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Same Races, Different Faces In
“Black vs. White” is not a story only seen in the United States of America. It is a problem which has, and still continues to plague many sections of the world. This problem, in many instances, goes beyond a stereotypical belief that the battle is fought due to cultural differences. What does this mean? Factors which unite such as religion, culture, and political beliefs, play no actual part in unity in this scenario. Cultural differences do play a certain part, but does not take ‘center stage.’ Now, what happens when you add a third “color” in there? In the United States people of color are many times classified as a group, minorities. In other countries, colors play parts rather than a stringent line of division. A country which can bring this problem into a closer scrutiny is the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is a small country which shares an island, in the Caribbean, with Haiti. 95 percent of the Dominican Republic is Roman Catholic, the other five is made up of Santeria, Episcopal, and Voodoo. Three color groups which people fall into, in the Dominican Republic are white, tan, and black.
The book, La Presencia Negra en SantoDomingo by Carlos Andujar Persinal, gives accounts about certain incidents, customs, and beliefs that cause rifts among the different color groups in the Dominican Republic. According to this reading, the hierarchy that exists due to color consists of the whites on top, followed by the tan, and at the bottom the blacks. In the Dominican Republic, white Dominicans control 73.5 percent of the country, while the tan control just a ‘bit’ more than the blacks. If religion, most political views, and culture are very similar what causes this dilemma? In Perfil de Dos Naciones en la Espanola, by Jean Ghasmann Bissainthe, this same question is presented. Small groups from the color groups were asked to give their opinions on the other groups. The answers given dealt with serious stereotypes that stigmatize these color groups. For example: some said blacks were savages, tans conformed to both groups, and the whites were greedy and power hungry. Later on in the book another sample group goes on to express feelings of disgust just because of the difference in skin tone. Many sources try to explain why people would think another group of people are bad even if their cultures are similar and views on pretty much all of life are similar. Brehm and Kassin’s Social Psychology Third Edition give the concept of Ingroup Favoritism. This concept is defined as the tendency to discriminate in favor of ingroups over outgroups. The whites could know nothing of the tans, the tans could know nothing of the blacks, the blacks could know nothing of the whites, and vice versa, yet because they are different groups will discriminate in order to promote their group. People will try to enhance their self-esteem by discriminating against others and having a sense of belonging to a group. This concept, according to Brehm and Kassin’s Social Psychology, is called Social Identity Theory. Again, the groups could know nothing of each other, but could possibly be so discriminatory just to boost up their self esteem.
Excuses are a very popular form of discrimination, due to color, in the Dominican Republic. In Masso’s work, (an Inwood/Washington Heights, N.Y. neighborhood pamphlet) popular excuses for discrimination are as follows: White ? Both blacks and lighter skin blacks are from Haiti. Tan ? Blacks belong in Haiti and the Whites are all European. Black ? Both Whites and Browns are Europeans. These excuses or opinions were expressed by a number of people interviewed, by Masso and fellow sociologist Dr. Miguel Sebastian, in the Dominican Republic. An interesting point brought up by this ’study’ is the fact that blacks belong in Haiti. The history between these two ‘extremly neighboring’ countries has been less than pleasant. The Dominican Republic used to be under the control of Haiti for many years. The larger part of Haiti’s population is black, by association many could tie the blacks in the Dominican Republic to Haiti. The ‘lighter blacks,’ as the tan were referred to in De Colores, are considered the descendents of the Native Dominican Indians (Tainos). The whites are considered to be the descendents of the European (Spanish, French, Portuguese) settlers.
“Que tiene que ver el pasado con el presente (What does the past have to do with the present?)? Mucho (Plenty!)!” This question is considered by Masso to be the beginning of unraveling the problem of discrimination. The ideas and ignorance to each others cultures and biological differences set the dreadful for today’s play of prejudice. An example of an instance that coincides with this idea is found in James Jones’ Prejudice and Racism. British explorers described the darker skinned people’s color and sexuality the most. “?proceedeth of some natural infection of the first inhabitants of that country, and so all the whole progenie of them descended, are still polluted with the same blot of infection.” This was a description given when an Englishman noted the color of a child conceived of a black woman and white men. They referred to color as an infection. This idea is carried from hundreds of years ago and sets a standard of living for many. It works the same way in different situations. The Taino Indians of the Dominican Republic were massacred at the hands of Spanish settlers, and according to Masso, some people are still mad at the whites because of that. There is a statue of Christopher Columbus in the center of the Dominican Republic’s capital, Santo Domingo, which get vandalized frequently by angry meztizos (Taino, or any Native Indian descendants). “Que tiene que ve ideas de la sociedad con los problemas de hoy (What do societal views have to do with today’s problems?)? Mucho (Plenty!)! The Oxford English Dictionary definition of black, prior to the 16th Century was: “Deeply stained with dirt; soiled, dirty, foul?.Having dark or deadly purposes, malignant; pertaining to or involving death, deadly; baneful, disastrous, sinister?.Foul, iniquitous, atrocious, horrible, wicked?.Indicating disgrace, censure, liability to punishment.” A dictionary is a prime influence of society. We learn and apply the concepts labeled to words. An experiment conducted by Dr. Mario Samuel, University of Santo Domingo(UASD? www.uasd.santodomingo. psicologia/intrnl/409.?) recorded reactions of babies to white, brown, and black adults. There were 120 babies ranging from the ages of 8months to 3 years. The babies would be individually placed into a room full of toys and adults would walk in one at a time. The adults were of various different colors. The results were recorded according to reaction and speed of reaction. Out of the 120 participants, 75 percent reacted in a neutral way, or cried when coming into contact with a stranger. The other 25 percent cried when encountering a person of different color or went towards a person of the same color.
Unfortunately, traditions not only pass down the beauty and excitement of old stories, discoveries and love, but this package also comes complete with a ‘life time supply ignorance.’ The beliefs that exist today had to have come from somewhere. A grim reality is that this does affect more than just feelings, but self esteem, and performance as well. In the interview The Dominican Republic Today, conducted with John W. White, the concept (or reality) of the three color groups is brought up. The three distinct colors represent the economic structure of the country, as well as the political influence of the country. In this interview Mr. White describes the difference as far as living situations and conditions in various of the Dominican Republic. He described the lavish and luxurious lifestyles lived by the white part of the population. Again it is stated how about three quarters of the country is controlled by this group. Next, the tan or the ‘people in between.’ This group would be a good comparison to the middle class of America. They are a large, probably the largest group in the Dominican Republic, but collectively do not have that much power. Extravagant lifestyles for the tan are only lived by those whom have excelled in a certain area (politics, sports, or medicine). Finally, (ironically) the blacks are brought into the spotlight. Most of the blacks in the Dominican Republic live in campos (country type villages). Very common jobs for these people are on the sugar cane plantations or as servants in a middle class or upper class home. The school system is indirectly set up the same way, by ‘class.’ The very good private schools ran by the Jesuit and Dominican Orders are available to all?.whom could pay. The rest of the schools are free thus anyone can attend?.if it is near them. According to White’s second interview, there is a lack of motivation on the part of the lower class to progress and move in a positive direction. Basically the psychological effects of society and its prejudice cause conformity (the tendency to change our perceptions, opinions, or behaviors in ways that are consistent with societal norms ) among the outgroups. It does not have too much of a positive effect on the upper class either. They too conform to a system of societal values. How can they begin to understand if they have already settled for this form of life.
Earlier in the paper the statement of culture playing somewhat of a role is illustrated in Vodu y Magica. This small book talks about the mystery and following of the black magic/religion, voodoo. Voodoo is primarily practiced by blacks as a form of hope for themselves. Voodoo is the black (no pun intended) magic in which spirits are summoned and asked to do things which would be difficult for the person practicing it to do. This way of life is condemned by many whom do not understand it, in this case the whites and browns of the Dominican Republic. In Vodu y Magica 25 percent of the black population of the Dominican Republic and Haiti practice voodoo. Only 2 percent of the white population does the same.
I am a Dominican American. Both of my parents were born in the Dominican Republic and fell subject to a system of color and class while the lived there. The stories I heard were unbelievable until I visited the Dominican Republic myself. It was pretty much as divided as research, text, and interviews say it is. My family and I fall into the group called ‘de
colorsito,’ or of some color (tan or brown as referred to in the paper). Sections of my family are white and some are black, and people seldom believe we are related. People would treat members of my family better or worse than me, even though we were of the same financial background, same religion, same school, same political views, same family, same culture; all because they were either lighter or darker than me. “What is black and white, and red all over?.and blue and green and yellow and purple and so on? No not a rainbow. The people of this world. When I was in pre-school I was taught that you can mix colors together, and I did. Now that I am a grown man, can’t I?”
This form of prejudice (three color prejudice among same culture) does not only exist in the Dominican Republic. It exists in most South American countries as well as in heavily Hispanic populated areas of the United States (New York, Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Florida). An exact same paper could have been written if the country of the Dominican Republic was to be substituted by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. People live there the same way they would in the Dominican Republic due to color. Just like the Dominican Republic, the class system exists according to white, brown, and black. Not many studies have been done on this problem which exists largely in South American and Caribbean countries. Psychologists and sociologists, among them Dr. Dasgupta, Keith Maddox, and Jennifer L. Eberhardt have conducted some research and set up programs to illustrate prejudice presented by skin tone. Jennifer L. Eberhardt created a morphing program which gradually changes skin tone and facial characteristics from light to dark. The participants must stop the morphing by clicking the mouse or pressing a key at the point where the computer generated character is considered brown or black. Keith Maddox has information on skin tone on the Tuffs web page, and Dr. Dasgupta has an article entitled ‘Skin Tone.’(Information provided by Prof. Stephanie Goodwin) As it was said in one of my psychology courses (Cultural Psychology) earlier this year, psychology itself is a relatively new field (19th Century). More so, the study of a cultural, racial, or social is even younger, and untouched due to controversy.
Brehm and Kassin (1996). Social Psychology Third Edition. Boston:Houghton Mifflin
Darius, Carlton (1973). Streets are not Always Paved in Gold. New York:Reading
Espinal, Ricardo (1997). Puerto Rican Segregation Hispanic Magazine.
Jones, James (1972). Prejudice and Racism. Massachusetts:Addison-Wesley
Masso, Enrique (1998 pamphlet/newsletter) De Colores: Colores que Dividen
Persinal, Carlos Andujar (1997). La Presencia Negra en Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo: Impresora Buho
White, John W. (1945). The Dominican Republic Today: An Interview with John W. White. Ciudad Trujillo (Santo Domingo), D.R.: La Nacion
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