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Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a "bigot"?

 

Today I saw this comment on the Being Latino Facebook page under their post about Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s “Black in Latin America” special:

 

NALs: I find many of the responses made by Dominicans concerning the lack of mention of the Taino cultural/genetic component quite amusing. Not amusing in the sense an afro-centric probably finds them (the audience has already been inoculated in the video, thus any response from any Dominican concerning Tainos will be seen as proof of the denial). My amusement (fear is more like it, but this is more of a forced laugh to prevent a cry type of thing) is how ineffective the average Dominican is when rebutting false information. It makes perfect sense why so much bs has been spread of Dominican culture/identity with not much effective counterarguments.
 

Aside from not understanding that the audience has already been put on the ‘road’ of disbelieving anything a Dominican says regarding Taino ancestry/influence, its clear that most (if not all) don’t know a thing about Dr Gates.
 

Had they known that a few years ago Dr Gates did a series (can be accessed in the PBS website) titled “African American Lives.” In this series, he did DNA tests to various high profile African Americans (Oprah was among the chosen) and managed to develop their own ‘forgotten’ family history all the way back to slavery and what happened to their ancestors post-slavery. Well, Dr Gates also did his own personal story by taking a DNA test himself, and much to his surprise, most of his genes hail from IRELAND. In essence, Dr Gates is nothing more than a Mulatto. But the reason I mention this is because despite he having discover the truth about his genetic make up, the fact that he is MIXED, he did expressed on the show that he ‘envied’ many of the other African Americans who, apparently, had a majority African derived DNA.
 

Why did he ‘envied’ them? Shouldn’t a person who wants to know the truth about himself, simply accept what science, in this case DNA testing, has proven? Why would a mixed blood or Mulatto ‘envied’ other people for being less mixed than himself?
 

Furthermore, many months after the series in which he made public his own results, an incident occurred at his home when he was returning from a trip in which he was handcuffed by the police since one of his neighbors had called them, thinking he was a thief. Keeping in mind that he already knew he was of mixed ancestry, he insisted, apparently at the time screaming, that that was nothing more than an act of racism because he’s a “Black” man.
 

That he already knew his genetic reality, that he is not ‘Black’, but rather mixed or Mulatto; and despite his claims to adhere to the truth; it is quite telling that he insist on denying HIS REALITY.
 

Now, its not as if I don’t understand why he still thinks in such way, I’ve researched/compared and contrasted American identity structures vs Dominican and other Latin American types, and understand very well where the flaws lies when one group tries to judge the other without taking into account the very real, albeit often perceived invincible, cultural differences and points of views.
 

But, and yes, there’s a but; he falls squarely in the definition of denial. And there lies the amusement, a person whom himself refuses to accept his reality (the occasional lip service notwithstanding) and now wants to talk about other peoples ‘denial’ (his very obvious rejection or ignorance of essential aspects of Dominican culture comes to light from the very beginning of the documentary with the Cuban son being portrayed as Merengue) is a little, but just a little hilarious.
 

To conclude, I wasn’t expecting anything different, since Dr Gates reaction to the DR is practically a by-the-book example of how Americans of various backgrounds initially sees the DR. I am simply hoping that he forms part of a minority of Americans that do dig deeper into Dominican culture, beyond what they first scratched, and eventually, will come to terms with the reality of the Dominican people, identity, and heritage.
 

And since he did the usual American faux pas through what will be a widely distributed video, I hope he will do a follow up or a ‘revised’ version describing the REAL Dominican society, identity, heritage, etc and not the misconception that always arises when some people forget to take off their American goggles.
 

When you’re outside of the US, you can’t continue to function and interpret things as if you’re still in Kansas.
 

The Haiti part appears to have been well covered, but understanding where Dr Gates comes from (his mindset) and the ideals Haiti has represented since its inception, its really not much of a surprise.

  

I have to admit, this really took me by surprise!  I’m not quite sure where this comment originated, but it was copied and posted by another commenter onto Being Latino’s FB page.  I’m really stunned and upset by the lack of empathy here for the experiences of many in the Black community!  Being a person who’s studied Gates’ work and has had the pleasure of meeting him in person, I can’t help but be completely offended by these remarks about someone, who I feel, has done important work for African American studies! Yes, his research isn’t without some bias, but I could hardly say that anyone’s isn’t, especially in racially charged America!  To call him “mulatto” or “not Black“, simply because he has discovered that just over half of his ancestry is European, is an insult!  Yes, Gates may have felt some hesitation about his White roots, but perhaps it has something to do with the claims of people like this commenter, that he’s not quite Black enough anymore.

 

Let’s play dumb and forget the fact that he LOOKS the part and being so, will continue to be treated as a BLACK man…apparently, if you have even one drop of White blood, you’re not Black! I’m completely appalled that some individuals see his reluctance to claim his European ancestry as “bigotry” or “denial”!  Perhaps his reluctance is related to the outcasting from the Black community that often occurs, or it could be due to the White community assuming he has no right to complain anymore because he’s half white and racism must not affect him.  If he has any hesitation about his color, that is a result of the segregation and stigma that still continues in this country!  The man is NOT a bigot, he is a man trying to understand his history and dispel the stigmas that prevent people of color from accepting the deep tones of their skin, which are often portrayed as ugly and “evil” by the media.  He is a man that wants to bring pride back to Black folks by bringing their mostly UNTOLD stories to life.  I personally loved his PBS documentary African American Lives and I highly recommend that everyone watch it!  Ok, I’ve spoken my piece, but there’s so much more to say in future posts on this topic!  Please feel free to give your two cents in the comments.

 

 

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  • Ezzy Guerrero-Languz
    April 26, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I need to know more of what originated this comment. I'd also like to hear more about what you learned from studying Gates. Controversial and interesting guy.

    I doubt the commenter's intent was to attack and alienate. In airing their concerns over "lack of honesty/authenticity" in the retelling of history as it relates to Dominican culture, and people's willingness to accept it, their argument weakens by personally attacking the author's ancestry, or lack thereof. Defending against "something," by committing the same "something." I really don't get it. Maybe I'm missing something.

    And another thing. What group a person affiliates with has little to do with ancestry and more to do with ideology, I'm finding. I've met some great women lately who don't have an ounce of Latina blood in them, but who might as well be, and I love it. So much more that could be said surrounding this topic.

    Thanks for posting this, Chantilly. I've been off-line for a couple days and seem to have fallen behind on the news! Lots has happened.

    Hope you had a lovely Easter. : D

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      April 26, 2011 at 10:15 am

      I found the original comment, there isn't much more context there, but I understand the controversial nature of this documentary. There is a lot of favor in the story of Haitians over Dominicans. I think that for the most part the story is told accurately, however it is disappointing that more sensitivity wasn't shown towards Dominicans. I posted some more information to Facebook, I hope you'll have a look. I think I'm going to write another post about this.

      Good points!

  • Chantilly Pati&ntild
    April 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    The link to this original comment in a forum discussion on Dr1.com … http://bit.ly/gQQIHV

  • Flor Olivo
    April 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Wow I had not read this post yet. It's frustrating to explain something to someone that already has such a rooted bias. This comment sounds very educated but it lacks understanding. I don't think Professor Gates' intention is to alienate tainos or any other part of the Latin American experience. The title of his series is very clear. Black in Latin America. He is researching the history of blackness. I appreciate his work and like that he is bringing to light issues that make people uncomfortable.

  • Crabsy80
    May 11, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Personally, I think Gates’ thinking is dogmatic, and its hilarious to see his ‘street cred’ called into question. I saw that documentary, where he did the dna testing, and the fact he is shocked by his white heritage is ridiculous. If I remember correctly, he has like both of his grandfathers on there, and they are both obviously part white. I’m not talking, you need to look for it white… I’m talking no doubt ‘Feast of all Saints’ mixed. (period,btw). I guess getting arrested was his way of getting that cred back.

  • Crabsy80
    May 11, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Personally, I think Gates' thinking is dogmatic, and its hilarious to see his 'street cred' called into question. I saw that documentary, where he did the dna testing, and the fact he is shocked by his white heritage is ridiculous. If I remember correctly, he has like both of his grandfathers on there, and they are both obviously part white. I'm not talking, you need to look for it white… I'm talking no doubt 'Feast of all Saints' mixed. (period,btw). I guess getting arrested was his way of getting that cred back.

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      May 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      I love the research he's doing and I feel that his reaction to discovering his European 'ancestry' made sense. When you grow up in a black family that hosts a variety of colors, but no white relatives in the recent chain and very little family history to go on, it's a fair assumption. Thinking that someone would assume they have white heritage because they are light skinned is a bit on the ignorant side…in the same way that we can't assume that all white people with a tan might be somehow linked to Mexican blood. Our DNA creates genetic variations…a well-known fact, that often affects skin color. We'll have to agree to disagree.

    • Chantilly Patiño
      May 11, 2011 at 5:03 pm

      I love the research he’s doing and I feel that his reaction to discovering his European ‘ancestry’ made sense. When you grow up in a black family that hosts a variety of colors, but no white relatives in the recent chain and very little family history to go on, it’s a fair assumption. Thinking that someone would assume they have white heritage because they are light skinned is a bit on the ignorant side…in the same way that we can’t assume that all white people with a tan might be somehow linked to Mexican blood. Our DNA creates genetic variations…a well-known fact, that often affects skin color. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

  • Chantilly Pati&ntild
    May 11, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Same here. :)

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