Monday, May 24, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Now I know I probably sound like a broken record constantly writing about these stories of race, hair and class in the Dominican Republic, but I am doing it “expre” like the French say, meaning on purpose. It is my hope that by documenting all of these happenings, I will be able to better understand the particularities of racism and discrimination in this country. I have gotten the opportunity to travel to many places and even live in a few of them and I have first hand accounts of the way racism looks, feels and tastes in many corners of the world. I say this because the kind of racism I experience here is very different than the others. I have ideas as to why it is this way, but I want to really understand it. All of this to tell you what happened to me today.
So I’ve decided to go natural, which means that I am allowing my hair to grow out and not processing it with a relaxer. I relaxed my hair for many reasons, but mainly because I liked the look and because it was what I knew since I was 9 years old. I’ve also decided to go natural for many reasons, but primarily because I don’t remember what my real hair looks like and I am curious to see and feel it au natural and I am also doing it to make the statement that non-relaxed hair is beautiful. I have tried this before and I always ended up relaxing my hair because it was too draining and the hair itself was very difficult to manage. This time, as a way to reaffirm my decision and commitment, I walked into the salon and I cut my hair short. I have never cut off this much hair so it was definitely a big moment, but in the end it is only hair, it grows back, no biggie.
So, I told my stylist that I needed her support during this process because I was going to go in every few weeks and cut more and more of it off. She was very supportive and said that she will help. You know black women and our salons, both here and in the US, it is our place to talk about womanly stuff, boys, family, beauty, etc. So she begins to tell me about her family and her kids and narrates the story of her youngest daughter, “so my last daughter was not planned, I was very sad when I found out that I was pregnant. I went ahead with the pregnancy and when I found out it was a girl, I prayed to God every day until she was born and asked him to give a light skin nice hair baby girl. I didn’t want her to come out black with bad hair like my older daughter. So when she was born and I saw this little pink baby with good hair I was felt so lucky. My husband was on the phone with all of his friends and family telling them that he had a little beautiful light skin baby and that he was so proud. She is the light of this house and everyone loves her so much.”
So you might ask, what did you tell her?! Well, the shock I went into at the moment was too big to allow me to do anything about it. In my head I was like “but she is such a nice lady and she embraces her big hips and her big boobs, I can’t believe she said that, oh lord what should I say, wow this problem is bigger than what I thought.” I did somehow manage to tell her that both of her daughters are very beautiful.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The conversation continued under the shaded area of a beautiful palm tree with folks that were of my generation. The comments were honestly the usual—nothing that they said surprised me. Some of the comments included: “I don’t understand why she is under the sun, she is going to get purple like those African people,” “she is going to end up looking like a Haitian,” etc. I couldn’t help it; I got up to talk them and very politely excused myself for intervening. I told them that I was very interested on hearing why they felt those things, considering the fact that I was the “culprit” in the situation. I then started by saying that the “purple” Africans that they were referring to are beautiful people and that they are also human beings and that Haitians are not only our neighbors but they were our brothers and sisters, hence why so many of us look like them and so many of them look like us. They were offended. One of the young men said that he was a reporter and wouldn’t look good on camera, the other lady said that we have to cherish our “native Indian” culture and the ideals of our motherland. Spain.
About a hour later when I went into the water and laid back and allowed the sun to kiss me yet again, they decided to continue the conversation. They persisted and said they had formed two clubs “the white Dominicans who don’t like the beach because of the sun” and the “black Dominicans who don’t want to get blacker because of the sun,” they even made acronyms for their “clubs”.
Now here is the scary part, most of the people who were involved, were brown skin. This was the all too familiar self-hate theory that was taking place in my country, and has taken place for longer than I can count (I immediately recognized it since it a common practice in the States). They saw me in them and they saw themselves in me and hated the fact that I wanted to be blacker or that I appreciated my blackness.
Now are you ready for the cherry on top? These were all environmentalist, leftist, “socially conscious” people and yes they are the same racists and homophobes that are fighting for human rights.
I also wrote in Yo Soy Yo about being an American. This is something that I have decided that I will no longer compromise or be apologetic for. I am completely aware of all that it represents, that I grew up in America and that I speak English, but it is who I am. I will elaborate more later, Yo Soy Yo, I Am Me.
Yo soy una mujer dominicana
Soy de un campo
Vengo de un barrio
Con sangre española y francesa
Pero con esa que pesa
Que pesa mas que un mar en la cabeza
Sangre negra, africana
Con la piel orgullosamente quemada
Si yo soy prieta con la piel tostada
Yo soy una mujer americana
Soy de un campo
Vengo de un barrio
Llevo en mi lengua un idioma extraño
Poderoso y Temeroso
Pero no puedo negarlo
Es mío y yo soy del
Forma parte de mi ser
Pero YO SOY YO y el es el