Africa Speaks Reasoning Forum

AFRICA AND THE DIASPORA => Haiti => Topic started by: News on April 23, 2014, 12:03:39 AM

Title: The DR’s racist politics
Post by: News on April 23, 2014, 12:03:39 AM
The DR’s racist politics

By Rickey Singh
Apr 23, 2014

FOR all the outcry, the Dominican Republic (DR), which is seeking to join the Caribbean Community, seems bent on perpetuating anti-black racism, particularly in relation to its citizens of Haitian descent. At least 240,000 of these people have been rendered stateless by a ruling of its constitutional court last September.

Ironically, the ruling of the DR’s court had resulted from an appeal by a DR-born woman of  Haitian descent—Juliana Deguis Pierre—against the decision of a lower court in 2012 that rejected her claim to DR nationality and for protection from the country’s constitution.

Since then, despite strong concerns expressed against the ruling by the European Union (EU) and Caricom—it having been earlier denounced by the Inter-American Human Rights Court—the government in Santo Domingo continues to show contempt for public opinion by failing to take any action, such as new legislation, to effectively address the problem resulting from the contentious ruling.

While the Haitian government of president Michel Martelly seems too overwhelmed by  domestic problems to seriously engage the DR government, both Caricom and the Organisation of American States also appear to lack the commitment to lean heavily on the DR to correct the obnoxious ruling.

Among Caricom leaders the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, has been outstanding in his interventions to expose the racist dimension of the ruling and implications for both Caricom and the European Union (EU) to carry on “business as usual” with the DR. 

Prof Norman Girvan was vigorously involved in coordinating  regional responses against the ruling before his death following a fall in Dominica.

A new challenge has now emerged to both the Haitian government and Caricom from Reginald Dumas—the highly respected retired head of Trinidad and Tobago’s public service and former diplomat, currently a commentator on social and political issues in the Express.

Mr Dumas chose the occasion of the 14th memorial lecture in honour of the Grenada-born West Indian legal luminary, Sir Archibald Nedd, to focus attention on his topic of choice: “State-Revoked Citizenship—The Case of the Dominican Republic and Haiti and its Implications for Caricom.” The distinguished lecture series is a sponsored project of the Grenada Bar Association.

Having outlined the origin of the DR court’s ruling that resulted from the initiative of the courageous  Juliana  Deguis Pierre —Mr Dumas disclosed quite pertinent information and raised questions that both Haiti and Caricom should address—perhaps also the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the EU.

For a start, his observation that as far back as 1991, on a visit to the Dominican Republic, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had become aware that DR citizens of Haitian descent were “being denied their documents on the basis of race”—the basic documents being ID card and birth certificate, the former having to be revalidated every 90 days, without which the citizenship certificate “will not be issued”.

It is relevant to note that this official practice was maintained for decades and when personnel of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited the DR again in 1997, they noted an “increase in this discrimination”.

In the face of Dominicans of Haitian origin being categorised as “in transit persons”, the Inter-American Human Rights Court felt obliged to rule that the phrase “in transit” meant a short period of about ten days, not several years, as is the prevailing experience. Further, it ruled that the migratory status of parents could not be “inherited by children”. Instead of the expected amendments the DR’s supreme court ruled that “intransit” could be  interpreted as “absence of legal residence”. That bit of legalistic chicanery expediently changed the argument from “length” of stay to “legal validity” of stay.   

Mr Dumas raised some critical questions about the positions of both Haiti and Caricom. For some months, he lamented, the Haitian government kept behaving as if it “wished the whole thing would just blow away...” 

Well it hasn’t. The situation has worsened as has been recognised by the EU, Caricom and the OAS, with serious implications for fundamental human rights. Mr Dumas, in his effort to influence movement from words to action, chose to remind Caricom of its Charter of Civil Society.

He would also be aware that, inspiring as the lofty provisions are in that Charter, it lacks legal status since no member state of Caricom has enacted legislation to make it enforceable.

We need to hear from Caricom and its member state Haiti, about when they intend to act in shaming the DR government into changing a racist law that has resulted in rendering stateless so many thousands of people. Nor should it be business as usual for the EU in its relations with the DR government.

After all, the DR is a member of the Cariforum group of states (Caricom plus DR) that have institutionalised business relations with the EU.

• Rickey Singh is a noted Guyana-born, Barbados-based Caribbean journalist (

Title: Re: The DR’s racist politics
Post by: Nakandi on August 07, 2014, 12:00:17 PM
A conversation with Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz.

In a landmark ruling, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court last September stripped an estimated 210,000 individuals—most of whom are Dominicans born to Haitian sugar cane workers—of their citizenship, effectively leaving them stateless. The ensuing outcry from the international community has included Junot Díaz and Edwidge Danticat—two of the best-known contemporary authors from the island of Hispaniola. Friends for over 20 years, Danticat (from Haiti) and Díaz (from the D.R.) have been relentless in their condemnation of the ruling. In a written exchange moderated by Americas Quarterly production editor and Haitian-American Richard André, Díaz and Danticat discuss the roots and legacies of racism and conflict in the neighboring nations, the impact of the court’s ruling, and the responsibility of the diaspora to build bridges between Dominicans and Haitians and defend human rights at home and abroad.

What do you think most Haitians/Dominicans don’t understand about the other side?

DIAZ: Depends on who you’re asking. Some folks on the D.R. side know a lot more about their neighbor than others. Some Dominicans are in fact descended from said neighbor and might know a thing or two because of it.

Yet there is no question that there’s not enough real contact, and that the anti-Haitian derangements of certain sectors in the Dominican Republic have helped to widen the gulf between the two nations, and have made it harder for our communities to be in fruitful communion except through the most reductive, divisive, and—on the Dominican side—sensationally racist generalizations about one another. But if I have to answer you most specifically: [neither side understands] we’re sisters and brothers, that we share a poor, fragile island, and that without true solidarity we won’t make it.

DANTICAT: I agree that it has a lot to do with who you’re asking, and also where you are. There are many mixed families, of course; and in many places on the island, people who grow up in close proximity to one another are practically indistinguishable physically. There are also a lot of people who understand that we share a common struggle, and especially that poor people on both sides of the island are battling similar types of detention and immigration policies in the diaspora. Perhaps we need to hear more about these people. Often in the dialogue we bring up our historical scars, but not our historical bridges. Because our neighbors are solely defined by what they did to us, rather than what we can do together.

That being said, I think some—certainly not all—Dominicans have a very limited, almost stereotypical idea of what a Haitian person looks and acts like. And it often has to do with the people some are most prejudiced against: the people who work in the bateys [sugar plantation towns]. When I used to travel to the D.R., I would have to spend the first 15 minutes of a lot of conversations going back and forth with someone trying to convince me that I’m not really Haitian because they feel they know what a Haitian is supposed to be. I know many people who never left Haiti and who’ve also had that experience. It is grounded in a kind of inflexibility of sorts; an inability on the part of some to see us in a variety of ways: as neighbors, friends, allies, and as brothers and sisters in both a looser and broader sense.

What role, in your opinion, does history play in the way the two nations interact?

DIAZ: Quite a lot. But for me to say simply that “history plays a role” without at least trying to examine the hard facts of what actually happened would only serve to obfuscate both the complexity of the situation and also the profound culpability that the European and North American powers bear in Haiti’s immiseration and in the conflict between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

History indeed plays a role in what you’re seeing today. But it’s a complex, multivalenced history that involves former dictator Rafael Trujillo and genocide [against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent]— a history over which looms the predations of Europe and the U.S. and Haitian elites and, yes, the Dominican Republic.

There’s no question that many Dominican elites have historically deployed a metaphysics of Haiti-hating to curry favor with the colonial powers and also as a way to modulate all manners of internal contradictions within the Dominican state (and as a way of consolidating power through nationalist practices). But the Dominican Republic’s tortured history with Haiti can never be understood in isolation from the larger histories of the colonial powers that helped initiate the D.R. into the metaphysics of Haiti-hating in the first place.

Full interview: