Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Critique on Miami Herald Article on Dominican Racial Discourse

In college, I was going to write my senior thesis about the Development of the Current Racial Discourse in the Dominican Republic. However, due to lack of time I was not able to finish my research. Through the years I have been able to expound upon my ideas about the subject and will contribute some published material on it soon. Below is an analysis in response to an article written in Miami Herald by Frances Robles, a Cuban. This is the start of many of the topics I will tackle in my own understanding of the subject.

This is a piece to inform ourselves on the immediate history of original peoples from the Dominican Republic. When understanding the issues of race and ethnicity within this island, it's interesting to analyze the actualization of the divide and conquer tactic, best described in the 7th degree of the 1-14, a degree that describes how original peoples now belonging to different nations/tribes lost the connection between each other, resulting in the belief that they are different.

http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/afrolatin/part2/index.html

The Miami Herald, a newspaper circulated all over South Florida, the Caribbean, and Latin America, which is owned by the McClatchy Company, a publishing company that started off with the Sacramento Bee mostly funded with money made during the California Gold Rush by the McClatchy family, which brutalized thousands of original workers, has recently published an article entitled "Afro-dominicanos pugnan por su identidad." Most of the information in this article is problematic and misleading due to the manipulative use of historical background to display Dominicans' anti-Haitian sentiments and the continual negation of a Black identity.

In the first section of this article, Frances Robles states that the Dominican Republic has been the only country in the Americas to have been liberated from a black colonial government. How can this be a colonial government if the abandonment of the few French that were in the island, left no riches, and hardly any weapons to make it possible for the Haitians to invade and control the Dominican Republic? More importantly, if Haitians established a colonial government in the Dominican Republic, what were the characteristics of the oppression imposed by the Haitians? He uses this event as one reason Dominicans are anti-Haitian and associate blackness with Haitians without furthering his research as to why this event is used to promote anti-Haitian reactions. He makes no mention of the interests Juan Pablo Duarte was serving when he was trying to "free" the Dominican Republic from the Haitians.

Frances Robles also says that the fall of the plantation economy in the Dominican Republic allowed for former slaves to rise up within the society. In turn, this allowed a mixing of the race. Although he does not deliberately state this idea, this is preliminary assumption that proceeds in the development of the next point. The previous point implies that the Dominican Republic is now visibly a "whiter" nation who then becomes dominated for 22 years by the Haitians, a visibly Black nation. Robles questions a scholar named Manuel Nuñez who gets to the next point of the journalist by saying, "the problem is the Haitians developed a policy of black centrism and…Dominicans don't respond to that." To use such a statement assumes that Haitians already tried, most likely violently, to impose a black identity upon the Dominicans who, in turn, rejected it. Does Frances Robles really understand what happened when Haiti and the Dominican Republic united? This statement also assumes that Haiti and the Dominican Republic had the same slave systems but the manifestations of Blackness and slavery occurred differently in the Dominican Republic. This can be justified by the statement Frances Robles makes in saying that the fall of the plantation economy in the Dominican Republic allowed for the slaves to now be in the same rank as their previous owners. He does not provide the historical difference in racial discourses originating in slavery and colonial rule. Thus, has Frances Robles done extensive history of slavery in the Dominican Republic? Does he understand the fundamental differences of slavery in Haiti and the Dominican Republic? When he says, that Haiti governed the Dominican Republic, does he say that they helped Dominicans abolish slavery on that side of the island? Does he make note that Haitians helped in the independence against the Spaniards? Did he research the centralization of the Dominican population in Santo Domingo, which left virtually, the rest of the island unpopulated?

In other parts of the article, Robles makes mentions of the different classifications as supplementary prove of the Trujillo regime as being the sole force in promoting anti-black sentiments on the island. Throughout the Trujillo regime, and later on, the Balaguer government become the focus in the promotion of strong anti-Haitian, and thus, anti-Black sentiments throughout the population. I wonder whether Frances Robles, thoroughly researched the complex topic of race and identity in the Dominican Republic. Distinguished scholarly work, such as that of Silvio Torres-Saillant and other Dominican scholars, show a big influence and collaboration of the United States in disseminating anti-Haitian feelings to the Dominican people. The research also sheds light to the close relationship of United States imperialist policies in the Dominican Republic and how anti-Haitian sentiments were used as a tool to further control the island economically and politically. Furthermore, has Frances Robles researched the interests of more well-off Dominicans and industrialized nations, like the United States, who wanted the Dominican Republic to be separate from Haiti? Has Robles looked at the favoritism the United States had when implementing clever, but exploitative policies unto the Dominican Republic for purposes of economic advancement, and using race as a tool to advance the disassociation against the poorer and "blacker" side of the island: Haiti? In the article, there is no mention of the accomplice acts of the United States government with Trujillo (a puppet dictator they themselves help put into power) to control the racial and ethnic history of the island. Trujillo, at one point, hired the best historians of the country so they a new racial discourse would be written and taught in the schooling system of the Dominican Republic. United States publications regularly had statements on the whiteness of the Dominican Republic juxtaposed to the blackness in Haiti. Instead of focusing on these important concepts of Dominican racial discourse and history, he decides to focus on daily examples of the denial of blackness, which just adds to the depictions of Dominicans as enraged racists.

It is disturbing to read the many measures Dominicans take to negate any relation with blackness, such as getting screamed at on the bus because the hair is not hot-combed and blow dried, without noting that this is the psychological and social impact anti-blackness rhetoric throughout the island has had on the Dominican population. Frances Robles makes no note of this. Instead, he quotes important researchers like Ginetta Candelario and Ramona Hernandez who do not really talk about the effects in the psyche due to the negation of Dominican blackness, but rather describe the denial of blackness and the actions taken due to this, as a nationalistic manifestation. He is truly manipulating the research of these two scholars to prove an invalid point. The point here is that Dominican nationalism is based on a negation of blackness. While this is just one point in the complex spectrum of Dominican racial and ethnic discourse, does he even make mention, when he interviews Juan Rodriguez Acosta, curator of the Museum of the Dominican Man, that the whole purpose of the existence of the museum is to help in the promotion of the term "Indian" as the proper national ethnic identity and that the museum was established by Trujillo? No, he does not and instead focuses on the desire of the curator in wanting to change the current situation.

He ends the article in a very negative light by describing anti-Dominican sentiment by an African-American who visited the Dominican Republic and was criticized for standing in the sun for too long and was even told that if she wanted to study origins of Africa-ness that she should go to Haiti to do that. The journalist posed this experience without giving it a proper background. Is he aware of the essential difference between the racial history in the United States to that of the Dominican Republic?, where in the United States the direct negation of you as a person or even human for being black, leads you to a more rapid association with blackness, or a black movement for that matter. Does he understand that the Dominican Republic did not experience segregation like in the United States? These are differences he does not take into account when evoking the essence of the experience of an African-American in the Dominican Republic. Was Dawn Stinchcomb even aware herself of the racial and ethnic historical discourse in the Dominican Republic? Like any scholar, before traveling to a country to do research on a certain topic, one must inform oneself of what's already been written in regards to that study.

The article was based on some adequate information. The problem lies in the misuse of the information, which supposes a quarrel between two countries without extensive historical background. The writer uses bits and pieces of information to consolidate his argument without giving a proper context that can validate his point. By not providing information on the involvement of the United States in the dissemination of an anti-black discourse, by having limited knowledge on colonial Haiti & Dominican Republic, and by simply stating facts of self-hatred in the Dominican people without stating these as psychological and social results/conditions of anti-Haitian/Black sentiment, the author is not providing the whole truth, therefore, distorting the argument about anti-Hatian sentiments on the island.

Peace!

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