- Posted December 3, 2013 by
Dear Dominican people: aren't you truly Haitian brothers?
I decided to share the following story after reading a great number of outrage comments by many Dominican people followed JCLaurent's iReport on November 26th that is titled Haitian Man Was Lynched In The Dominican Republic (Watch it Live). Sadly, the truth is that cases like this often happen in almost every corner in the Dominican Republic and, lamentably, Haitian children, pregnant women, and women who have just given birth are not exempted. It is also well known that racism and discrimination against Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic are very institutionalized, leading to blatant violations of the fundamental rights of these people. From March-May of 2013, I was in the Dominican Republic doing fieldwork regarding Haitian migrants and their descendants. The accounts that emerged from my interviews recall horror and terror. This story aims to actually help readers question themselves and make their own judgments about the ongoing critical socio-economic conditions of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.
It was round 10 AM on May 6th of 2013, in Los Tres Brazos, the east of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, when I witnessed a feud between numerous Dominicans and Haitians. That day, I was heading to the house of a Haitian family that I was staying with for a few days. The dwelling of that family was makeshift made with cartons, wood sticks, old sheet metal, and old pieces of clothes used to overlay the countless holes that were on the metal sheet windows and doors. Later in the day, I found out that the dispute started because Anne, a pregnant Haitian woman, was walking to a food store to buy something to eat but spit on the street while a Dominican woman was walking on the other side of the road. The Dominican girl found it extremely disrespectful that Anne spit while she was also walking on the street. As a result, the Dominican girl waited for Anne to reemerge and then slapped her as she was coming back from the store. Anne fell on the ground where she tried to reach a rock, but the Dominican girl took out a knife from her pocket and threatened to kill her if she tried to do something. The Dominican girl also reminded Anne that she could do anything to her since Anne was from Haiti, and not in her own country. Helpless and with fear for her life and the life of her unborn baby, Anne went home terrified and told her family about what happened. The Dominican girl also called her family and friends. Both Anne’s family and friends and those of the Dominican girl started the feud that I later witnessed.
Three days later, Anne was still in hiding. In an interview, I asked her if she talked to any of the local authority about her situation, but she said no. The whole situation was confusing and distressful. How could a pregnant victim of such terrible aggression, facing a threat to her life, refuse to talk to local authorities about her ongoing situation? Anne told me that neither the mayor nor police officers in Los Tres Brazos take Haitians seriously when they are beaten up, wounded, or even killed by Dominicans. Moreover, she is undocumented and, thus, even more vulnerable. Anne then started crying as she told me that just at the beginning of the month a Dominican guy took off his shoes and hit her in her face with them. He beat her because Anne and a friend she was visiting were laughing and talking in front of her friend's house close to where the Dominican guy and some of his friends were playing dominoes. He asked Anne and her friend to “shut their mouth.” Anne responded by telling him that she has the right to talk and laugh as she wills. The man got angry and responded violently. Do not spend your time guessing. The primary reason Anne is exposed to flagrant aggression despite of her vulnerable condition is the fact that she is Haitian. Haitians are ugly; Haitians are poor; Haitians are devil; Haitians are uncivilized, Haitians are black and black are only Haitians. Haitians can therefore be treated inhumanly by their civilized, superior and white Hispanic Dominican brothers.
As said, Anne's story is one of many such accounts that I listened to and witnessed in many predominantly Haitian communities during my research in the Dominican Republic. I chose to share Anne’s story because it was particularly shocking and touching, given her own vulnerable status. However, there is an overwhelming number of such stories, which range from accounts of economic hardship and abuses by authorities to racism and the denial of legal documentation to Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitians descent in the Dominican Republic. It is important to note that the situation featured in JCLaurent iReport is not simply typical of Haitian men in the DR. Dominican people also target Haitian migrant women and Children. In 2006, Amnesty International—in an open letter about the deteriorating human rights situation of Haitian migrants in the DR by Amnesty International to the former President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez—highlights a long list of murdered Haitian men, children, and women. Many of the bodies of these women and children were either found burned, decapitated or cut into pieces by machetes/knives. So, if it's not now when should Haitian migrants and their descendants echo the cry for justice? The poor and the oppressed (Haitians) should always be the bugs for their supposedly Dominican brothers and neighbors to step on, right?
Check this out . Amnesty International’s letter. Letter to LFernandez. Regional Action Network: Dominican Republic: Human rights abuses against Haitian migrant workers and Dominicans of Haitian descent. 2006.