Despite being part of the 90% of the Dominican Republic population with black and mulatto ancestry , racism is a daily conflict in Dominican Republic. From your curly hair to your darkened skin, all the way up to your “french-sounding” last name, you are viewed and depicted as a “Negro” or “Haitiano” by the same Dominican people that are descendants to those enslaved African men and women that came from western Africa.
It is popular knowledge in the social Dominican culture that those who have a light skin tone, straight hair or facial structures that resembles European colonizers are considered to be “white”. Me being a Senior Medical student I have learned in the studies of Genetics two very different concepts: Genotype and Phenotype. If a person has a “European fenotype”, it doesn’t mean they have a pure “European genotype”; this is also applied vice-versa.
The Genotype is a set of genes in each person that encodes specific characteristics in an organism or individual. The Phenotype are the physical or observable characteristics in an organism or individual. This means that although I can be a tall, blond, white, blue-eyed female with facial characteristics of a European, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have a pure European genealogy.
During the eight years I spent between elementary school, middle school and high school, in Dominican Republic, I was taught about our colonial history and learned about the different cultures and mixtures that our country eventually adopted from the native Tainos, the invasive Spanish colonizers and the estranged African slaves. I learned that there was mating (weather voluntarily or non-voluntarily) between Tainos and Spanish, African and Spanish, and the offsprings that resulted from those unions were mating between other offsprings and so on, resulting in a new dictionary for the then “Hispaniola” that conformed the so-called “System of colonial breed” created by the Spanish colonialists.
Mainly there were three racial pillars:
- Mulatos: Those who came from a union between a European white parent and an African black parent.
- Mestizos: Those who came from the union between a European white parent and an Indo-american parent.
- Zambos: Those who came from he union between an African black parent and an Indo-american parent.
The result of the union of those offsprings and the next generations, were then given other classifications of the System such as: Castizo (Mestizo & European white), Morisco (Mulato & European white), Chino (Morisco & European white), Salta atrás (Chino & Indo-american), Lobo (Salta atrás & Mulato), Gíbaro (Lobo & Chino) and the other 7 more classifications.
There has been no racial census made in Dominican Republic since the 1960’s, but the recent actualization of The World Factbook has estimated that 73% of Dominicans are a mixed race, 16% of Dominicans are white and 11% are black. This translates to a 73 out of 100 Dominicans aren’t white neither black; they are the mixture of different ethnicity, not belonging to a particular one.
The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute has a Research Monograph made by Silvio Torres-Saillant in 2010 called “Introduction to Dominican Blackness” where it is confirmed that 90% of the Dominican population has black African ancestry.
Then, why am I considered white because my skin color is light? Why are my friends are told to brush their hair better because they wear an afro? Why are my friends with last names like Philippe, Hervé, Saint Marc are considered Haitian or Black?
The thought of seeing “gringas” and other European women (and hell, even latinas!) wanting to enhance their lips, butts, bosoms to make them bigger or wanting darker skin by recurring to tan salons or injecting themselves with Melanotan or even wanting to imitate the curly hair look with a Perm makes me sick to the stomach, because us Dominican women are denying our black ancestors characteristics while women who don’t have them are spending thousands of dollars trying to obtain them.
We Dominican women are trained to protect our skin from the sun by using small umbrellas on sunny days, or using “whitening” creams to lighten up our skin. We are also trained to get get our African coarse and curly hair “relaxed” as a quinceañera’s gift since having an afro is not “aesthetic”, “pretty” nor worthy of a lady. It’s common between Dominicanas to want to have blond hair or blond highlights; more than a personal taste or preference, I see it as a subconscious preference for white European attributes.
Our Dominican society has come to a point were “negro” is a bad and derogatory word, and the ridiculous and funny part is that you can see a mixed race Dominicano saying “negro” to another mixed race Dominicano without realizing that even though one of them has a lighter skin tone, both of them have African heritage.
There are even some night clubs, bars and restaurants that forbid the entry of dark-skinned Dominicanos or Dominicanas with afro hair which is, again, absurd with the fact that the same ones that are prohibiting, are the same ones with a mixed race tagged on their Dominican ID since they are “Dominicanos” or “Dominicanas“.
So, we see these gringas getting tanned in the beaches of Punta Cana, but we choose to lighten our skins with skin bleachers. We see these gringas getting perms and their hair braided, yet we choose to straighten it out with relaxers. We see these gringas getting butt and breast implants but we choose to deny our African physical attributes and say we are “blanquitas”, “morenitas” or “indiecitas”. We see these gringas flaunting their french-sounding last names, but we choose to discriminate and point out those we have them.
Here is a message to you Dominicana and Dominicano: The more you “whiten” your skin, the more you “relax” your hair, the more you deny your African heritage, the more you say you’re “white”, the darker your “Negro detrás de la oreja” turns; because every time you discriminate someone “black”, you’re discriminating your great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers, and mostly yourself.
What a shame, what a shame.