"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
As an African-American living in the Dominican Republic I guess I have a different take on the race issue here. As someone who has come to grips with the issue a few years ago, it disheartens me when I hear Dominicans of a "moreno" persuasion who feel they are less than there lighter Dominican brothers and sisters. But, I guess if I grew up here I could understand why. People with dark skin in this country are not considered beautiful. Dark skin is equated with the hated "Haitians," or even the dreaded Africa. I remember 2 draq queens arguing one night, and the whole thing was on color, the light drag queen was telling the darker one she was BLACK, ugly and dirty.
The elite and educated in this country are overwhelmingly light and of European (Spanish) ancestry, and that is how most of them want to keep it. If you read the society pages (as I do) of the Listin Diario, you wouldn't think there are any prominent people of color in this country. The amazing thing I find about this country (and most other Latin American countries with brown populations) is that people have been brainwashed to think there is absolutely no discrimination. When you speak with people privately they will most often than not tell you there is discrimination here, but nothing like in the States.
They just crowned a new Miss Dominican Republic, and true to form, she is a "white Dominican." There is nothing wrong with that, if that weren't seen as the ONLY form of true Dominican beauty. There has been but ONE brown Miss Dominican Republic, Ruth Ocumares. Same thing in Brazil, if you see there lineup of contestants you wouldn't know that there were brown people, indians and others in the country. I didn't know until a few years ago that 25% of the population of Colombia was of African descent. Living in NYC I thought all Colombians were Anglo and Indian, who knew.
The difference between the U.S. and most Latin American countries is that through education and determination you can be Oprah Winfrey, Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell. In most Latin countries, including the DR, you can be the most educated and brilliant at your profession, but it is all about who you know.
I do see change. In the years that I have been coming here I'm meeting more and more educated folk coming back from the States with a different perspective. Not that what is going on in the States is healthy with regard to race relations, but at least you know where you stand. A few years ago the New York Times did a series of article (for which they won the Pulitzer Prize) called "How Race is Lived in America." There is one story that stood out in my mind about 2 friends from Cuba. Both make it to Miami, but once there they get separated by the color line. The friends' story was followed for a couple of years. The Afro-Cuban thought they were great friends in Cuba, but didn't feel welcome around his Anglo-Cuban friends and family in Miami. And as he thought back to how he was treated by Anglo-Cubans in Cuba, it wasn't the racial uptopia he thought it was.
Unfortunately, this is NOT a situation that is unique to the Dominican Republic. This type of thinking infests most places in the world, even countries with predominantly brown populations. The lighter the skin, the better. I don't know what my point is, but it had been on my mind. This is just my arm-chair analysis of the situation. As always, KNOWLEDGE is power.