Dominicans and Race

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., editor-in-chief of The Root, host of the PBS series Faces of America, and author of Black in Latin America explores racial dynamics in the Dominican Republic, where he was surprised to find that Dominicans do not consider themselves black. 


Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Comments [29]

DTorres from Nathan Straus Projects

Aljazeera Witness Show, televised
an interesting program on the topic
of Haitians vs Dominicans.
How Haitians born in DR are not
granted birth ceritificates & are
routinely denied basic human rights,
in DR.


Stateless in the Dominican RepublicDominicans of Haitian
descent are struggling with government discrimination in the only country they have ever known.

Aug. 18 2011 01:56 PM
Harlan Barnhart from Queens

Hey Martin from Queens, you don't have to wait to live in a world where you don't check the "race boxes". I decided that was silly as a southerner (rural Georgia) at the age of 16 and I haven't done it since.

When my daughters were born I was amused to find the form for birth certificates includes a section to determine "race". Why is NY state collecting this data? I felt like I was living in Nazi Germany.

When faced with "race boxes" I employ one of two strategies: mark it as N.A. (not applicable) or select OTHER and write in HUMAN. My daughters are registered with NY state as humans.

Aug. 17 2011 08:43 PM
rose-ellen from jackson hts.

Everytime he's on the air he makes sure to tell the world about how white he and now his children actually are.His racism against arabs was blatant and unapologetic when he went to africa and lo and behold he found eastern africans bragging to him about their arab ancestors. He was so irate at one point on the PBS documentary of his trip there,he throws up his hands and unabashedly expressed his contempt of arabs with the words;"Everything[these africans say] is about how they're arabs, soon they're gonna say that the sun comes up in the sky because of arabs". That people there did not share in the american anti-arab racism and bigotry but rather expressed a view that having arab ancestry was a noble and good thing ,blew his mind. He could not contain his anger that a view he held to be universal [arabs as evil] was here reversed,Instead of acknowledging that the world and its' peoples do not all subciibe to the american narrative around race or ethnicities ,he could not see beyond his own biggoted american lens.He fits the stereotype of the ugly american in my book. How dare the world not conform to Americas' narrative on race, etnicity etc.?

Aug. 17 2011 05:02 PM
Martin from Queens

Gates is just a racial opportunist who gets paid by fueling racial division and thinks that the world's problems will be solved by whipping out a DNA kit and telling people they are 13% black or 10% white etc. Watch his PBS series to see his "science" at work. At one point he was on the street in Mexico looking at clearly predominantly indigenous-background Mexicans and asserting that they were part black based on their facial features. Whether they had African ancestry or not, his "method" was offensively idiotic and he showed an utter lack of basic knowledge about indigenous (Native American) people, even failing to recognize their physical features. In the same vein, he referred to Taino Indians on today's program by incorrectly pronouncing their name as "Tay-No", while belittling their importance to the history of the Dominican Republic(and the Caribbean in general). Gates is like the faint echo of the eugenics-minded pseudo-scientists of a century all echos, he will eventually fade away. Likewise, in time, we won't be subjected to continuing attempts to divide and categorize human beings...I await the day when we will no longer be compelled to choose between absurd check-boxes to "select a race".

Aug. 17 2011 11:46 AM
ray jarvis from Columbia Md.

The first time I was called the "N" word was by cousin who had recently immigrated to the U.S. from the D.R. This puzzled me, due to my own racial confusion ( biracial parents) and her being much darker than me. I had the nerve to think I was American.

Aug. 17 2011 11:46 AM
john from office

Fuva, hello to you too.

Aug. 17 2011 11:42 AM

Thank you Dr. Gates for addressing this issue so eloquently and thoroughly.
I wish Puerto Rico had been included in this research, although I understand your limitations.
I was born and raised in NYC and both my parents are from Puerto Rico.
We are brown skinned and coursed hair and the African influence is so obvious, as well as traces of other groups i.e. Indiginous, European, etc.
I have always been aware of the denial of any African influence and it saddens me. When I speak Spanish to anyone from the Caribbean they look at me as though I just dropped down from Mars.
I don't mean to slam the PR's or DR's but I have to say it is who I experience
the most ignorance regarding race, and I experience this when dealing with "black" latino/caribbeans as well if not more so.
People will proudly announce that their Grandma was from "Spain" (just as there was a trend here in the USA with people pronouncing being 1/5th "Indian" ) or in resent years people will embrace their Indiginous roots but rarely, if ever do I hear some one embrace their African roots.
I don't even like terms like negra, negrita, negro, etc which are considered terms of endearment, I call it terms of racism and our racist legacy.
It also saddens me how universal this tendency is. All immigrants who come to USA already know to distance themselves from the blacks especially the darker skinned people.
I'm not saying that we should not embrace our European, Asian, Indiginous, etc roots but there is something wrong with jumping hoops to DENY the African.

Aug. 17 2011 11:17 AM
Lisa from Union Square

I understand Dr. Gates' concern about identity, but he is not interpreting the true essence of the Dominican Republic. What he is describing is an elementary understanding of our culture from the 1960s. This is 2011. Young people know their background and celebrate it.

Of course there is an undertone of racism like in other countries (which is unacceptable). The paradox is that we are of mixed race. But we can find this same phenomenon in the US.

Dr. Gates needs to explore the deeper layers of our identity and not simplify it with words like "Indio".

I'm surprise he did not explore the meaning of "Negra" a term of endearment in the Dominican Republic. When a love one calls you Negra it’s like heaven!

Aug. 17 2011 11:14 AM
Brian from Hoboken

I respect Dr Gates' analogy about excavating our racial heritage. My question is: right now you can "excavate" and find 2 or 3 "pieces" but how important is this pocess when there are 7 or 8 or more? In another generation, many Americans will be able to identify a half dozen European country origins, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. At what point do we just forget about this mish mash and move on? My daughter is Irish German French Scottish English, and Turkish. Why should she worry about embracing any one of these origins? For what end? Who cares?

Aug. 17 2011 11:09 AM
Gregory from The Bronx

As a white American, 1/4 Cuban, married twice to Dominican women, I feel compelled to say that we Americans who are not African-Americans often tolerate and remain silent when people such as Dr. Gates issue the twisted conjecture and rantings of those who suffer from pschological inferiority complexes, but to listen to the speaker seeking to spread his diseased blanket view (something black people resent when then same is done to them) on what I know from extensive personal experience a beautiful people free from such social combativeness the kind of which African-American "leaders" shamelessly enjoy slinging, well, it just burns me up. Do Dominicans a favor, Dr. Gates, leave them alone.

Aug. 17 2011 11:07 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

So, we finally get a better read on "john from the office" and the mechanisms at work therein....

Aug. 17 2011 11:05 AM
Laura from Brooklyn

Being black means you have dark skin. It has NOTHING to do with anything "African". Go to Europe and have dark skin... you will be called black. People just need to realize that we should be proud of who we are as INDIVIDUALS. As a race of HUMAN BEINGS.

I can't wait till all of humanity is so mixed that race will not matter anymore :) that will be one awesome day.

Aug. 17 2011 11:01 AM
JR from NYC

I find it interesting that Dr Gates said we must embrace all of our racial identities when in the US people who have an ounce of black blood choose, or are "chosen for" to identify exclusively as black.

Aug. 17 2011 11:00 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

It's the black inferiority complex that is the absurd and unfortunately widespread problem.

Aug. 17 2011 10:59 AM

I'll keep it brief and simple:

-The term "indio', as it is used in DR, does not mean indigenous or of Native Amerindian ancestry. It is basically a catch all term to describe people who are neither fully or predominately of European or African ancestry. In other words, someone who is mixed, which is what the great majority are to varying degrees. Genetics has proven that Dominicans are in fact a people with a tri-partite heritage, both cultural and genetically, there is no confusion there, American identity politics do not apply.

Aug. 17 2011 10:59 AM
Robert from NYC

Absolutely correct. And it's always the black identity that is either put to the back or even completely erased. This is a long historical problem and needs correcting. It's still VERY tough to have dark skin and kinky hair. You are so correct.

Aug. 17 2011 10:59 AM

I have been told that I was not black my entire life. I moved to an almost all white school and I hit by the fact: "Holy god, I am black and I never knew"

Aug. 17 2011 10:56 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

John, Haiti is indeed a mess but are you are telling me the Dominican Republic is some sort of paradise, compared to Haiti - probably.

The DR is still a very corrupt, extremely poor country. Most Dominicans are either black or mixed with black - Your culture is heavily African - your food, YOUR MUSIC.

Aug. 17 2011 10:56 AM
john from office

The laughing is offensive, doctor Gates.

Aug. 17 2011 10:55 AM
john from office

Who is this guest to laugh at how people identify themselves??

Remember Negro, afro american, black, now african american.

Aug. 17 2011 10:53 AM
Arias from New York

Glad he's on. Race in DR is a lot more complex, though, than this discussion suggests. Also, the host asks how two countries so similar can be so different. Well, what about France and Belgium? Ireland and England? England and Scotland? Egypt and Sudan? Pakistan and India? We could go on and on. Racism and white supremacy, as well as nationalism, are at the root of the DR/Haiti opposition. But Dominicans' views of race are pretty complex. Just read real Dominican writers or spend time in the country (especially outside Santo Domingo) and you'll see.

Aug. 17 2011 10:53 AM
john from office

Interesting when a person discribes himself as a scholar!

Aug. 17 2011 10:50 AM
Jackie from Manhattan

Please please please ask Dr. Gates to explain his seeming obsession with taking DNA samples of his Black subjects all over the world in order to trace their "lineage." Does he not consider this to be a throwback to biological--as opposed to social--constructions of identity?

Aug. 17 2011 10:50 AM

How are fair skinned people viewed in Latin America and Dominican Republic. Are they coveted more on the dating and marriage scene than darker skinned people.

Aug. 17 2011 10:49 AM
Robert from NYC

Actually we ALL didn't watch Anderson Cooper every night. And more of us know that DR and Haiti share an island. Stop being presumptuous and pompous.

Aug. 17 2011 10:48 AM

Please ask Mr. Gates to discuss the decendants of African Americans (free people/families) to Hispaniola in the early part of the 19th century. They went and settled in Samana.

Aug. 17 2011 10:47 AM
john from office

Sheldon, you have half of an island that is a mess and African oriented and the other half that has an actual functioning society. The proof is in the pudding. It is a spanish culture, influenced by many other cultures.

Aug. 17 2011 10:43 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

That sadly sums up many a Dominican view - delusional, paradoxical, and paranoid.

Aug. 17 2011 10:38 AM
john from office

Mr. Gates brought with him all the bagage from being african american. I am Dominican, saw the show and did not agree with his views on Dominicans and race. He seems offended we have a European view of the world and ourselves not an african view.

We have a viable society, Haiti is a mess.

Aug. 17 2011 10:10 AM

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