When Racism Isn't Just an American Phenomenon
Having grown up in Brooklyn where there was constant derision of Haitian immigrants and their family members, I have always experienced the difference in being Haitian in New York City—one of the predominant melting pots in the United States. This experience, though, has existed as a global experience and for many.
Currently, there is a grave situation facing Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. Dominicans of Haitian ancestry born in the Dominican Republic after 1929 are being stripped of their citizenship barring them from attending school and acquiring jobs in addition to many other basic human rights. The Dominican Republic has stood by this decision despite public outrage and intends on going on with their plan. Notwithstanding the dangerous implications of statelessness, there are racial undertones in this human rights abuse that cannot be ignored. The same emotion that motivated the teasing as a child in elementary school, the fights of Haitians versus Jamaicans in high schools all over Brooklyn, and the need for a Haitian Student Association when there was already a Caribbean Student Association in college is the same sentiment motivating the expulsion of Dominicans in their country: neglect, misunderstanding, cultural hierarchy, anti-Blackness and its association with the nation that is closest in culture with Africa. The Dominican Republic has a history of wanting to “lighten” their country (see Trujillo’s regime) and this sort of racism has continued to inform policy in the country. Racism and anti-Blackness, as long as it exists will continue to impact the institutions and structures of countries worldwide. This is not an isolated systemic attack on Black people. This just happens to be the flavor of the month—excuse my brashness and tinge of resentment but Haitians/Haitian-Dominicans/Dominicans of Haitian descent have been going through this for far longer than we care to admit. The attention that exists now must persist in order for change to occur.
There are questions of immediacy and there is also the discussion that must be had about how racism manifests in different countries worldwide. What happens next? There has been a free concert in Haiti, protests on the island and demands to boycott vacationing to the Dominican Republic in the United States. But what occurs when these people have no recourse, no government to protect them and nowhere to go. Many have begun their journey to Haiti in fear of what awaits them in their homeland. Others are choosing to stay and fight. What happens right now, at this very moment?
In the long-term how do we address the psychological impact of racism? How do we cleanse policy and institutions of the perpetually, deprecating insistence of anti-Black hatred? How exactly does a group of people (Black, White, Hispanic or otherwise) address a conditioning that tacitly consents to the degradation of an entire race? I need answers because I surely don't know.
Please note: Reference to the Dominican Republic as a country is specific reference to its government and its policies, not to individual citizens of the country.
Please also note: Haiti is the shit.
Ruth Jean-Marie is a recent graduate of New York University where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Global Affairs with a concentration in human rights and international law. Dedicating her life to the alleviation of misery around the world, her greatest goal is to become a superhero. Her interests include fashion, equality for women and Black people--that real equality, not the surface level stuff, traveling around the world and writing. She's excited about life and intends on living it. She also has a mild obsession with shoes, shopping and sharing her opinion. You'll hear all about it. Follow Ruth on Twitter at @lesocialnomad and on Instagram at @lesocialnomad and @toharrietwithlove.