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Op-Ed: U.S. Latinos Need To Speak Out About The Dominican Republic


Daniel José Older
BuzzFeed Contributor

As the Dominican Republic begins what has been called a “vicious, slow-motion pogrom” on black Dominicans and Dominicans of Haitian descent — stripping them of their citizenship and rounding them up for deportation en masse — I think of writer Gloria Anzaldúa’s words about living in the shadow of a border that crosses identities and shatters lives: “you are the battleground / where enemies are kin to each other; / you are at home, a stranger.”
These are still days of conceptual lines that become political lines, which are then militarized: the lines across which battles of life and death play out, now in slow motion, suddenly faster than a bullet. These lines crisscross our geographies and identities; they are both porous and razor-sharp, always unforgiving.
The Dominican government’s fear of blackness dates back to its Spanish colonizers and became a matter of policy under the dictator Rafael Trujillo, who murdered tens of thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic in 1937 and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Anti-Haitian sentiment became a rallying cry for some Dominican nationalists, a way to distinguish the supposedly more “European” Dominicans from their Haitian neighbors. That prejudice survived Trujillo’s genocide, however, and is now manifesting in the revocation of citizenship from anyone deemed by the state to be of Haitian ancestry, which translates to anyone viewed as black. As mass detention centers are set up, antiblack mob violence has been on the rise, including beatings, burnings, and lynchings. And since history does indeed rhyme, we must see these actions for what they have always historically been: the run-up to a massacre.
As I write, government buses are taking to the streets of Santo Domingo to detain and deport black Dominicans. With 1.5 million residents in the U.S., Dominicans make up the fifth largest Latino population in the country and the largest immigrant group in New York state. But some Latino news sites were slower even than mainstream outlets to acknowledge the ongoing crisis facing hundreds of thousands of Dominicans. And while a few Latino writers have spoken out (notably Junot Díaz and Julia Alvarez), Latino celebrities have for the most part remained entirely silent.
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