The DR's Dark Secret
Racism Against Black Dominicans Has Become Epidemic on the Island
By JULIO TAVAREZ
The New York Post (August 9, 2007)
August 8, 2007 -- When I read last week about the U.S. Embassy inthe Dominican Republic censuring Loft, a nightclub in the Naconeighborhood of Santo Domingo, because of the club's policy ofdiscrimination against black patrons and employees, it brought backsour memories of a recent trip I took to the island.
Dominicans are known the world over for our great baseball players,our beautiful beaches and our friendly people.
But there is something of a dirty secret that we sweep under thedrug. Racism against black Dominicans, rich or poor, happens everyday, and not just in clubs.
On my vacation, some friends I decided to check out a night spot called Tribeca, in Santiago. Apparently, it was the hot spot. When we arrived, there was no line. As we waited, people began lining up behind us. Slowly they were allowed in. We weren't. I asked a bouncer why and he said one of the owners instructed him not to let us in.
Puzzled, I checked our attire. We were dressed similarly to people being let in, so it wasn't what we were wearing. We weren't drivinga Mercedes, but we weren't rolling in a Hyundai, either - we had a decent ride.
Then, it dawned on me. It wasn't our clothes or our car. The only difference between the people that were given passage and us wasthey were light-skinned with European features while we were dark-skinned with African features. We were the wrong color.
When I told my friend, he just said, "That's how they are here,let's go somewhere else."
I was shocked. I had heard stories of people not being allowed intocertain places in the DR because of their complexion, but it hadnever happened to me.
I had heard the myth of the black Dominican baseball player who wasn't allowed in a club, bought the place and fired everybody.Stories like these are rampant, and seem like urban legends.
But this was no legend.
Acts of racism are commonplace in the Dominican Republic. Dark-skinned Dominicans have been told where they belong, and it seemshave accepted it.
Immediately, I began paying attention, as I do here in the United States, to billboards, television commercials and programs.Billboard after billboard featured not one dark face. In television commercials and programs, dark Dominicans were barely present andmost of the time weren't even shown at all.
It was as if we didn't even exist. In a country where more than 80percent of the population is mixed with an African descendant, onewould expect that at least some mixed-race actors would be used incommercials, but they don't make the cut, either.
The unrelenting oppression of African culture and the discrimination against those that are, either partly or fully, descendants of the African people, continue to pull our country deeper into depths of poverty, ignorance and despair.
Racism is nothing new in Latin America. The question is what are wedoing about it? Tego Calderón, in a Tempo column last year, wrote that we needed a civil rights movement for Latino blacks. I agree. We no longer can continue to sweep this dirty secret underthe rug.
Julio Tavarez is the director of the Passaic County Chapter of theLatino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey
National Institute for Latino Policy
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