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"Black in Latin America": Dominicans vs. Haitians?

A lot of people are talking about Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s PBS series, “Black in Latin America” and it’s portrayal of Dominicans.  I have to agree that the story is pretty one-sided, so I can understand the upset that has come about following the documentary.  Throughout the film, Gates makes references to Dominicans as believing they’re not black, trying to “whitify” their history and viewing themselves as superior to Haitians.  In a sense, Dominicans are playing the role of white folks in the U.S. (the oppressors) and Haitians are depicted as black folks (the oppressed). Many would argue this as an accurate portrayal and one that can’t be denied anymore than the black/white relationships here in the U.S.

 

Or perhaps the issue isn’t quite so “black” and “white”, but at the same time, it’s also true that Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is out to tell the story of Black oppression in Latin America, and I think he has successfully brought attention to a topic that we skirt around often.  These generalizations can cause some to view Dominicans in an overall negative light though, point taken.  Perhaps finger pointing doesn’t really further discussions on the topic in a productive way, but at the same time, I can relate to Gates’ anger and resentment toward the mistreatment of people who embrace their African roots, one that I’m sure many Haitians share.

 

Please, view the documentary for yourself and form your own opinions.  There was most definitely some bias, but his being a man who makes it his business to bring our struggle to accept African roots to light, I think this perspective was an important one to both tell and hear.

 
 

 

 

 
 

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  • Flor Olivo
    April 27, 2011 at 4:40 am

    Hey Chantilly thanks for posting the link to this I’m watching it as I do the laundry. It is very obviously biased but doesn’t everyone have a biased. Also viewed from an American black man’s point of view these issues can be very different. There is no denying racism and skin tone prejudice in our Latin American communities though and I think that is what Professor Gates is reporting on. We don’t hear this counter-story often, actually I don’t hear people reporting or talking about this AT ALL. I appreciate his work and his historical depiction of problems that white supremacy has created. If we view this critically we should get to the root of the problem not blame individuals. This is an obviously systemic problem not the Dominicans or Haitians problems but problems with systems that oppressed people of darker shades. People can get mad and renegar all they want. The truth is the truth. Racism exists. The only way to break it down is to break the silence and be brave enough to speak on these very real issues.

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      April 26, 2011 at 11:46 pm

      Really great comments Flor! I agree with you and I think that it can be hard to hear the truth, especially if it shows us to be in the wrong, but it's so critical from growth and change to occur. I'm glad you've gotten a chance to view this and the next episode about Cuba aired tonight. I'll post a discussion and video link once it's posted online. :)

  • Plumwalk2
    May 21, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Chantily, I love your blog. It is both timely and needed. I recently wrote a post inducting all white Mothers with black children into the African American Mother's Association. This association of course is symbolic. I just wanted the  bi-cultural or bi-racial Moms in our school distict to know they are not alone. They now share the same fears that African American Moms have always had for the safety of their children. It is one thing when the child looks white, but when there is no mistaking the child for anything but black, he has no choice but to embrace his cultures and prepare for the rough ahead. Mom must understand the differences even in the child she created and herself, because the child's route and options in life are inherently quite different from hers. Sometimes, what bi-cultural Moms see as the "runaway train" personality in their children (boys especially) is in reality just a little Barak or Martin trying to find his way.  

  • Niurka Garcia
    May 24, 2011 at 9:21 am

    He needs to realize that Dominicans are not only Black but of mixed background as are other latinos. I personally  feel they should bring  up the topic about different countries and not finger point at one country only.

  • Glenn Robinson
    September 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I found the documentary informative.

  • Anonymous
    December 25, 2012 at 7:21 am

    It is very infornative work. Nevertheless there are many pieces left out. It is a fact thay most haitians are more mistreated and discriminated in Haiti than they are in DR. Anybody can realize it by speaking with any regular haitian.

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