they did not like the ruling.

In 2012 a new tribunal was inaugurated in the DR and...changed things up a bit. That little loophole for folks in transit got ripped open. In it the Dominican Republic can now fit well over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. Anyone born after 1929 is at risk of losing their citizenship. That's what, 4 generations?

So, I'm supposed to sit up here and tell you guys about Tamir Rice and McKinney and Trayvon and this is supposed to fly under my radar?

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

And I am a firm believer in that quote. I have read of people with their citizenship in question going and filing papers as they were told and then hearing nothing back. Of overcrowded offices with little to no attention being paid to those that are there looking to resolve their situation. Of murders.

With children being born in the countryside, sometimes by a midwife and without being issued a birth certificate, there's no clear and cut way to resolve this issue. No clear cut way to weed out the Haitian from our blood. That's the truth.

You know what else is truth? That as much as it pains me, there's no way I can step foot on my island until this is resolved. No way I can hand over my dollars to a country that insists on being oppressors even as their own people are oppressed outside of their country! Come on, son! Really?!

(translation: if Dominicans living illegally in the US had those same politics that they're applying to Haitians applied to them, then they'd surely be crying)

I agree with Marien. I am angry at this situation. That this doesn't make the news (but really, if black folk stateside have to fight to make the news then, what do I expect for the overseas people?).

I don't know how far my voice will carry. But I read this statement and I can't help but be moved to action:

“Everything,” the aid worker says, “is set for the deportation and that the DR government is saying it is going forth on this Tuesday, June 16” [2]

I think about my island. And how kids are taught early on to associate "bad" with "black". Here's what Manuel Barcia says in his op-ed:

Discrimination against the Haitians and their descendants in the DR is nothing new and starts from early childhood. A recent study carried out by the TV show “Con el consumidor”, concluded that Dominican children [Sp] of between 4 and 13 years of age were more likely to associate evil, ugliness, and poverty with black rather than white people. 

Let that sink in for a second. Papi came to this country in the late 60's and got called a mulean by the Italians that he just "knew" he'd be friends with since his grandfather was Sicilian. It was taught then and by some of the ignorant and oppressive comments I've seen, it is certainly taught now.

Dr. Manuel Vargas, professor of anthropology at Rollins College back in the day used to say "I didn't know I was black until I came to the U.S.". People didn't understand how that was as they stared at the dark skinned man wearing an Afro. And I know that to be true. I was lucky. I had an extra set of parents (common on the island, if you're extra lucky) and I learned very early on about the association of hate, bad, poor, wrong to the color of one's skin or the texture of one's hair. Because Papa was black and so were my sisters. Mama and I were light but some of that side eye came my way what with this "bad hair" of mine.

The self-hatred is why Dominicans are so good with those blow outs, don't you know?

Because we have spent decades attempting to blow away the African in our blood and in a few days, we get to do another social cleanse. I bet Trujillo is smiling from his special cage in hell.

As for me and mine? I say #NoDomRep until this situation is resolved. These issues are deep rooted but I think we can make a difference. The one way I know how is to speak up. And to speak with my dollars. I hope you'll join me and Tweet your message of support out with that hashtag.

While finalizing this post, I read that concentration camps have been built in the DR in order to handle the pending expulsion. Just in case you thought I might be blowing this out of proportion.

[1] A Crisis of Nationality: Dominicans of Haitian Descent [2] We Regret to Inform You That in 4 Days You and Your Family Will Be Deported to Haiti

Additional reading material: Haitian man apparently lynched in Dominican city amid rising tensions Dominican Republic’s New Naturalization Law Falls Short Haitians in the Dominican Republic in legal limbo Stateless Dominicans Still Face Fears of Deportation