The Construction of Racial Identity in the Dominican Republic

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Meissner, Christine
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Although a racial democracy may appear to have always existed in the Dominican Republic, the social and political history of the country contradicts this mirage. Often time a positive image of many Latin American countries is illustrated by a comparative analysis with the United States. By relating these two regions of the Americas, it appears as though Latin America has relatively low levels of racism in contrast to the blatant racist practices in North America. Ethnic comparisons also accentuate Latin America as a racial democracy. Given the pervasive racial mixing, many theorists argue this to be reflective of harmonious race relations. While these are strong characteristics of many Latin American societies, they hardly constitute them as a racial paradise. Mestizaje or race mixture has served as the basis of Latin American and Caribbean national identity, and has been celebrated as the basis of racial democracy in the region. However, mestizaje in fact privileges whiteness and maintains a racial hierarchy similar to, yet subtler than that in the United States. Racial hierarchies are embedded features of national identity, derived from a system of slavery shared by all countries in the Americas. A hierarchical color continuum evident in Dominican society is typical of many Latin American and Caribbean countries given their similar colonial histories. Political and economic relations often time reflect socio-racial relations. It is the latter component that is the focus of this research paper. In what ways have racist perceptions of blacks permeated Dominican society and how does it account for the creation of anti-haitianismo? The relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti is fundamentally based on a violent history generated by inherently racist views of Haitians. This project seeks to understand the extent to which anti-Haitian views are evident in Dominican society, and further how they are reflective of Dominican racial self-perceptions.
iii, 44 p.
Kalamazoo, Mich. : Kalamazoo College.
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