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 …