Advancing the Anti-Racist Struggle in the Dominican Republic
Written By: Jay Espy
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Dominicans and Haitians in the Dominican Republic, the United States, and Canada are organizing an international movement against the unjust denationalization and deportations of more than 210,000 Haitians, Dominicans of Haitian-descent and Dominicans of perceived Haitian-descent by a xenophobic Dominican government; deportations have already begun.
This isn’t the first time the Dominican government displaced Haitians en masse. In 1991, quasi-dictator Joaquin Balaguer continued the haunting anti-Haitian legacy of his jefe, ex-dictator Rafael Trujillo, by dumping thousands of Haitians along the Haitian/Dominican border. Trujillo went further, killing more than 30,000 Haitians (including dark complexioned Dominicans) during the 1937 Parsley Massacre. This time around, even though Dominicans of Haitian-descent had more time to prepare, most were unsuccessful due to bureaucracy, lack of access, corruption, the use of tear gas, and racism.
The movement, nevertheless, has been successful in raising awareness about anti-Haitian racism in the D.R. Vital connections have been made to build Black and Latino unity between the Dominican-Haitian struggle and the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. The anti-racist movement has also forced the Dominican government to concede twice: by stalling the deportation process beyond the Resolution TC 168-13 ruling of 2013, and allowing those without papers to regularize their citizenship (although only some immigrants overcame this long, expensive process). However, the deportations are just one symptom of white supremacy. If it is to end indefinitely, then a deeper class analysis, (combined with a racial one) will be necessary to fundamentally change society.
A Class Struggle in the Dominican Republic
Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian/African-descent are being displaced for being Black, but a racial analysis alone will only get us that far. We must also be class-conscious when analyzing racism. This is done by specifically targeting those in power who serve particular class interests. The point here is not to reduce racism merely to class oppression, but instead to broaden the scope and context in which we analyze the intersectional nature of oppression, in this case white supremacy.
In the D.R., it is the Dominican government, not the Dominican people, who systematically perpetuate racism in order to serve the capitalist interests of the Dominican ruling class. This has recently manifested in the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Culture’s approval of KKK costumes at their annual Carnival parade in 2014, and the police murder of 31-year-old Haitian immigrant Jean Robert Lors in 2013.
This assertion is not meant to remove responsibility from Dominican individuals who commit racist crimes. However, when Dominicans are criticized for being racist, we must target the Dominican politicians and their (lighter-skinned) ruling class puppeteers who possess and grant the power to systematically discriminate against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian-descent, most of whom are migrant workers earning as low as $10 a day, or 90 cents per hour. The majority of Dominicans are also of African-descent and comprise the poor and working-class. Yet they are overwhelmingly brainwashed by a system of white capitalist supremacy rooted in Dominican society since European colonialism began with Christopher Columbus (aka KKKillumbus) 500+ years ago.
It is this systemic indoctrination that breeds prejudice among the Dominican working-class and encourages them to attack fellow poor Black people. This violence was demonstrated by the recentlynching of a Haitian man named Jean “Tulile” Claude Harry, and by the brutal mob attack that displaced 500 Haitians. Some ultra-nationalist Dominicans are even calling for a boycott of a book that sympathetically portrays Haitian history, in fear that this may humanize Haitians and imply some kind of Dominican-Haitian unity that, to them, are equally inconceivable. In order to understand these events, we must put everything in its proper context and understand how the Dominican people have been miseducated by those in power.
A class analysis will reveal how Dominican and Haitian workers alike are the wretched of the Dominican Republic, especially by multinational companies blessed by a neoliberal Dominican government. The D.R. has the second lowest average wage in Latin America, and there is no federal minimum wage. Many ultra-nationalist Dominicans seem to have forgotten, through a constant barrage of anti-Haitian corporate media propaganda, about a scandalous and corrupt government that rewards a small rich elite and pays both Dominican and Haitian workers “miserable salaries.” What is more, Dominican immigrants are equally discriminated against in other countries. Dominicans in the U.S, Puerto Rico, and Spain are treated much like Haitians are treated in the D.R.
The deliberate miseducation of Dominican people by those in power has also led them to forget how Haitians abolished slavery on the island in 1801 following a Haitian Revolution that liberated them from four European colonizers (Spain, France, Britian, and the Netherlands). In fact, it was this victory that led poor Black people on the eastern side of the island to reject la Trinitaria’s call for Dominican independence in 1844, a movement led primarily by lighter-skinned urban elites . Haiti even helped liberate Dominicans from Spain in 1865 during the Dominican Restoration War after anti-Haitian leaders begged Spain to recolonize the D.R. following their 1844 independence from Haiti. This guerilla war was led primarily by Gregorio Luperón, a Dominican of African-descent.
Nor are Dominicans taught about the Haitians, such as Jacques Viau Renaud, who gave their lives for the 1965 Dominican revolutionary movement against U.S. imperialism. It was during this post-Trujillo period that Dominican people, led by revolutionaries such as Francisco Caamaño, joined the Third World anti-imperialist movement ravaging throughout Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Although crushed by an unprecedented U.S. invasion of 42,000 soldiers from Washington’s fear of a “second (communist) Cuba,” the Dominican revolt of 1965 displayed the height of modern class struggle in the Dominican Republic.
A Class Struggle in Haiti
A class analysis will also show that Haitians have another enemy: the government of Haiti. Its officials represent the neoliberal interests of the “First World” developed nations that owe their entire economic prosperity to the free labor they stole from enslaved African people in Haiti (Saint Domingue), D.R. (Santo Domingo), and throughout the Americas. Recently, the people of Haiti have led mass popular protests demanding higher wages in late 2013, dodged tear gas and bullets in late 2014 calling for the Haitian president to resign, and protested again in early 2015 demanding a reduction in high fuel prices.
This is why Haitians protested against Bill and Hillary Clinton’s foundation for robbing the people of Haiti for more than $10 billion following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. The chaos continues in post-earthquake Haiti, where there have been accounts that UN “peacekeepers” rape and prostitute women for basic supplies like food and water, corporations still loot the country, homes and hospitals remain unbuilt in the midst of a cholera outbreak, and big charities keep the people on their knees for crumbs.
The people of Haiti have not forgotten the double back-to-back dictatorships of François “Papa Doc” and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Haitians have not forgotten the double coup d’état of the democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist liberation theologist priest who was forcibly removed from power, first in 1991 with help from the C.I.A., and then again in 2004 with U.S. military assistance. The people of Haiti did not forget when WikiLeaks exposed how the United States government and their corporate puppeteers from Hanes, Levi’s, and Fruit of the Loom halted a $5 increase of Haiti’s minimum wage in 2009 because “it would be too costly for textile manufacturers.” Haitians especially don’t forget how they were robbed by France in the form of a forced “independence debt” amounting today to $20 billion following the Haitian Revolution.
Most importantly, it is neither the Haitian or Dominican governments that are most criminal. They are merely puppets, a facade covering the world’s most dangerous criminal enterprises: the North American and European governments of the United States, France, Spain, and their closest allies, who have maintained a chokehold on the island of Ayiti since Killumbus landed there. Today, the U.S. is D.R.’s largest trading partner, providing abundant funding and training to the Dominican military, police, and border control agents, which all participate in deporting Haitians. This is emblematic of how the Dominican and Haitian governments continue to serve the same North American and European capitalists who divide and conquer Haitian and Dominican workers. It is this colonial legacy that has led to the impoverishing demise of Haiti, leading millions to migrate to the D.R. and then be deported by neocolonizers.
A Worker-led Boycott
Some in the movement to stop racist deportations in D.R. have recently put out the controversial demand to boycott the D.R. However, if a racial and class analysis is necessary to end white capitalist supremacy, then it must be utilized to develop an effective grassroots strategy. A boycott, if done without homegrown working-class leadership, would devastate the lives of poor and mostly Black workers. In order for the proposed boycott to be effective, Dominican and Haitian workers in the D.R. would have to simultaneously organize for more benefits, higher wages, and eventually worker-controlled industries, while building solidarity with those racially criminalized. This working-class struggle, led primarily by those on the island, would cripple the economy of the racist elites in D.R., while empowering the poor. Workers will gain if only they go beyond racial barriers and realize the class similarity between them. This will open doors to them realizing their common ruling class enemy, since the rich have a stake in preserving these racial differences.
A RADICAL LENS
We must stop the racist deportations, and also push the struggle to go beyond that. In order to stabilize the complete social upheaval on the island of Ayiti, we need both a racial and class analysis to get to the source, the rotten putrid root still leaking the blood of our ancestors. The system must be changed fundamentally at its core to build a new sustainable society equal to all, where the people are truly in power to control their lives and their communities, or else our grandchildren will be repeating the same battles as today. We cannot save this burning house any longer. It must be destroyed by those who will create a new foundation over its ashes.
Therefore, it is our duty to educate and organize our Dominican and Haitian sisters and brothers on revolutionary principles, rooted in social justice and human rights, so that they can be re-humanized to see who their real enemy is. Once the people see that, the will for social change and people power will be so strong, so broad, so popular, that those in power now will have no choice but to surrender!
Jay Espy is a poet, writer, photographer, and community organizer for the People Power Movement-Movimiento Poder Popular. He currently lives in the Bronx, New York, and manages a blog at Revolutionary-AfroLatino.tumblr.com.
 Ferguson, James. 1992. Dominican Republic: Beyond the Lighthouse. Monthly Review Press.