Are Dominicans Black?
About a week ago, a reader asked me for advice about being considered "too black" or "not black enough..." My response is below.
My Advice? F*** them.
Too many problems that need to be fixed out here; your time is too valuable to spare. Don't waste it on analyzing and helping the haters too. They don't matter. Lead. Lead and let them learn from your example. Work from your heart, that is all that counts. Besides, in the eyes of the oppressor: niggers are niggers. There's no difference to them and there shouldn't be a difference amongst us either but our own people insist on perpetuating the enslaved mentality that was engrained in our ancestors... Let your work be a strong enough example that it reprograms the minds of your peers. Let your actions speak for themselves. It's not your job to prove yourself to anyone. You don't need validation. You just need to find your passion and focus on living in your purpose.
Then a few other DMs came in along the lines of the same subject, followed by a comment in which one of my readers said, "that's not how genetics work..." Sadly, race is not based on GENETICS, it's man made....
I've been reading, "The Color Complex" by Cole, Wilson, and Hall and grappling with these ideas for about a week. Then, I was hit with it straight on by my students today:
"My father is Dominican." I answered my students the same way I always do when someone asks, "What you mixed with?" ... "Oh, we thought you was white because you got that good curly hair." I was offended, until I remembered I hadn't taught them that there is no such thing as good hair, yet. "Good hair? What's good hair?" I gauged. "That's what white people have!" A raspy-voice echoed above the others as it chimed in with, "So wait, Ms. Clay, you not even Black forreal..." I didn't know what to say. I've been spending all of this time teaching them their history, our history, and they still don't know that Black is Black?
I remembered, people telling me I shouldn't be at an HBCU during my freshmen year at Morgan State because I was "Spanish". I also remember feeling like a "token-negro" who only got into Hopkins for my Masters because of affirmative action, being that in every one of my classes, I was the only person of color. I remember family members calling me a half-breed. And I especially remember my mother telling me that my father told her, he "did not want a Black baby..." right before walking out of our lives to never meet me or see her again. But still I am not black? Or not black enough?? If this was the 1600s I would be- without a question!
Right here in the US, in order to keep the children of African women who were raped by their white masters, enslaved, no matter how light they were when they were born, a law was passed that said: children must take the racial status of their mother - my mother is Black. What would that have made me? Black. If we applied the "one drop rule" what would that still make me? Black. But far too many Dominicans like my father, and many other Hispanic groups, were and still are hell-bent on maintaining the purity of their three-tier social class as "Indios" or "Trigueños" or "Mulattos" or "Creoles" in a two-tiered society that only sees "Black" and "white"...
I couldn't even get into the discussion about "good hair" with them after that. All I could say to them was: Before I am Dominican, certainly before I am American, I am Black. The difference is in language, not in roots and not in shades of skin color.
But the best advice came from one of my mentors who, too, is Dominican:
So... I'm going to continue defining myself after talking to her. Hopefully, anyone who reads this does the same.