Protecting Our Children From What?

Jose Vilson Jose 11 Comments

Santiago Flyer for Event

On Friday, our grade / floor celebrated Dominican Independence Day / Black History Month, through a series of performances, from song and dance to Powerpoint slides and poetry (including yours truly.) I wasn’t bothered at all by the performances or even the more pro-Dominican stance the school usually takes. It’s ingrained nationalism, and perpetuated by their insular neighborhood (Washington Heights, if you must know). What that implicitly means is a denial of their African roots, an unfortunate side effect of the white supremacist agenda of Rafael Trujillo, thus creating an identity of anti-Black or “as close to white as possible.”

Then on the flip side, I went to an event on Little W. 12th St. sponsored by La Raza (which colloquially translates to “The People”) entitled “A Dominican-Haitian Invasion”, and naturally, I was insistent on going. The mix of African dance, merengue, salsa, and zouk made for a good evening. I even got to meet the guy who invited me there (shouts to Santiago, a talented artist in his own right), and we discussed the Dominican-Haitian divide in brief. What really got to me in this outset was the anti-Dominican sentiment in the crowd, particularly because so many Dominicans were there.

I’m not often a centrist, and don’t always believe in compromise, but this, once and for all, has to have some finality. How can two countries that reside on the same island and have such a thorough history still divide each other even when so many of the proletariat look like each other? Even if that wasn’t the case, I find it annoying, especially as a descendant of both countries, that these countries can’t find a means of coexisting without continuing the ignorance on both sides. Yes, many Dominicans would prefer to curse me out than acknowledge that they have African ancestry, but there’s also the part where, during Haitian rule, many of the matters between the two sides of the island were mismanaged by the Haitian government. What will Haitians say about that? There had to be something awry for the Dominicans to beg Spain to become a colony again, and we can’t just point the finger at white supremacy.

Whatever the case, I just think about those countries’ histories, and this country’s history, too, and wonder if we’ll ever reveal to our youth more of the truth and understanding behind the revolutions that existed, and not the idealistic and grandiose images we paint for our youth, so when independence day celebrations come around, they’re not simply yelling and cheering shallowly, but at least make informed decisions about what they’re truly proud of …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 11

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  2. m dot

    to this day it’s the reason why i have no desire to capitalize on the fabulous-looking vacations to DR. i look at the pictures and all the eco-friendly, adventure options being offered, and for no other reason than the animosity shared on that island – one side for the other – that i’d rather spend my vacation money in a similar spot like costa rica or (sadly) puerto rico…

    i know, a trivial and selfish reason to reflect on this tragic divide, but it’s what resonates…

    peace

    3/14? latitude?

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    Jose

    m dot, that’s interesting. personally, i think the internal strife shouldn’t prevent you from visiting that country much the way that you shouldn’t not visit Puerto Rico if you think it’s just another American colony or not visit Colombia, Ecuador, or Venezuela because of the impending strife happening there now.

    MDC, yes, LuzMaria puts it down in the comments.

  4. Amauri T.

    I wonder if the source of anti-Dominican sentiment is the current situation between the nations as regards immigration; and I say current because people forget how rapidly tables can turn when talking about such fragile economies.

  5. luzmaria

    I have always been perplexed by the anymosity which exists between Haiti and Dominican Republic. It is unfortunate that it still continues and the younger generations are learning this behavior and “hate.” When i told my friends and colleagues about “The Dominican-Haitian Invasion,” their responses were mixed. Some people thought it was wonderful that this event was going to take place because it would be fun and a way for two nations to heal. Other reactions were of shock and surprise. It does not surprise me that people would have these reactions.

    It is a shame that this “hate” continues. That was evident in “A Dominican-Haitian Invasion” event because even though it was meant to bring Dominicans and Haitians together, there was an anti-Dominican sentiment present. Maybe the intention of the message was meant to be different but the delivery of the message left a bittersweet taste.

    Como siempre – Gracias.

  6. Ensayn

    I have always thought this was sad from the first I learned of the “hate” between the two countries. We may not want to scream “white supremacy” but we can’t forget the manipulation by the U.S. goverment continually. The sad thing is that at this point of our history we cannot recognize the root of the problem and move past it. We have enough information and knowledge. I personally think that Haiti is still paying for the defeat of Napoleon to this day.

  7. clyde.

    i think to say its race is a gross misrepresentation of the conflict that exists between these two countries. the dominican republic views haitians with no more animosity than the usa does mexico. haitians = cheap labour but many also see them as a degradation of their quality of life. fairly or unfairly this can be debated…..i can add many more facets to it, but im afraid that for those that have yet to visit either country it may just fly over. so its easier to blame it on one single minute thing….RACE! (that always gets a headline).

    ps
    just wanted to say that i enjoyed visiting your blog.

  8. Rosa

    Wow Jose, I wish I had known about this “A Dominican-Haitian Invasion” movement when I was in the city. Anywho, thank you for writing this and asking these questions. I just stumbled upon your blog so I don’t know what grade you teach, but given the complexity of the history between the two nations, I wonder what a curriculum that teaches this looks like. I would imagine information would be imparted in a way that allows students to formulate additional questions, hard and honest ones. I taught High School English for four years and I have a Haitian-Dominican son, so you got me thinkin. Thank you.

  9. Manuel Maicol Osorio

    Jose Vilson, the divide comes directly from the times of the abuse we suffered under Haitian rule and after that. The betrayal of 1801, 1808, the conquest of the Island in 1821 in the guise of ” ” helping the Dominican Republic, the 23 year war that last to free DR from Haiti, the betrayal of 1856, not recognizing the DR till 1874, Ulysses (1883-1899). The US plan for the Island after invading DR in 1915 and Haiti in 1916, the attempt to merge the Island in 1963 after the death of Trujillo and the reason wave of US/Canada/French push to merge the Island since 2009. Even though we helped Haiti with the Earthquake and open our borders (hospitals, airports, etc) we are still called evil, even though we have close to 1.5 million illegal Haitians who work. All these factors contribute to the rift between DR and Haiti from a Dominican side and will continue to make the situation far worse if these continue to push. Recently the Police Force and the Military swore to the President of DR, that they will fight for the sovereignty of the Dominican Republic to the death.

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