Socioeconomic Racism in the Dominican Republic, Essay Example
Shriver an American politician and activist once said that “the root of racism lie deep in man’s nature, wounded and bruised by original sin” ( Shriver , ).There are many people like Shriver in the world that feed into this stereotypical belief that racn ism is a natural or biological attribute of mankind. The concept of racism varies among societies. An understanding and recognition racism root cause in its specific location is an extremely vital step in preventing its unfavorable outcomes. This may explain reasons for racism dominance in places like the Dominican Republic, which is ignored by international agencies. Int he Dominican Republic today, Haitian descendants (citizens with darker skin tone) are subjected to inadequate living conditions that violates their basic human rights. At the same time Dominican citizens (lighter skin tone) are busy denying any lineage they may have with their African Ancestry.
How did this emerge? What cause this economically induced racism and discrimination in the Dominican Republic? In order to answer this question, I will first provide a background of current socioeconomic influences of racism in the Dominican Republic. Subsequently, a discussion of two theoretical frameworks regarding continuous debates igniting racism in the Dominican Republic will be embraced. The first framework relates to a psychological mindset of stigmatization and its power to construct a justification for racism in the country. This framework also explores the power that provides Dominicans witdh the ammunition to cultivate anti-Haitian stigmatization. In exposing this power structure the next framework sides in pace. It relates capitalism strategies in Dominican Republic. This theory presents a rather capitalistic approach as to why socioeconomic racism developed in the Dominican Republic. Finally, in this paper an opposing view on racism in the Dominican Republic and how it began will be discussed. Thus, this study is expected to observe how capitalists’ desires for consistently large revenue drove an dependence on racism to flourish and survive. Ultimately, the creation of economical differentiation and uneven distribution of resources emerged. The influence of this phenomenon on socioeconomic racism in the Dominican Republic is immense.
Race in the Dominican Republic
Race is a social construction, which has various depending on the society in which it is defined.. In today’s Dominican society, many citizens of Haitian decent face harsh policies that strip them of their basic human rights daily. For instance, even though a Dominican citizenship is determined by birthright,“2000 people were deported from the country, primarily on the basis of ‘looking Haitian” (Baud 726-727). Moreover, note the phrase “looking Haitian” presents an unreliable and vague way for the Dominican government to measure the “degree of whiteness and blackness” of its population (Howard 731). As a nation of 90 percent “mulatto” population with a common Haitian African ancestry, the probability of someone being wrongfully deported is fairly high (Cabanatuan). As such, when someone talks about racism without first clarifying its context, it becomes a misrepresentation.
Therefore, a clear understanding of the elements defining and creating racism in the Dominican Republic must be explored. These elements include the substitution of “violence for power”, political and socioeconomic induced racism. However, this paper focuses on the socioeconomic form of racism in the Dominican Republic (Howard 729). Psychologist Hayesgave offered a general definition of racism meaning that it “refers to the belief that one race is superior to other races in significant ways and that the superior race is entitled, by virtue of its superiority, to dominate other races and to enjoy a larger share of society’s wealth and status” (Hayesgave, ). As general as it may sound there are certain aspects like the superior group enjoying a “larger share of society’s wealth and status” that holds true in the Dominican Republic today.
Since this paper makes references to socioeconomic racism specifically in the Dominican Republic, the definition of racism must also represent the Dominican Republic culture of racism as well. Howard, director of research at Oxford University defines race in the Dominican Republic contex as “a relationship between nominal groups competing for social, political, or economic resources” ( Howard,729). If truly this is the definition of socioeconomic racism then it is only logical that we classify all the poor living conditions in the “bateyes” as being subjected to inequality and socioeconomic racism. There is a wide gap between plantation workers and the natives . In some instances immense inequality and socioeconomic racism construction is dominant (Cabanatuan).
Furthermore, it is easy to misconstrue racism in the Dominican Republic as a skin color disparity. Tavernier in her article “The Stigma of Blackness:Anti-Haitianism in the Dominican Republic” puts it best when she stated that “skin color is used as a primary indicator” (Tavernier, 100) and so is any other physical human trait. They are not the causes of socioeconomic racism at least not in the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic population is very diverse. This diversity consist of mixed race due to physical characteristics such as hair texture. Sadly, these define “boundaries between Dominicans and Haitians” (Tavernier, 101). Thus physical traits are important when describing racism in the Dominican Republic. The mixed race population is about “90% Indio” or darker skin citizens, stereotyping. Discrimination just by color categories becomes tedious as it is difficult to recognize who is truly of a Haitian descendant.
Consequently, mistakes are very common as to where “some dark-skinned Dominican citizens have been identified as Haitian and deported to Haiti without being given the chance to prove citizenship” (Tavernier 101). The “Indio claros”(light skin) in the Dominican Republic aside from the large economical benefits, enjoy privileged rights and escape many derogatory terms targeted towards mulattos. Among these economic benefits is their unlimited access to job opportunities as cooperation’s only seek to hire Dominican natives over Haitians. This then limits the “upward mobility” of the Haitian migrants and their descendants (Baud 306).The Dominican Republic citizens make more income per day working on their own properties than the sugar plantation workers do in a month.
As such, the between these two groups with respect economic status and social life is widening. The inherited plantation culture created a wedge between the two groups that the Dominican citizens began to feel superior and authoritative over the Haitian plantation workers. This form of socio-economic racism has risen since the return of the sugar plantation in the 1900’s up to date. This study examines how and why the socioeconomic racism and economic differentiation experienced by plantation workers was used as a strategy by Dominicans to marginalized Haitians and their offspring in the society. What justification there is for them to subdue and dominate the Haitian migrants and their descendants?
Theories pertaining to factors initiating racism in Dominican Republic
- Racial Stigmatization
The inferiority complex or stigma towards Haitians is an embedded ideology in the psyche and identity of Dominicans. It appears as though this justifies socioeconomic racism. Tavernier, a Socialist and Psychologist has identified an ideological belief by which Dominicans excuse themselves for containing acts of discrimination against. They enjoy seeing them in Haitians utter poverty and disenfranchisement. She refers to this as Anti-Haitianism defining the practice it stigmatization that “combines a legacy of racist Spanish colonial mentality, nineteenth-century racial theories and twentieth-century cultural neoracism into a web of anti-Haitian attitudes, racial stereotypes, and historical distortions” (Tavernier, 90). Since there are many forms of stigmatization, various authors prefer to identify racial stigma as tribal due to its characterization of ethnicities. This anti-Haitianism stigma the author contends infiltrated the mindset of every individual in the Dominican Republic even the victims of this “tribal stigma” (Tavernier, ).
Tavernier further cited many mulatto citizens who were denying their relationship to Haiti and African ancestry when they visiting the Dominican Republic. These individuals claimed that “Dominicans are Indios not black. “ It seemed as though these comments emerged from fear of being stereotyped (Tavernier, 97). As such, Tavernier advanced that it was this anti-Haitian stigma that “enabled Dominicans to subject Haitian labor to quasi-slavery working conditions on sugar plantations” (Tavernier, 98). This quote clarifies the psychological ideology of stigmatization that excused acts of dehumanizing Haitian migrants subjecting them to harsh conditions on the Sugar Plantation fields. This argument by Tavernier is justifiable since the sugar plantation owners did not choose any other nation or people from whom to acquire cheap labor, but Haitians. This is so because to their knowledge of the long held stigma Dominicans held against them. General RafaelL Trujillo Molina’s reign as commander in chief from 1933 to 1961 was one of the many injustices that were executed by the anti-Hatianism stigma. Malek, Professor of History at the University of Alabama in his article about the effects of anti-Hatianism, reflects on Trujillo’s personal life with the aim of uncovering the impact of stigmatization in the lives of Dominicans. As a product of an anti-Haitian society, Trujillo grew up filled with innermost hatred and anger towards Haitians. Trujillo was mullatto who grew up in poverty and felt like the migration of the Haitians has reduced working opportunities for his people and thus sustained a deep hatred psychologically and emotionally against them.
He later in his dictatorship demonstrated the anti-Haitian stigma when by ordering massacre of over “ten thousand people” (Malek 141). Note here that the author used the term “people” instead of Haitians because as I stated before skin color is rather a vague indicator of one’s race especially in a high density mixed race nation like the Dominican Republic. Thus, many natives were mistakenly killed in the massacre. He also single handedly changed the Dominican history to omit any trace of their African ancestry and replaced it with myths of “Taino”/an Indian ancestry instead. By the time his reign came to an end in 1961, anti-Haitianism was already deeply engrained in the Dominican social, educational, political and economic systems. As a result, of this cultivated national hatred all of Trujillo’s injustices were excused and praised for being patriotic by the Dominican natives. The anti-Haitianism stigma in the Dominican Republic in a way/indirectly justifies any wrong doing executed may against Haitians. At the point where even killing becomes justified under Trujillo’s “dominicanization”, defined as the “justification” of Trujillo’s anti-Hatianism sentiments,” proved that this stigma possesses a strong power that tends to be underestimated by all (Malek 151).
On the other hand, it is very hard to believe that Dominicans, (the elites to be specific) just choose to burden themselves in deep stigma/hatred toward Haitians everyday of their lives for no particular reason, other than some mere historical excuse /tragic incidents, which occurred decades ago. Malek and Tavernier explain anti-Haitianism by highlighting several atrocities such as the massacre of …… Dominicans when they were under the Haitian government. However, the phrase “mere” historically excuses is lack of value or respect to history. Racism of any form is inexcusable under any circumstances. When hatred and deep anger is nurtured, eventually it becomes tiring. There has to be a reason/benefit that is gained from keeping up this “Anti-hatianismo” stigma daily. Moreover, Tavernier also supports the notion of stigma presented by authors Link and Phelan, which states that “stigma is entirely dependent on social, economic, and political power – it takes power to stigmatize” (Tavernier, 98).If indeed this anti-Hatianism stigma is truly reliant on socio-economic power, then that means that stigmatization is not the root cause of racism in the Dominican Republic: The system that creates this socioeconomic power is the main cause. So now the question is what system generates the power that encourages anti-Haitianism in the first place? The answer to this question is the main reason fo racism in the Dominican Republic.
Capitalism is a system that generates socio economic power needed to stigmatize and propel socioeconomic racism in the Dominican Republic. In order for any form of racism to begin, the perpetrator will have to feel a sense of power towards the victim and the victim will have to reciprocate this feeling with an inferiority complex. It is this power that allows one to stigmatize and perform many forms of injustices towards others. According to Mignolo, an “economic downfall can awaken feelings of pessimism and inferiority” (Mignolo, ) among people living in the Latin nations. It seems as though both Tavernier and Mignolo agree that the economy is an institution, which holds the power of propelling socio economic racism in the Dominican Republic. The system allows natives enough privileges to move up the class status.
As the economic system in the Dominican Republic, Capitalism is often thought of as an “economic system in which private actors own and control property in accordance with their interests, demands and supplies. They control prices on the market freely. However, the most brutal aspect of capitalism is “the motive to make a profit” (Jahan and Mahmud 44). Capitalists often exceed the limits in acquiring profits even if it means compromising their humane values or morals. Therefore, Sociologist Baud is correct in advanbing that capitalism is in fact the driving force behind the rise of socioeconomic racism in the country since the 19th century till today.
Baud presents an ongoing debate as to why owners of the sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic did not remove unskilled labor and invest in advanced machineries. Although the owners of the plantations argue that “investment in productive technology” is rather costly. It is no secret that technological advancements may be expensive currently, but pays off in the long run. It will speed up production and revenue will rise as a result. Any experienced entrepreneur/capitalist knows the benefits of technological advances in businesses, but judging from this quote the entrepreneurs in the sugar industry seem set in their ways to only employ unskilled labor (specifically Haitian immigrants). However, why is that?
Baud mentions that “Their preference for ‘racial exclusiveness’ was a conscious policy developed by the United States sugar plantation owners in order to maintain control over the labor force” and increase their profit margin. This also is “means a rejection of technological innovations which could endanger this segregation” (306). Note the word “conscious” suggests that the sugar plantation owners are intentionally rejecting technological advancement. The quote again suggests that having a permanent source of free laborers that owners can control is more profitable than investing in machineries. Thus, if the plantation owners are able to come up with a way to obtain this type of free laborers then they will not need to invest in costly technological advancements. This is where the “racial exclusiveness” policy comes into play. By coming up with this policy,one which segregates “native workers from entering the unskilled labor force” the owners can indirectly control their workers for a long period of time (Baud 302).
There are factors that contributed to the success of the racial exclusive policy generated by the plantation owners. First, the significant language and religious barrier between the migrant Haitian workers and the Dominican natives made it difficult for both groups to mingle and socialize thus, forcing them to isolate themselves from each other.This isolation also prevented the Haitian laborers from acquiring knowledge of any labor protective rights endowed to them by law. Had the two groups been allowed to socialize and work in the same environment, the natives will pick up on the unfair treatments by the US owners and cause “labor unrest and make wage demands” (Baud 306). Secondly, the owners had a consistentaccess to cheap labor all year round with no regard to the decrease or increase of sugar pricings. All these benefits listed above made investing in cheap labor more profitable than technological innovations. This reason makes logical sense than the one provided by the sugar plantation owners. If indeed it is every capitalist’s dream to have a “sufficiently large, cheap, hardworking and obedient labour force”, then it is only legitimate to view the sugarcane plantation as another propaganda or symbol of capitalism (Howard 302). Keep in mind also that this racial exclusive policy was not a new idea. According to Baud, South African mine owners used this policy to separate the white elites from the natives and it worked perfectly. This trend of thought corresponds to Grande’s concept of the United States using Latin America as a workshop for building their empire and testing their “tactics of extraterritorial administration” (Grande, 2). Therefore, one can imply that the racial exclusive policy was another technique used by the United States ways of testing their new agendas on a Latin nation. However, Tavernier in her stigmatization theory may argue that instead of the capitalism, it was the ongoing anti-Haitian stigma that “enabled Dominicans to subject Haitian labor to quasi-slavery working conditions on sugar plantations”. Meanwhile, she still agree to the belief that “it takes power to stigmatize”. If stigmatization truly depends on power then Baud’s capitalism theory outweighs Tavernier’s as economic status/money providing Dominicans with power to continuously stigmatize Haitians. Hence, socioeconomic racism depends on capitalism in order to flourish in the Dominican Republic.
Argument against capitalism as the main cause of the rise of socioeconomic racism
Although, it has been established that capitalism is the system that caused socio economic racism to thrive in the Dominican Republic since the rise of the sugar plantation in 1920, scientists still argue that racism is an inescapable biological construct. This they claim is because racism is a “natural human quality” which is inevitably influenced by the diversity in “phenotypes” (Hayes 1). They use the old scientific theories that describe racism of any form as an ideology in a form of “biological determinism, premised on the idea that different human populations (“races”) have different capacities because of their genetic makeup”(CENSCA) to support their scientific claim. However, what these scientists fail to realize is that skin color and other human physical traits is used as a strategy in the Dominican Republic to keep racism thriving. This means that racism would have been in existence before skin color discrimination began. However, the tool of racism and its cause are two distinct features or dichotomies. The history on the establishment of the Sugarcane Plantation and recent patterns of discrimination proves that the plantation is indeed the one and only thing that started and put in place racism in the nation. I also acknowledge that other things such as politics and religion played a role in the plague of racism, but the capitalism made the biggest impact and continues to do so. The Sugar Plantation is a settingof socioeconomic difference and violates the basic human rights in the country. Skin color and other physical traits are only for recognition. Before one can be racist towards their fellow human, they must have a way of recognizing the victim before they can act the part. The role of recognition is what skin color plays or serves in this situation not a causality.
Moreover, for the specific period and type of racism this paper is focusing on, the biological indifference. The argument is futile to make race diffidence. If the capitalist plantation owners did not exist that meant that there wouldn’t be a need for Haitian laborers. Also, it means that there will be no Haitians in the Dominican Republic for the natives to discriminate against, stigmatize and question their intelligence. Even if they did stigmatize it will have no effect on the Haitians as they are both living in different countries. Therefore, it was the migration of Haitians into the Dominican Republic that gave natives an opportunity to stigmatize and impoverish them.Hence, socioeconomic racism is not an inevitable biological construct it requires a trigger and that trigger happens to be capitalism.
The stereotypical view of racism as a biological/natural construct is detrimental to the solvency of racism. Understanding that racism differ in every society is significant in unearthing the true cause of racism. Since racism in the Dominican Republic began to thrive in the 1900s when United States plantation owners migrated Haitian laborers. It is very important that racism in the Dominican Republic be viewed from a socioeconomic standpoint. The study of socioeconomic racism causality theories such as stigmatization/anti-Haitianism and capitalism facilitates clarify and uncover features that provoked racism in the Dominican Republic. The stigmatization theory presents a psychological view on how racial hate develops.But because stigmatization is dependable on a certain power to function it fails to be the main cause of racism in the Dominican Republic. The capitalism theory on the other hand, presented a racial exclusiveness policy which proved to be a more logical cause of socioeconomic racism as it is the system that creates the socioeconomic power that stigmatization depends on. Therefore, capitalism is the root cause of socioeconomic racism that exists in the Dominican Republic today.
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