We are all Haitian

Christina Greer PH.D | 2/11/2016, 11:25 a.m.
The attacks of Haitians in the Dominican Republic affects us all as New Yorkers.
The Haitian Flag

A few years ago, I began following the stories of the brutality faced by Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. Essentially, Haitians who were born on Dominican soil were being deported to Haiti, with some finding themselves in a land where they had no relatives, no social networks and no command of the language.

These deportations have been sanctioned by the Dominican government while the U.S. and other nations have turned a relative blind eye as the “process” plays itself out.

I vowed then to avoid vacationing in the Dominican Republic, expressing my displeasure with my wallet, but I now realize that is simply not enough.

As New Yorkers, we share this city with our Haitian and Dominican brothers and sisters, which makes this issue difficult for many elected officials to address for fear of upsetting their Dominican constituents. However, the atrocities being committed on Dominican land are of great concern to us here in New York City, and we must pressure our local, state and federal elected officials to act now.

It is unconscionable to do nothing in response to stories of lynchings, modern-day slave labor and the disruption of hardworking Haitian families in the DR because of antiquated policies that originally began under the reign of Trujillo and his quest to whiten the Dominican nation. In 1937, Trujillo authorized what is tantamount to an ethnic cleansing along the Dominican-Haitian border to expel dark-skinned people from “his country.” The Parsley Massacre left approximately 25,000 Haitians dead in the span of just two short weeks.

Michelle Wucker, author of “Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians and the Struggle for Hispaniola,” chronicled the mass deportations of 14,000 Haitians and Dominican-Haitians that occurred yet again in 1991 after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide criticized Dominican treatment of Haitian laborers.

Fast-forward to today and people of Haitian descent are being deported from the DR because they cannot show “proof” they belong, even though the Dominican constitution grants citizenship to anyone who is born on its soil, with the exception of diplomats and those “in transit.” It is the “in transit” technicality that officials are using to justify many of the expulsions occurring today. As the Dominican congress began to propose extreme laws against Haitians and those with Black skin, what seemed like racist and xenophobic policies consistently passed through the legislature.

We have many issues here in New York City. However, we must look beyond our own circumstances and look just across the Atlantic and speak out. Write your elected officials in Congress and demand they put pressure on President Barack Obama, U.S. ambassadors, economically interested parties and humanitarian groups who seem to be passive observers in this 21st century ethnic and racial cleansing.

To learn more about our relationship and moral obligation to our brothers and sisters to the south, I suggest you read Millery Polyne’s “From Douglass to Duvalier: U.S. African Americans, Haiti and Pan Americanism, 1870-1964” (University Press of Florida, 2010) to get you started.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.