Let Us Learn to Unlearn

I won't ever forget the story that my mom once told me about how she got the scar that's on the side of her forehead. As a child, she once ran away from my grandparents' finca in Bonao, Dominican Republic, after encountering one of my grandfather's Haitian workers. You see, in the 1960s, Dominicans had long rationalized, internalized and passed on to their children the belief championed by el Generalísimo, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (among many others), that Haitians were the "other."

Tongue clicking, Creole speaking, children-eating witch-doctors, Haitians were non-members of our society which we ought to avoid at all costs. With this in mind, my mom ran for fear of her life. Yet tripping over her own feet and falling head first into the unpaved street, she scraped the side of her forehead, leaving a tiny mark for all to see.

I am not ashamed of my mother for what she, as a six-year-old, learned. Nor am I ashamed to admit that although she did not instill these same ancient, dehumanizing beliefs in me, I was cultured by a similarly backwards, racist and generally xenophobic (unless you're of European descent or a "gringo") society in the early 2000s. I am Dominican. And this is my story.

If only this were a post about how far mi patria has come.

I am sickened by the thought that today, thousands of Dominicans and Haitians face the threat of deportation from the DR because we have yet to unlearn these irrational beliefs as a society. We have yet to recognize that many of these men, women and children were born in the DR or have lived in the DR for most of their lives, despite their Haitian ancestry. Forcefully sending individuals who identify as Domicans to Haiti, because of the amount of melanin in their skin, is an injustice to which we cannot turn a blind eye.

These are our people, nuestros hermanos y hermanas, and to justify why our lawmakers should criminalize their residence in our home country negates every democratic principle for which our founding fathers, Juan Pablo Duarte, Matías Ramón Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, fought.

So compatriotas, let us learn to unlearn. Let us challenge these deeply-rooted and age-old racist beliefs which our lawmakers want to perpetuate. Let us teach our children compassion, empathy and respect, so that they may pass these values onto future generations, and combat the widespread racial ignorance which is plaguing our island.